How to Defeat Modern Day Atheism With Three Easy Questions

Steve Greene wrote a web article entitled How to validate atheism in one easy step and gives us the most common defense of atheism that is out there:

So this is how you validate atheism in one easy step: Ask the god-believer to produce actual, credible, real world evidence of this god. He will never do it. He will always engage in word games employed to try to conjure up his god – while never even attempting to produce actual, relevant, empirical evidence of any god. He will talk about everything else under the sun, engage in rhetorical trickery, misdirection (red herring), misrepresentation (i.e., straw man criticism of atheism), all based on denying obvious facts about reality (like the problematic nature of “eyewitness testimony,” and the subjective nature of subjective beliefs about imaginary things making you feel good), while never getting around to producing any actual evidence of any god – oh, and then, a lot of times you even get the religious apologist who specifically employs some sort of “Divine Hiddenness” argument to try to pretend that his god arranged things deliberately that we would not have any actual evidence of its existence because religious faith (i.e., believing in the god based on faith, not evidence) is a virtue, believing without evidence is a virtue, and doubt (i.e., critical thinking and being skeptical about bogus claims that don’t have good evidence to back them up) is the influence of Satan or some other evil spirit.

Once again, we see how atheism is built on the Demand For Evidence. But we also know that such a demand is more of a rhetorical trick than a sincere expression of intellectual curiosity.

First of all, Greene is working with a shallow, superficial understanding of evidence. He seems to think that if certain data were indeed evidence for X, then these data would be universally perceived and acknowledged as evidence for X. But that is not how evidence works. Evidence is not objective reality that is detected by the senses; evidence is perceived by the mind. The mind converts data from objective reality into the subjective perception of evidence. Because the perception of evidence depends on interpretation from the mind, evidence itself is something that has a distinct subjective element to it. In fact, it would not be too far from the truth to note that evidence is in the eye of the beholder. So the fact that Greene is not convinced by “evidence” from religious people (appeals to eyewitness testimony, appeals to personal experience, and variants of the fine-tuning argument) means only that Greene finds such evidence to be unconvincing. But since the world does not revolve around Greene, the failure to convince him does not mean the evidence does not exist.

What Greene is doing to “validate” atheism is simply trying to posture and set the stage so he can act as Judge and Jury. The religious person is supposed to come before him and “plead their case” with their “evidence.” Greene will then decide the outcome of that case. Amazingly, many Christians fall for this tactic and play right into the hands of people like Greene.

When someone like Greene comes to you demanding “actual, credible, real world evidence of this god,” there are three simple questions you can ask to expose the sham nature of the inquiry and thus defeat the backdoor attempt to “validate atheism.”

Question 1: What would you count as “actual, credible, real world evidence for God?” If the atheist refuses to answer, he/she will be exposed as Hiding the Goalpost, demonstrating the inherent intellectual dishonesty in such a demand. If the atheist finally answers, there is a very, very high likelihood he/she will cite some dramatic, miraculous, sensational demonstration of God’s power. And that leads to the second question.

Question 2: Why would that dramatic, miraculous, sensational event count as evidence for God? At this point, the atheist will likely try to change the topic. But persist with the question. What you will find is that the reason why the atheist would count such an event as evidence for God is because it could not possibly be explained by natural causes and science. In other words, because it was a Gap. Modern day atheism is built on God of the Gaps logic.

At this point, you can ask the third question.

Question 3: Is the God of the Gaps reasoning a valid way of determining the existence of God? If the atheist has not bailed on you yet, he/she will likely run now. For if he/she answers NO, then it will become clear that nothing can count as evidence for the existence of God. Why? Because if the only “evidence” the atheist “Judge/Jury” will allow in his/her kangaroo court is a Gap (something that cannot be explained by science/natural law), and God-of-the-Gaps reasoning is also not allowed by the atheist, then it is clear the atheist demand for evidence is a sneaky, dishonest game of “heads I win, tails you lose.”

Of course, if the atheist answers YES to question 3, then the theist is free to raise Gaps as evidence for God (origin of Life, origin of the Consciousness, etc.). This is why the atheist will run or change the topic – his/her demand for evidence puts the atheist in the position of having to a) acknowledge the deceitful nature of their demand or b) acknowledge there is evidence because of certain existing gaps.

Finally, there is a Bonus question that can be used to supplement or replace the above approach. Since the atheist wants to judge and proclaim whether or not I have evidence for God’s existence, I need evidence this “judge” is open and fair-minded. What rational person would willingly put himself in a position of being judged by a hostile, biased, prejudiced judge? So you can ask the following question.

Bonus question: I’ll provide evidence for God’s existence, but can you first provide evidence that you are capable of considering my evidence in an open- and fair-minded manner?

Given that so many New Atheists are pompous, closed-minded verbal bullies, expect such a question to be ignored. And then you can simply point out that the atheist is simply not qualified to pass meaningful judgment on your beliefs. For prejudgment is not meaningful judgment.

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249 Responses to How to Defeat Modern Day Atheism With Three Easy Questions

  1. “Question 1: What would you count as “actual, credible, real world evidence for God?” ”

    Not sure. But if your god exists, shouldn’t he know? And shouldn’t it be easier than easy for him to produce it?

  2. Doug says:

    @NotAScientist: God, should He exist, would know, sure. And He could have also produced it many times over. If an atheist refused to acknowledge a universe full of “actual, credible, real world evidence for God” that shouldn’t be God’s problem.

  3. apollyon911 says:

    If the atheist doesn’t know, then how can God be proven? It’s irrelevant if God ‘should know’. (why should he? What if He says ‘no evidence is sufficient’)? Atheists pride themselves on reason and evidence. It’s a simple enough request to ask what is sufficient to satisfy the atheist. If there is no clear answer, then it means the atheist’s demands are worthless.

  4. Doug says:

    Incidentally, NaS, that “your god” business can work both ways, and it doesn’t work in the atheist’s favor: “an atheist’s god doesn’t exist” is nigh-upon tautological…

  5. Michael says:

    Not sure. But if your god exists, shouldn’t he know? And shouldn’t it be easier than easy for him to produce it?

    LOL. Trying to obscure the Hidden Goalposts by changing the topic with some amateur theology, eh? Like I said, if you are going to Hide the Goalposts, any “demands for evidence” are intellectually dishonest.

  6. How is that obscuring anything?

    I’m honestly not sure what evidence would change my mind. All I know is that it would have to be solid, physical evidence.

    If your god exists, and is a god, shouldn’t he know what would convince me?

  7. VQ says:

    Perhaps God knows that the issue isn’t really a lack of evidence. I am interested in why the evidence must be “solid” and “physical”. What is meant by “solid”? Do you mean concrete evidence, as opposed to abstract arguments? And what does it mean to say that the evidence must be “physical”? Do you mean “empirical” or something more than that? Do you mean that it must be subject to testing by the physical sciences? Wouldn’t this be problematic if you also hold that the physical sciences ought to maintain methodological naturalism?

  8. J.P. says:

    Is then God supposed to produce the kind of specific evidence that would convince every simple individual, that’s it?

  9. Michael says:

    How is that obscuring anything?
    I’m honestly not sure what evidence would change my mind. All I know is that it would have to be solid, physical evidence.

    Which is all fine, unless you a) insist “there is no evidence for God” or b) demand that I provide evidence for God (complete with some burden of proof posturing).

    If your god exists, and is a god, shouldn’t he know what would convince me?

    Okay, if you want to get into theology, you ought to consider the possibility that God is not all that concerned with whether or not you believe He exists. He could be far more interested in whether or not you will submit your life to Him. Whether you will stop sinning. So let me ask – if the God of the Bible (y’know, the one Dawkins labels as the racist god who commits genocide, etc.) convinced you of His existence, would you obey and serve Him?

  10. “Which is all fine, unless you a) insist “there is no evidence for God” ”

    I don’t.

    “or b) demand that I provide evidence for God (complete with some burden of proof posturing). ”

    I don’t.

    At least, I don’t out of the blue. If you are attempting to convince me, I will point out what it will take to convince me.

    “He could be far more interested in whether or not you will submit your life to Him.”

    There’s a step by step process that could lead to that, but the first step is believing he exists. Why would I submit myself to something that I didn’t believe existed?

    “So let me ask – if the God of the Bible (y’know, the one Dawkins labels as the racist god who commits genocide, etc.) convinced you of His existence, would you obey and serve Him?”

    That particular version of god? No. No I wouldn’t obey and serve him. I’d acknowledge his existence, but if that particular one was the one who existed, I don’t think I’d like him one bit. Given what his believers say about him, any way.

  11. Michael says:

    I don’t.
    I don’t.

    Then we have no problem. I am focused on the New Atheists who build their movement around this notion that I am somehow obligated to justify my views by answering their demands.

    That particular version of god? No. No I wouldn’t obey and serve him. I’d acknowledge his existence, but if that particular one was the one who existed, I don’t think I’d like him one bit. Given what his believers say about him, any way.

    And there y’go. So if you are not going to obey and serve the God of the Bible, why bother with convincing you that He exists?

  12. apollyon911 says:

    Nicely done.

  13. whiskeybucks says:

    NaS,
    Look, I really don’t want to be snarky here. All I can say is, do yourself a favor, even just on an academic level, and learn more about what “his believers” actually have to say about Him. I’m talking people like Francis of Assisi, Desmond Tutu, Coorie Ten Boom, Dallas Willard, NT Wright, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Augustine, Pascal and that’s a good start.

    I’m not even talking about the veracity of their truth claims. I’m talking about their vision of the character of God. These are all pretty different people and they wouldnt agree on everything, but as far as the goodness of God, these people staked their lives on it. To let people like Richard Dawkins, who is a definitively paranoid bigot, define who God is as a person, is to not only be led WILDLY astray on an intellectual level, you might be very surprised by what you find.

  14. dfxc says:

    I’d also add Kant to the reading list who, I’d have thought, long since put the ‘evidentiary proof’ argument to bed… with a Wittgenstein chaser.

  15. dfxc says:

    AND, an attentive reading of Dawkins exposes the circularity of his project: The God Delusion opens by explicitly setting aside all informed, nuanced theology [such as that in your list] and focuses instead only on a caricature of a (very loud, granted) uninformed minority.
    A more accurate title for that book would be, Ignorant People are Ignorant. Probably wouldn’t sell as well, though.
    All the more a pity since his Unweaving the Rainbow is almost poetic in its expression of wonder at the world and, consequently, can encourage the faithful to a much deeper appreciation of creation.

  16. TFBW says:

    Another thing to note about the typical New Atheist demand for evidence is that by “no evidence” they mean “no evidence which they can’t explain away.” So, consider the following argument for a Creator God.

    1. If the world were created by God, it would look designed.
    2. The world does look designed. I cite the testimony of Richard Dawkins (a hostile witness) on this point.
    3. Thus, the world appears, in this regard, as one would expect if it were created by God. Design in nature is evidence for God, in other words.

    Of course, our hostile witness would immediately respond that the world only looks designed, and is actually the product of natural Darwinian processes. Immaterial, I say: the evidence is still evidence, even if you have some other explanation for it. But, our witness would say, the Darwinian explanation is a much better explanation. And why’s that? Precisely because it’s a naturalistic explanation which doesn’t involve God. This is the “atheist always wins” formulation of science, known as methodological naturalism. This fundamental dogma of atheistic science can be expressed as follows.

    Given two plausible explanations for a phenomenon, one of which involves God, and one of which doesn’t, the latter is always to be preferred.

    Sometimes this gets expressed in terms of Occam’s Razor, but it’s a tendentious formulation, since it assumes that God is never a necessary part of the explanation. The “skyhooks versus cranes” argument also expresses this dogma.

    In any case, it should be fairly obvious that all the above leads us back to the demand for a Gap. If the atheist feels free to dismiss any evidence for God in cases where there is a “better” (i.e. naturalistic) explanation for the evidence, then evidence for God won’t be accepted unless there is no plausible naturalistic explanation for the phenomenon in question. This is pretty much the definition of a Gap.

  17. whiskeybucks says:

    dfxc,
    I’d actually counter Kant with Kierkegaard, at least for this project. I’m not looking to convince someone that God exists, per se, or even present a nuanced theology, again per se. I’m talking about God’s character and what makes Him captivating and trust worthy as revealed through scripture and doxology.

    Unfortunately, people hear “Kierkegaard” and, much like Pascal, immediately translate to “fideist” which is about as well informed as hearing Nietzsche and hearing “Nazi.”

  18. Great arguments, very insightful

  19. Pretend for a moment that a rock is found in Wyoming that floats in the air. It has no natural explanation. This might be an excellent argument that supernatural forces exist. Let’s go one step farther and say it has the words “God exists” imprinted on it. Now you have an excellent argument that a deity is the cause of this phenomenon. How are we to know whether the god in question is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, Pagan or none of the above?

    This is exactly what arguments like ‘fine tuning’ or ‘God initiated the Big Bang’ are. At best, they get you to a deistic universe, but they don’t support any individual belief or the idea of a personal god. As a result, they don’t dictate any course of action to take. Without some further evidence, we simply have no reason to run to a church, synagogue, mosque or shrine.

    You’re correct to say that atheists automatically rule out supernatural explanations for natural phenomena. That is not necessarily the only avenue for concluding whether a god exists. Another is to examine the claims made by proponents for the existence of a god. If, for instance, the stories of the Bible could be established as factual that might also constitute proof. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t have a good track record: no global flood, no evidence for the exodus, natural evidence that contradicts the creation stories, historical details that contradict the NT timelines or just the NT stories contradicting each other. It doesn’t bode well for a religion when the study of its texts can so easily promote the loss of belief as it did for myself and many others.

    If all you’ve got left at that point is to give your deity credit for natural phenomena you’re welcome to try to show why a supernatural explanation is preferable. Unfortunately, I see no reason why it would be bad to be biased in favor of an explanation which has measurable evidence.

  20. That depends. All I have to go on is what his believers say and what the Bible says. If either, or both, of those sources are wrong or off, then the god in question might want to show me where they are wrong.

    Also, the god in question might not value things like obedience.

  21. whiskeybucks says:

    Well, this is muddying the waters. There’s a significant difference from a philosophically plausible construct of something someone calls “god” and being a Muslim, Christian or practicing Jew.

    This is also why Pascal said “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and savants. Certitude, certitude; feeling, joy, peace. God of Jesus Christ. Deum meum et Deum vestrum.”

    I’m much less concerned about a global flood as I am concerned with WHY the Israelites wrote about one. I’m much less concerned about modernist text criticism, which is NOT an objective discipline at all, as I am about the nature of the descriptions in the Bible of the relationship between God and man. The modern mind is impoverished because it has no capacity to work IN mystery; it only seeks to “solve” mystery, and therefore mystery loses its doxological and existential value.

    We could say to Job “Look, we have medicine and spaceships and petabytes of free pornography.” and he would understand what we were talking about. What Job learned can’t be expressed in words. Job satisfies me.

  22. @Stan

    Your tone suggests a mind that can be reasoned with, so I’ll give it a go.

    In your thought experiment of the floating rock, why do you think even a theist would take this as evidence of God? I believe in God, and I would be strongly inclined NOT to accept that floating rock as evidence of his existence. But the best response to this is the one Michael has already offered: What counts as evidence? Would the rock really persuade you, and why?

    It seems to me, in the example you offer and your following comments, that you are taking a low view of God.

    God, as I understand Him, could do the rock thing, and perhaps He would do the rock thing under certain circumstances (not unlike claims of levitating Saints, I suppose – and shouldn’t that persuade you?), but as long as you still perceive the rock phenomenon merely as one without a naturalistic explanation, you’re still missing the point.

    God does not occupy the gaps; He is the ground.

  23. Billy Squibs says:

    Pretend for a moment that a rock is found in Wyoming that floats in the air. It has no natural explanation. This might be an excellent argument that supernatural forces exist. Let’s go one step farther and say it has the words “God exists” imprinted on it. Now you have an excellent argument that a deity is the cause of this phenomenon.

    Though this is not the case according to people like Dawkins. To such people a naturalistic explanation will in principle *always* be the superior explanation. So nothing can count as evidence for God.

    This is exactly what arguments like ‘fine tuning’ or ‘God initiated the Big Bang’ are. At best, they get you to a deistic universe, but they don’t support any individual belief or the idea of a personal god. As a result, they don’t dictate any course of action to take. Without some further evidence, we simply have no reason to run to a church, synagogue, mosque or shrine.

    Such arguments aren’t meant to show the existence of a particular God, and you miss the point when you criticize theses arguments because they don’t demonstrate something they were never intended to demonstrate.

    Nobody should be asking you to run to a church or a mosque or believe in a particular God based solely on these arguments. However, if you came to believe that such arguments are true then it means atheism is false. That’s the takeaway here. After that you can go off try to determine the characteristics and will of this God.

    […] the Bible doesn’t have a good track record: no global flood, no evidence for the exodus, natural evidence that contradicts the creation stories, historical details that contradict the NT timelines or just the NT stories contradicting each other.

    And so much ink has been spilled in an attempt to offer reasonable explanations for these. When you mention that there is “no global flood” or dismiss the Genesis creation stories you do so as if you have presented a knock-down argument against Judaism and Christianity. This response is suggestive of somebody who is really not aware of the range of views that Christians hold on such matters. Or perhaps it is suggestive of somebody who is more interested in polemics.

    If all you’ve got left at that point is to give your deity credit for natural phenomena you’re welcome to try to show why a supernatural explanation is preferable.

    It seems as if you have jumped to the end of the discussion. That you might think that all we are left with is God of the gaps wishful thinking is all well and good. In the mean time the discussion goes on for a great many of us.

  24. Truth2Freedom says:

    Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.

  25. A floating rock was my attempt to craft what would constitute an undeniable supernatural event, in the vein of the type of proof a skeptic would ordinarily demand. But the thing that needs to be clarified is what the evidence is supposed to support. “Proof for a god” is very different than “proof for my god.” Generic proof of god arguments like fine-tuning are frequently put forward by Christian apologists trying to support their belief. You’ve got Answers in Genesis pushing Bible-based science and attempting to show that every single line of the Bible is factual. In so doing they’re wading into a scientific community that has well-established standards for evidence. It should surprise no one that they are roundly rejected when they want to redefine those standards. (operational vs. historical science.)

    My point was that a deistic universe puts no more demands on an individual that a purely naturalistic one. It doesn’t matter if god exists if he doesn’t care what we do. Evidence for a generic god doesn’t advance the Christian apologists’ arguments.

    James’ claim of “God is the ground” strikes me as more of a faith claim or philosophical view than an evidence-based claim. It’s actually kind of compatible with the pantheist view. If this is just a philosophical discussion then okay, we all believe what we want and go our separate ways. It doesn’t matter if we agree. The reason you want me to accept your arguments for god is that you want me to believe in your god, and/or that you want me to live according to your god’s rules. For this to happen you must either convince me your reasons to believe are valid, or you must meet my standard of why to believe it. I’m far more likely to be convinced if you can do the latter. Or you can just legislate your beliefs which is what people are attempting, but then you should not be surprised if we protest.

    The gist of the article is that people won’t accept evidence for god, and I think the problem is that science doesn’t deal in philosophy. Science isn’t the same as atheism, but atheists are trying to take a more scientific approach to existence, and theists are asking them to accept proof for philosophical claims. It’s oil and water.

  26. Billy Squibs says:

    Why mention AIG? Do you suppose anyone here is promoting their interpretation of Genesis? BTW, even those guys are nuanced enough not to push “every single line of the Bible as factual”. Or perhaps they have a section on their sit about trees really did clap their hands.

    Arguments like fine tuning are put forward by Christian apologists because they are apparently effective in preparing the soil for a larger argument about the God of Christianity. You understand that when William Lane Criag, with tedious regularity, breaks out the Kalam argument it is because he is using it as a springboard to make a cumulative case for Christianity.

    Again, providing a general argument for a supreme being – which is the point of an argument like the Kalam – may not directly advance the case for Christianity, but accepting it as true removes atheism as a live option. Do you not understand how these arguments – should you accept them – are a problem for your world-view, not theism in general or Christianity in particular? I have to ask this because you keep repeating the same point without any evidence that you understand that these arguments negatively impact your atheism. I don’t say that to be mean.

    The reason you want me to accept your arguments for god is that you want me to believe in your god, and/or that you want me to live according to your god’s rules.

    That’s a really curious statement to make. Perhaps you grew up in particularly legalistic and fundamental form of Christianity. Hence the talk of equating Christianity with following the rules, references to AIG and a global flood. I would personally want you to follow Christ because the story presented by Christianity is true. That’s all.

    Or you can just legislate your beliefs which is what people are attempting, but then you should not be surprised if we protest.

    I don’t follow the “legislate your beliefs” bit but who said anything about being surprised if you protest? Be the truest infidel you can be. The serious problems arise when reasoned disagreement is replaced by open contempt. And this blog is largely dedicated to arguing that such contempt is a hallmark of New Atheism, a hate movement. (I’m sure there are counter examples the theistic side.)

    The gist of the article is that people won’t accept evidence for god, and I think the problem is that science doesn’t deal in philosophy. Science isn’t the same as atheism, but atheists are trying to take a more scientific approach to existence, and theists are asking them to accept proof for philosophical claims. It’s oil and water.

    This is nonsense, of course. Atheists aren’t part of a hive mind. So it is incorrect to suggest that atheists are necessarily methodological naturalists (which I take to be the root of your “scientific approach to existence” remark). You apparently denigrate philosophy in the name of science while somehow implying that it is a natural bedfellow with atheism. And all along you use philosophy to do so.

    What is science, btw?

  27. TFBW says:

    Stan Adermann said:

    The gist of the article is that people won’t accept evidence for god, and I think the problem is that science doesn’t deal in philosophy.

    No, the gist of the article is that New Atheists frequently assert that “there is no evidence” for God, and that such evidence is all they require. On analysis, however, this superficially reasonable demand is a smokescreen for the fact that (1) there is no logically possible thing that they would commit to accepting as evidence, or (2) they want something miraculous to support a God-of-the-gaps argument. Anything beyond that, you’re reading into it.

    As for “science doesn’t deal in philosophy”, that attitude is something of a problem. If you’re treating science as a means to know the truth — and clearly you are when you “take a more scientific approach to existence” — then you’re wielding it as a philosophical tool whether you recognise it or not. If you’re just using it to develop technology — stuff that works — then you’re not entering philosophy’s jurisdiction.

  28. Michael says:

    A floating rock was my attempt to craft what would constitute an undeniable supernatural event, in the vein of the type of proof a skeptic would ordinarily demand.

    You don’t seem to get it. Such a miracle could only be a “proof” or “evidence” if someone embraces the logic of God-of-the-Gaps reasoning. Is the God of the Gaps reasoning a valid way of determining the existence of God?

    The gist of the article is that people won’t accept evidence for god,

    No it’s not. Is it honest to insist on the “gist of the article” when it’s pretty clear you did not even read the article?

    and I think the problem is that science doesn’t deal in philosophy. Science isn’t the same as atheism, but atheists are trying to take a more scientific approach to existence,

    Nonsense. The “scientific approach to existence” does not lead to atheism. It leads to the following position: I cannot say whether or not God exists. This is because science cannot tell us whether or not God exists.

    Also, if atheists are trying to take a more scientific approach to existence, why do so many embrace the crackpot notion that a religious upbringing is child abuse?

  29. What is science, btw?
    It’s a tool. It’s main purpose is to understand the natural world, although it can be applied to purely logical but abstract concepts. It’s also really good at figuring out when our assumptions are false. It does go a great deal beyond developing technology, unless someone somewhere has managed to incorporate the big bang into a product. What it doesn’t do is deal with things for which there is no tangible evidence, which is how I would classify most claims about god, pro or con.
    there is no logically possible thing that they would commit to accepting as evidence
    Lacking direct evidence for a god, many atheists have considered the claims made in the past about gods presented in the various holy texts. If these could be proven it might be exactly the evidence some atheists might accept. Unfortunately, the more I read about them, the less basis I find so that’s not really working out. But I do assert that is one form of evidence that might be accepted.
    a means to know the truth
    This implies some higher truth exists. Maybe there isn’t one. It’s about as provable as “god exists.” We really have no way of knowing whether philosophical claims are valid and useful or just mental gymnastics.
    you want me to believe in your god/ I would personally want you to follow Christ
    Doesn’t your desire for me to follow Christ support my assertion?
    AiG
    I mention them because they’re attempting to bring religion to science (and not the reverse). This post and conversation seems to be about what constitutes evidence. If you could produce real evidence instead of just arguments you would have no problem with atheists–there probably wouldn’t be any. Can you explain why any of the things listed in your post (eyewitness testimony, personal experience, fine-tuning) should be accepted as evidence? Fine-tuning has been debunked for years, and the other two are subjective and biased. You are doing what AiG does, asking for the standards of evidence to be changed so you can make your point.
    Do you not understand how these arguments – should you accept them – are a problem for your world-view, not theism in general or Christianity in particular?
    I’m atheist, not adeist. It wouldn’t disturb my worldview one bit if some deity kicked off the big bang. Whoever he was, he apparently did his thing and left, and does not care if I pray to the east or circumcise my children. That’s the irony: a deistic universe is identical to a completely godless one. That’s not true for a theistic universe, but a theistic universe is exactly what Christians assert.

  30. No it’s not. Is it honest to insist on the “gist of the article” when it’s pretty clear you did not even read the article?
    You asserted that atheists have constructed a dishonest scheme whereby you could not possibly produce evidence for god. Then you proceeded to list some types of evidence which you’ve apparently tried to assert without success. I’ve suggested some alternative evidences that I felt could counter your point. But I did read it in full, plus the comments.
    the crackpot notion that a religious upbringing is child abuse?
    I was raised Christian so I wouldn’t automatically agree with this. But Christianity comes in many forms. I had a friend whose ex was in a “spare the rod, spoil the child” sect. The kid would come home from his father with welts. It was a direct link from one form of Christianity to a physically and mentally abused child. Some atheist language may be over the top, but it often has a basis, and does not go as far as some Christian preachers who call for killing gays from the pulpit. If anything that aspect of atheist should serve as a mirror for Christianity.

  31. Michael says:

    You asserted that atheists have constructed a dishonest scheme whereby you could not possibly produce evidence for god. Then you proceeded to list some types of evidence which you’ve apparently tried to assert without success. I’ve suggested some alternative evidences that I felt could counter your point. But I did read it in full, plus the comments.

    Quit lying. As you continue to paraphrase, it becomes more and more clear you did not read the blog entry given your inability to accurately summarize its contents (although you may have skimmed it once I pointed out you did not read it). Look at it this way Stan – there is no evidence you read the blog entry. Do you therefore expect me to accept your claim on faith?

    Anyway, I asked you a question and you deliberately ignored it. Let’s try again:

    Is the God of the Gaps reasoning a valid way of determining the existence of God?

    I was raised Christian so I wouldn’t automatically agree with this. But Christianity comes in many forms. I had a friend whose ex was in a “spare the rod, spoil the child” sect. The kid would come home from his father with welts. It was a direct link from one form of Christianity to a physically and mentally abused child.

    And what makes you think the father would not have been abusive if he had not been religious? Look, I could tell a story of a girl whose non-religious mom used to go out and party often, coming home with men while drunk and/or high. And the story gets worse. The problem with our stories is that they are anecdotes. You claimed atheists are trying to take a more scientific approach to existence. That’s the issue in question. Do you really think supporting a claim with anecdotes is the scientific approach?

  32. Michael says:

    Stan, responding to Billy:

    Can you explain why any of the things listed in your post (eyewitness testimony, personal experience, fine-tuning) should be accepted as evidence?

    Er, Billy did not write the post; I did. Also, if you had bothered to read the post, you’d understand why those three things were listed. I thought you said you read the post “in full, plus the comments.”

  33. TFBW says:

    Stan da Man said:

    … many atheists have considered the claims made in the past about gods presented in the various holy texts. If these could be proven it might be exactly the evidence some atheists might accept.

    Then let us be specific about our claims and texts. What evidence would you require to accept that Jesus Christ was the only begotten Son of God, who came to take away the sins of the world? That is rather the central point of Christianity, after all.

    This implies some higher truth exists.

    I have no idea what you mean by “higher truth”, and I’m doubtful that you do either. I wasn’t talking about “higher” truth, but plain old truth. If you want to disagree with me, then please disagree with what I actually said, rather than attributing vague ideas of your own invention to me.

    We really have no way of knowing whether philosophical claims are valid and useful or just mental gymnastics.

    You must think that all philosophy involves debates over angels on pinheads. On the contrary, a claim such as “we can obtain knowledge about the world through empirical investigation” is a philosophical claim, and one with which I expect you agree.

  34. Kevin says:

    News to me that the fine-tuning argument was debunked.

  35. GRA says:

    @Stan: “I was raised Christian so I wouldn’t automatically agree with this. But Christianity comes in many forms. I had a friend whose ex was in a “spare the rod, spoil the child” sect. The kid would come home from his father with welts. It was a direct link from one form of Christianity to a physically and mentally abused child. Some atheist language may be over the top, but it often has a basis, and does not go as far as some Christian preachers who call for killing gays from the pulpit. If anything that aspect of atheist should serve as a mirror for Christianity.”

    Hmm, interesting. I was raised a Christian as well — attended a parochial school for 12 years. A good majority of my friends were raised Christian, as well as all of my immediate family, and I haven’t heard of any abuse stories. The only abuse story that I heard of was from guidance counselor on a senior retreat. His father was a Lutheran who did some nasty stuff to his kids and wife, but not in the name of religion — the guy was just an abusive person.

    Were you raised in the South? It seems like your stories seem to align with the low-brow preachers. In my experience no preacher called for the killings of homosexuals, then again I was raised in the Midwest in an urban area.

  36. @Michael: My summary of your article was, shall we say, charitable. I left out your assertions about “God of the gaps” reasoning because I don’t think it’s supported by your earlier assertions. You want to claim atheists are moving the goalposts, fine. Some may even do that, but as you say anecdotes are not evidence. Perhaps you’re unhappy that I didn’t take from it what you intended. I just don’t see a point in addressing the conclusion when I find the premise faulty.

    @Kevin, fine tuning went down the drain some time ago. The goldilocks zone is now understood to be far larger than thought, and that very different types of stars are able to provide the energy necessary to sustain an ecosystem, which was not thought before. Plus, tidal forces are now known to provide sufficient energy to keep a planet or moon’s core molten and water liquid. It’s the reason there’s now so much more interest in the outer moons of our solar system than before.

    @GRA: I grew up in the Midwest, and my faith community was not bad at all. But I’ve since encountered others that are quite messed up, even within the same denomination I was in. The difference seems to be the preacher they get; a fire and brimstone guy can do a lot of damage and also seems to be the most likely to be caught screwing his parishioners or similar. Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church here in Seattle is only the latest in a long and depressing line. I really do wish my anecdote was an isolated one.

  37. @TFBW: On Jesus as the Son of God, what would it take. Something other than the Bible. In my studies on the Bible, and the Gospels especially to be biased and untrustworthy. The Jesus of Mark was basically an apocalyptic preacher who preached that the end was coming within a few years. He evolved into the Jesus of John who was closest to what you described, but these two Jesus characters are very different and reflect more the evolution of Christianity than the man himself. Did you know Romans almost never allowed crucifixion victims to be taken down? Being denied burial was part of the punishment, according to every document we have on the subject. Did you know Pilate was a particularly brutal governor who repeatedly demonstrated open contempt for the Jews? Not the kind of guy who would suddenly change the rules of crucifixion at the request of a member of a Jewish elder.

    It would probably take a non-Christian source, written at the time of the crucifixion that corroborated the Gospels, especially the crucifixion narrative. Walking dead in Jerusalem, and no Romans noticed? Maybe an order to find the King of the Jews who was on the loose after being crucified? It would need to counter a lot of historical data I’ve learned over the last few decades.

    Fair point on the “higher truth” comment. I was thinking fact vs truth, and some Christians do use the term that way.

    I’ll clarify on the philosophical point. Specifically in reference to the existence of God or the supernatural, many claims are merely that, mental gymnastics. WLC and his Kalam cosmological argument may sound reasonable but it’s wordplay. I lump it with Xenu’s paradox. Xenu could argue that an arrow fired would never reach its target but that would not keep him from being shot by one. As such, an argument is never as good as verifiable evidence. WLC tried on at least one occasion to provide mathematical support for the probability of the resurrection. It struck me as a tacit admission that he needed something better than KCA, but it was a rather sad attempt.

  38. Billy Squibs says:

    Stan,

    I have time only for a quick response so I’m going to be necessarily curt. When you say that fine tuning has been disproved and then later go on to back this claim up by talking about ecosystems (how many ecosystems outside of earth are you aware of, btw?), molten cores and so on, please be aware that you are NOT critiquing fine tuning. (I’m willing to bet that you think that the argument for fine tuning necessarily implies a God.)

    Sorry to say, Stan, but when you type stuff like this it is clear that you don’t even understand the argument you are critiquing. I would suggest you have a read of Luke Barnes’ site Letters to nature – https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/. He isn’t a Christian and he, a working astronomer. In particular check out his conversation with the recently deceased Vic Stenger.

  39. Billy Squibs says:

    Ah, I must have deleted part of sentence above while rushing.

    “He isn’t a Christian and he, a working astronomer.” Should read “He isn’t a Christian and he, a working astronomer, would completely disagree with you.”

  40. TFBW says:

    Stan said:

    I just don’t see a point in addressing the conclusion when I find the premise faulty.

    If you find the premise faulty, you should specify which premise and why you find it faulty. Please express your objections in a manner which allows them to be identified at least. I’m particularly perplexed by this, given that your opening remarks on this topic were about a flying rock which “has no natural explanation” and could therefore be considered “an excellent argument that supernatural forces exist”. Isn’t this a paradigm example of an argument from gaps in known natural causes?

    Beyond this, I’m finding it difficult to respond to you, because each time I try to respond to a particular thing you have said, I find myself wondering what coherent whole position I am arguing against. For example, you express a dim view of philosophy in general, speaking in dissatisfied tones of the likes of William Lane Craig and his arguments from reason, and yet the only support you seem to be able to muster for that position is (a) philosophical (thus undermining itself), and (b) rather ill-informed. It’s hard to credit you with much actual informed knowledge of philosophy when you cite “Xenu’s paradox”, for example.

    I think, perhaps, rather than try to respond to any more of your individual statements, what I need to do is take a step back and ask, “what was your overall point, exactly?” I’m getting that you’re an “I need evidence” kind of guy, and that you disagree in some way with the three-question formulation of this post, but I’m afraid the more I read of what you’ve said, the less clear I become about the details. I’ll go back and re-read them a bit more, but I’m not hopeful that I’ll make any further progress at this point.

  41. Michael says:

    My summary of your article was, shall we say, charitable.

    So your idea of “charitable” is to paraphrase things you did not read. You have confused being charitable with being intellectually dishonest.

    I left out your assertions about “God of the gaps” reasoning because I don’t think it’s supported by your earlier assertions.

    It doesn’t matter what you think; it matters what you can show. And you have yet to show there is anything wrong with my assertions. On the contrary, you yourself have supported my assertion with your own floating rock example. Note that I have twice asked you whether God of the Gaps reasoning is a valid form of reasoning and you have twice ignored it. Surprise.

    You want to claim atheists are moving the goalposts, fine.

    I did not claim atheists are moving the goalposts. Yet more evidence that you did not read the blog entry.

    Some may even do that, but as you say anecdotes are not evidence.

    Actually, anecdotes are evidence. They just are not scientific evidence. The point about anecdotes revolves around your faulty claim that atheists take a scientific approach to reality.

    Perhaps you’re unhappy that I didn’t take from it what you intended. I just don’t see a point in addressing the conclusion when I find the premise faulty.

    You did not read the blog entry (although you dishonestly claim you did). At most, you have now been forced to quickly skim the article. As such, you do not understand the arguments of the article. And this explains why all of your criticisms have failed miserably.

  42. Doug says:

    Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t have a good track record: no global flood, no evidence for the exodus, natural evidence that contradicts the creation stories, historical details that contradict the NT timelines or just the NT stories contradicting each other. It doesn’t bode well for a religion when the study of its texts can so easily promote the loss of belief as it did for myself and many others.
    It is interesting that the study of those same texts can so easily promote the gain of belief for so many others.
    And in almost every case the difference comes down to “what manner of flood/exodus/creation, etc” does the person in question imagine.
    People with no imagination (typically fundamentalist-leaning, whether theist or atheist) find it easy — granted, even — to take stories written in a different culture, language, and millennium, apply an inappropriate “lens” and make grand pronouncements (including, but not limited to, words like “no evidence” and “contradict”). It is a parochial exercise: these folk are unable to appreciate, let alone estimate, the effects of language, culture, and vast amounts of time.

  43. Charitable is to assume that the other party believes what they say. You should try it sometime. I generally avoid blanket accusations of dishonesty since I think they fail on their own (I make an exception for politics).

    One last attempt to clarify my objections:
    1. Since God is a supernatural entity, claims for his existence necessarily contain some supernatural element. If they lack a supernatural element, they are unable to address an eternal deity. At best they address a deity limited by the limits of nature. Such a deity would be part of creation, not the cause of it.
    2. Claims that nature is inseparable from the deity and therefore proof (god is all there is, the world is your proof) make unwarranted leaps of logic. Such claims are often undermined by the discovery of natural causes. At this point the assertion about god moves back a step. This is the nature of “god of the gaps” claims.
    3. This makes it very difficult (but not necessarily impossible) to make a claim for god or the supernatural that doesn’t run afoul of “god of the gaps” when you’re talking about things where natural causes have been identified. The claim can be made that “God started evolution” or “God caused the big bang”, but since these are things that can be described without the supernatural element, it’s much harder to argue that God or the supernatural is necessary for the argument.
    3a. This is because of the nature of the argument itself, and not because of a nefarious scheme on the part of the detractors for the argument. Atheists may bring this up because they would regard it as proof of the supernatural (in answer to your question) but also because the Bible shows God to be the kind of deity that rarely shrank from offering proof of his power and existence. The Bible itself shows many examples of not just God proving his power, but priests or prophets also proving it through miracles.
    4. I’ve identified one alternative way to argue for the existence of God and expressed it in at least a couple different ways: prove the histories of your religion. Find some evidence that Joseph of Arimathea was able to obtain Jesus’ body and bury it. There’s a reason WLC always goes here in his debates, because it would be convincing to many skeptics if the narratives of the Gospel could be shown to be factual. WLC fails because there is no historical evidence for the burial; his arguments are supposition.
    4a. Proof that Pilate turned over the body (contrary to non-Biblical accounts of his behavior towards Jews), proof of the burial, proof of the tomb, proof that the Romans had heard Jesus was still walking around shortly after his execution–none of these are dependent on the supernatural. But there you go, evidence I would entertain in my “kangaroo court” that is not a gap.

  44. Doug says:

    “claims for his existence necessarily contain some supernatural element” – indeed: philosophy is a supernatural enterprise altogether…

    As for 3. you can “describe” abiogenesis and a first cause “without the supernatural element” all you like. But can you do it with any evidence whatsoever?

    “prove the histories” – well, it was enough for William Ramsay, I suppose. But then he did some actual research before he came to any conclusion on the matter.

  45. Michael says:

    Charitable is to assume that the other party believes what they say.

    So charitable is faith? I thought faith was a no-no.

    You should try it sometime.

    The atheist insists I rely on faith? Or is it faith’s okay, as long as the faith is placed in you, Stan? 😉

    I generally avoid blanket accusations of dishonesty since I think they fail on their own (I make an exception for politics).

    There was no blanket accusation. The accusation stems from a consideration of the evidence before me.

    I’ve identified one alternative way to argue for the existence of God and expressed it in at least a couple different ways: prove the histories of your religion. Find some evidence that Joseph of Arimathea was able to obtain Jesus’ body and bury it. ….Proof that Pilate turned over the body (contrary to non-Biblical accounts of his behavior towards Jews), proof of the burial, proof of the tomb, proof that the Romans had heard Jesus was still walking around shortly after his execution–none of these are dependent on the supernatural. But there you go, evidence I would entertain in my “kangaroo court” that is not a gap.

    I see. So your kangaroo court demands historical proofs knowing that history does not come with proofs. Sneaky.

    I’m not sure what you would count as “proof” here. And it’s not clear if you are demanding all these “proofs,” or whether one would suffice. But let’s get to the real issue. Let’s say we have “proof” Joseph of Arimathea was able to obtain Jesus’ body and bury it, proof that Pilate turned over the body, proof of the burial, proof of the tomb, and proof that the Romans had heard Jesus was still walking around shortly after his execution.

    WHY is this evidence for the existence of God?

  46. TFBW says:

    Stan da Man said:

    1. Since God is a supernatural entity, claims for his existence necessarily contain some supernatural element.

    Aside from possible vagueness as to what “supernatural” entails, no problem so far.

    2. Claims that nature is inseparable from the deity and therefore proof (god is all there is, the world is your proof) make unwarranted leaps of logic.

    This is terribly sloppy at best, and a straw man at worst. “God is all there is, the world is your proof,” is not even close to a fair paraphrase of any theistic argument.

    3. This makes it very difficult (but not necessarily impossible) to make a claim for god or the supernatural that doesn’t run afoul of “god of the gaps” when you’re talking about things where natural causes have been identified. The claim can be made that “God started evolution” or “God caused the big bang”, but since these are things that can be described without the supernatural element, it’s much harder to argue that God or the supernatural is necessary for the argument.

    There are numerous problems starting to arise here. First up, what about examples where natural causes have not been identified, such as “consciousness”? Is this a valid form of argument against naturalism?

    Second, just because a natural cause has been hypothesised or even widely accepted by science doesn’t rule against the supernatural alternative in all cases — unless you’re making an argument from authority of it. Take abiogenesis, for example. It’s widely accepted, in scientific circles, that life arose naturally. The primary reason for this, however, is that they are only willing to consider naturalistic scenarios. No life has ever been observed to arise naturally except from prior life. Is the fact that a large number of scientists feel sure that natural abiogenesis is possible (despite never having observed it) sufficient to undermine the argument?

    3a. … Atheists may bring this up because they would regard it as proof of the supernatural (in answer to your question) but also because the Bible shows God to be the kind of deity that rarely shrank from offering proof of his power and existence.

    This seems to bring me back to my “consciousness” example, above. What is being requested is a phenomenon with no known natural cause. If “consciousness” is inadequate as an example of a transcendent phenomenon, then what makes an arbitrarily-chosen phenomenon (like a floating rock) any more adequate?

    As for God’s attitude towards “offering proof of his power and existence”, I beg to differ. There are numerous Biblical references which spring immediately to mind which suggest that demanding demonstrations of power from him is a fast track to his disfavour. Considering Jesus alone, I can think of three examples off the top of my head: Satan tempted him to perform miracles, some scribes and Pharisees wanted to see a sign from him, and Herod hoped to see some miracle. A willingness to perform miracles on demand as proof of his existence and/or authority is contrary to what the Bible teaches about God.

    I won’t address your points 4 and 4a, as I think we’ve covered enough here already without getting into a debate about standards of historical evidence. Others seem to be covering it anyhow.

  47. Michael says:

    Stan:One last attempt to clarify my objections:

    There is an simple, easy way to clarify. Just answer the question: Is the God of the Gaps reasoning a valid way of determining the existence of God?

  48. I was away for the weekend so I had a little time to reconsider the question. My conclusion is “no”. Since a gap is essentially a lack of pro or con evidence, then the only thing the gap can represent is a lack of information.

    The question has been asked WHY something would be evidence for a deity. The answer I think hinges on whether something represents an indication of will. Deities are portrayed as intelligent beings that influence the world by choice. Atheists asking for some spectacular proof are asking for a demonstration of divine will, which would not be subject to uncertainty or alternative explanation. If you hang your determination of the existence of God on something which others can reasonably identify as a natural phenomenon, then your hypothesis is merely one of multiple competing explanations with the detriment of not being falsifiable.

    The reason I keep going back to “prove your religion” is because I actually see it as the more important question. It would be ironic for you to prove the existence of God only to have everyone run to Islam. I do understand the problem with proving a historical event, but with history you’re dealing with different standards. A single document can color our historical understanding a great deal. People may be willing to accept a historical argument when they won’t accept an attempt to explain the existence through pure logic. You won’t get a slam-dunk explanation to convince every living person, but I don’t think you’ll get that without God showing up in person.

    ” I thought faith was a no-no.” It’s somewhat of a prerequisite for reasoned discourse, and very different than the faith required to change one’s worldview.

    @TFBW on consciousness: I discount it because it’s so fragile and because scientific progress has become fairly rapid in that arena. Your self-awareness can be extraordinarily and permanently affected through drugs, injury or disease. If my self were contained in a soul rather than grey matter, it seems like it should be more resilient and less malleable. Coupled with recent advancements in neuroscience as well as AI, I’m highly optimistic that gap may close soon. (I’ve helped to create and ship a popular product in 2013 and others prior which heavily incorporate AI. It does tend to give me the perspective that consciousness isn’t all that big a deal.)

  49. TFBW says:

    @TFBW on consciousness: I discount it because it’s so fragile and because scientific progress has become fairly rapid in that arena.

    Nonsense. There isn’t even the faintest whiff of a material theoretical basis to consciousness. Jerry Fodor’s classic quip still holds: “Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious.” If you think otherwise, then you have not understood the problem. Your reasoning here is that consciousness can be affected by material things, therefore consciousness must be material. That’s simplistic. Likewise, your mention of AI shows a deep misunderstanding of what consciousness is: we have no reason to think that an AI so advanced that it is indistinguishable from a human being would possess any more consciousness than a rock.

    Look, a flying rock can at least be explained in terms of physical forces. We may not know how those forces are being generated, but at least we have a well-established framework for understanding that kind of phenomenon. With regards to consciousness, we don’t have anything in the whole of our scientific vocabulary which seems to be related to consciousness. The gap couldn’t be any bigger.

  50. @Stan

    I, likewise, have been away, but am glad to see the conversation carrying on.

    “The answer I think hinges on whether something represents an indication of will. Deities are portrayed as intelligent beings that influence the world by choice.”

    This is something at least. However, we’re still left with a variation of the problem you pointed out, which is “How do we know God willed this?”

    And if I may be straightforward, you again walk right into Michael’s claim: That atheist calls for evidence are ultimately subjective in nature. What convinces you as being willed by God (if anything does) might not convince me, whereas I am already convinced that the will of God is in force in the world (by “evidence” that has not convinced you).

    That is why I point to God as the ground, rather than just another deity. Every time you express it like that, you show to me that you are missing the point. I just can’t tell if it’s willful.

    Of course, these threads begin to carry a lot of baggage after a while, and I see that TBFW has posted while I’ve been writing. I look forward to that part of the exchange.

    In short, I would suggest to you that your “No” to Michael’s question should be taken to its logical conclusion: This isn’t a science question. Any proof of God which gives any confidence at all is going to be philosophically bent, if not entirely philosophical in nature. But that’s a tautology that we all acknowledge, and are trying to show you.*

    *For those who would know, I take Plantinga’s arguments seriously, though they are presented philosophically but experienced directly. I still lump this in because there is a kind of philosophical context which gives that experience its full weight.

  51. Michael says:

    Is the God of the Gaps reasoning a valid way of determining the existence of God?

    I was away for the weekend so I had a little time to reconsider the question. My conclusion is “no”.

    Okay, but then…..

    Atheists asking for some spectacular proof are asking for a demonstration of divine will, which would not be subject to uncertainty or alternative explanation. If you hang your determination of the existence of God on something which others can reasonably identify as a natural phenomenon, then your hypothesis is merely one of multiple competing explanations with the detriment of not being falsifiable.

    Round and round we go. Unless theists offer something which others cannot reasonably identify as a natural phenomenon – a gap – theists have nothing. But then a gap also doesn’t count as evidence for the existence of God. Sounds to me like you have all the bases covered such that nothing can count as evidence for the existence of God.

  52. Dhay says:

    Stan Adermann > @TFBW on consciousness: I discount it because it’s so fragile and because scientific progress has become fairly rapid in that arena. Your self-awareness can be extraordinarily and permanently affected through drugs, injury or disease. … * Coupled with recent advancements in neuroscience as well as AI, I’m highly optimistic that gap may close soon. (I’ve helped to create and ship a popular product in 2013 and others prior which heavily incorporate AI. It does tend to give me the perspective that consciousness isn’t all that big a deal.)

    I think the best response to this is to link you to the 2011 two-part blog, by neuroscientist Sam Harris, entitled, “The Mystery of Consciousness” — there’s a link to “The Mystery of Consciousness II” at the end of that first part.
    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-mystery-of-consciousness

    Harris’ PhD was reportedly largely concerned with the nature of consciousness, so he has thought long and hard on the matter, and unlike many other neuroscientists he has had some grounding in philosophy.

    At one point in his first long post, Harris says, “Most scientists are confident that consciousness emerges from unconscious complexity. We have compelling reasons for believing this, because the only signs of consciousness we see in the universe are found in evolved organisms like ourselves. Nevertheless, this notion of emergence strikes me as nothing more than a restatement of a miracle. To say that consciousness emerged at some point in the evolution of life doesn’t give us an inkling of how it could emerge from unconscious processes, even in principle. I believe that this notion of emergence is incomprehensible …”

    And later: “Consciousness—the sheer fact that this universe is illuminated by sentience—is precisely what unconsciousness is not. And I believe that no description of unconscious complexity will fully account for it. It seems to me that just as “something” and “nothing,” however juxtaposed, can do no explanatory work, an analysis of purely physical processes will never yield a picture of consciousness. However, this is not to say that some other thesis about consciousness must be true. Consciousness may very well be the lawful product of unconscious information processing. But I don’t know what that sentence means—and I don’t think anyone else does either.”

    You’ll probably want to read and assess the whole of the two parts; if I read Harris right, Harris rather disagrees with your “perspective that consciousness isn’t all that big a deal.”

    * (I have deliberately omitted your sentence, “If my self were contained in a soul rather than grey matter, it seems like it should be more resilient and less malleable.”, because although possibly there are Christians who would understand and agree with the idea of a “self … contained in a soul rather than grey matter”, I personally don’t understand and don’t agree; and — like Sam Harris — I certainly do not equate consciousness with self or vice versa.)

  53. Pingback: The Unreasonableness of Atheism | Thomistic Bent

  54. Question 1: What would you count as “actual, credible, real world evidence for God?”

    It could be lots of things. How about prayer actually working? That seems like a reasonable test.

    Question 2: Why would that dramatic, miraculous, sensational event count as evidence for God?

    Well, unlike your assumption, I’m not asking for a dramatic, sensational event like all of the stars aligning to spell a message or all humans hearing the same message but in their own language or something. Now, those would be pretty good evidence, but I’m not even asking for something that dramatic. I’m merely asking for a strong statistical significance showing that prayer works.

    Question 3: Is the God of the Gaps reasoning a valid way of determining the existence of God?

    No, it’s not. This question and follow-up, however, betray your misunderstanding of the discussion at hand. When we talk about evidence it’s not about 100% certainty. If you could show me the evidence I’ve requested from #2, that would move me closer to believing. It wouldn’t flip me immediately to 100%, but it would move me closer to believing.

    So, there you have it. Your questions make it appear that you’ve never really had a discussion with an atheist, but that you’ve only read things atheists have written. I feel that if you had actually had a convo with an atheist, that you would have seen how easily these questions can be answered. All of your strawman responses aren’t very well thought out.

  55. Michael says:

    It could be lots of things. How about prayer actually working? That seems like a reasonable test.

    Not sure what you mean by “prayer actually working.” Prayer has actually worked in my life many times over. Thus, am I not personally justified in viewing it as evidence for God? Or am I obligated to have you concur before considering it evidence?

    Now, those would be pretty good evidence, but I’m not even asking for something that dramatic.

    Okay, WHY would “those be pretty good evidence?”

    I’m merely asking for a strong statistical significance showing that prayer works.

    What if the working prayer could be adequately explained by natural laws and chance? Would it still be evidence for God?

    I feel that if you had actually had a convo with an atheist, that you would have seen how easily these questions can be answered.

    Let’s have the convo. You can show your sincerity by actually answering the questions I just raised.

  56. Dan Courtney says:

    I think this article makes a valid point. Not only is arguing about evidence unproductive, it is premature. Asking for evidence for God is like asking for evidence of a married bachelor. What is a married bachelor?… I don’t know, because the term itself embodies a contradiction, and the very grounds by which we determine whether something can even exist in principle has not been established.

    So I don’t ask for evidence of God, I ask for a coherent definition of God. If there was a coherent (non-contradictory) definition of God, then, and only then, can we start the search for evidence.

    So I agree, the demand for evidence is pre-mature and misguided. What we really need is a logically consistent definition… and that’s what is clearly lacking.

  57. FZM says:

    Why is the concept ‘God’ necessarily analogous to that of a married bachelor? i.e. is what you are saying that it’s inherently impossible to produce a coherent definition of the term God? Or that in principle it could be possible but that to the best of your knowledge no one has yet managed it?

  58. apollyon911 says:

    God is the greatest being conceivable (aliquid quo nihil maius cogitari possit)

    – Anselm.

    ‘Conceivable’ here means ‘logically possible’.

  59. Is there a way to reply to a specific comment? As far as I can tell, only the OP seems to be doing that.

    Michael wrote… Not sure what you mean by “prayer actually working.” Prayer has actually worked in my life many times over.

    Like when we do medical experiments to see if intercessory prayer helps heal the sick. Those who get prayed for recover or die at exactly the same rates as those who do not get prayed for. It doesn’t have to be this specific example, but it should be a test where we can isolate prayer as the variable as much as possible. Lots of people pray to get a job, but are they getting them in greater numbers than those who don’t pray (or get prayed for)?

    Michael wrote… Thus, am I not personally justified in viewing it as evidence for God? Or am I obligated to have you concur before considering it evidence?

    Without knowing a lot more about those situations, I can’t speak to whether or not your decision to view it as evidence is justified. Your justification would be great or it could be terrible, but my agreement is irrelevant to whether or not you justifiably or unjustifiably consider it evidence.

    However, that’s kind of a red herring. The only reason evidence is part of this discussion is because we’re talking about convincing SOMEONE ELSE. So, unless you can show your evidence is justified in a way that will convince someone else, it’s not really that helpful, is it?

    Regarding dramatic, sensational demonstrations, Michael wrote… Okay, WHY would “those be pretty good evidence?”

    Those aren’t my chosen types of evidence. I know that you want to try to get back to your assumption that all atheists will demand giant demonstrations for evidence, I’m not doing that here. So, let’s stick with my actual points, and not the points you wrongly assumed I’d make.

    Michael wrote… What if the working prayer could be adequately explained by natural laws and chance? Would it still be evidence for God?

    The structure of the experiment is designed to exclude chance, that’s why I asked for a statistically significant result. We put together a hypothesis about the efficacy of prayer. We design an experiment designed to falsify the claim. We run the experiment in a manner to produce statistically significant results. It could test several religions, several God claims, including intentionally fake ones, etc. If just any old prayer seemed to benefit, that would be a very weak result, but if only Muslim prayer gave a statistically significant result then that would be a much stronger positive result. However, every time we’ve tested prayer we’ve found no support for the claim that prayer works.

    Scientific investigation isn’t a Science of the Gaps argument, as you try to hint at above. The point of the God of the Gaps accusation isn’t that who are just filling the unknown with God, it’s that you have always claimed that God did A-Z until we understood C wasn’t God, so you then claimed that God did A-B and D-Z… and then we understood M, so it became A-B, D-L, N-Z. etc, etc, etc. The God of Gaps isn’t just about the gaps, it’s also about the recession of your God’s powers matches the advancement of our scientific understanding of the natural world.

  60. Gah, I wish I could edit comments after posting so I could fix typos. 🙂

  61. Doug says:

    @Dan

    If there was a coherent (non-contradictory) definition of God…

    The only reason that folks find incoherence in God’s definition is that they require definitions be neat little boxes that the thing-to-be-defined fits neatly into. Of course there is no such definition for God – if God was “well-behaved” enough to fit into human conception, then He wouldn’t be God (hence “incoherence”). But that one should require such a definition tells us all we need to know about the one with those requirements.

    If anyone wants a coherent (non-contradictory) definition of God, let them first supply a coherent (non-contradictory and non self-referential) definition of “understand”, or “meaning”, or…

  62. Doug says:

    @Kenny,

    the recession of your God’s powers matches the advancement of our scientific understanding of the natural world

    Then it must also be fair game to give God credit for every area where scientific understanding has failed to advance in the light of scientific data? Examples: the origin of language, the origin of life, the origin of the universe, the origin of consciousness, the ever-more-remarkable fine-tuning of the laws of physics.

  63. Doug says:

    @Kenny,

    Frankly, I’ve never noticed this “recession of … God’s powers” that you refer to. On the contrary, the more I discover about the universe (I have a STEM PhD, fwiw), the more impressed with God’s powers I become. Feel free to make your “C” and “M” concrete, if it helps.

  64. Joe Marcone says:

    Question# 1 is malformed and disingenuous – a dishonest trick really. There is no defined definition of “god”. There are over 3,000 god claims – all different. So until you theists agree on a definition of god, describe it’s characteristics and properties it is NOT up to the atheist to provide what type of evidence would be required for something that is NOT defined. Again the question is purposely vague – dishonest – no need to go to the other two.

  65. Answer 1: I don’t know. YOU are making the claim about a god existing, YOU are making claims about that god’s attributes, what evidence do YOU have?

    What I do know is that evidence is something that is verifiable, supports the proposition, MUST be the case if the proposition is correct, and could potentially falsify the proposition.

    You see, it is incumbent upon the person making the claim to supply the evidence. If not, then anybody could make any claim as to what would be evidence. Let’s take the example of evolution. Those who deny it often use arguments indicating that they think that seeing something like a cat giving birth to a dog would be evidence of evolution. Those who understand evolution know that such a thing would actually DISPROVE evolution.

    Questions 2 & 3 are completely moot because they do not follow from my answer to the first question.

    And, as for the “bonus question”, that is nothing more than a back handed ad hominem attack.

    However, what I can do is EXPLAIN to you why I reject your evidence if I do.

  66. The person who wrote this article is both pompous and naive. First problem is failing to recognize that before you start asking the questions… you have to clearly define what God is. Religious people can’t get their own stories about what God’s nature is amongst themselves much less explain to unbelievers what it is we are supposed to be believing in. That having been said lets begin with real answer to your insipid questions.

    1. I would believe in a God if he clearly and unambiguously communicated to me and any number of people the same message, or created effects in the world I live in that both I and others could independently verify as being based on the influence of that God and not due to any other natural influence. There are many example of God doing just that in the Old Testament.

    2. Miraculous events are almost definition the domain of a God or Gods, because a non-miraculous event is by definition explainable by natural causes. If however you stipulate that God uses natural processes to do his bidding then at some point a scientist is going to unequivocally be able to declare that a non-natural influence is being detected based on statistical probabilities. This is in fact what Intelligent Design tried to do. The problem is that scientist know how to do math. Detecting intentioned patterns in what seems be a random processes is something scientists do all the time. This is in fact essential to how your cell phone works.

    3. God of the Gaps. No saying that there must be a God because things happen that we don’t have explanation for is inherently asinine. The entire point of science is to study things we don’t understand and to come up with an explanation. There will always be things we don’t understand and there may never be answer to every mystery. The wrong thing to do is say “Well God must be behind it”, because later someone will likely prove that you were wrong, which has basically the been the case to date. When people go to school to learn how to do something like Engineering, Medicine, Auto repair, etc. they don’t teach you anything about God because, excepting for the processes related to the why religious people think (i.e. in the field psycho-analysis)… knowing anything about God (or to be more accurate what the victim … I mean mental patient believes about God) is irrelevant to any problems that requires a real life solution. You know, actually, God of the Gaps is a phrase we Atheists coined to describe the long history of God loss of apparent influence as science has pushed back the veil of ignorance. Which is in fact what I like to define God as being … God is in fact not a being at all but is an imaginary friend that some of us are able to sustain due to what I like to call the veil of ignorance.

    My answer to your arrogant “Bonus” question is … my evidence that I will consider your evidence with a open mind and in a fair manner, is that I have given clear criteria, and when presented with your evidence, I will follow the rules of logic and will conclude in a deterministic way that you have proven your case. Because by definition a true proof by weight of evidence does’t just require open mindedness or fairness, open mindedness and fairness is the whole point of why an Atheist thinks the way an Atheist does. The reasons why an Atheist rejects the hypothesis of a God is that all methods of establishing God’s existence is dependent on the violation of the principles of epistemology.

    So this is a REAL response to your questions by a REAL Atheist.

  67. @Joe

    Thanks for playing!

    But if you decide to post a more honest comment, I’m sure someone will be charitable enough to engage you.

  68. @McClymont – You’ve gone to a little more trouble to show yourself incapable of reading.

    Did you read the post?

    No, seriously, go read it again. There’s a big fat qualifier before Michael launches into the three questions…

  69. Doug wrote… Then it must also be fair game to give God credit for every area where scientific understanding has failed to advance in the light of scientific data?

    I don’t use “God” as the null hypothesis, so.. no. If you want to do that, however, please prepare yourself to have your God pushed out of those gaps as well.

    Doug wrote… Frankly, I’ve never noticed this “recession of … God’s powers” that you refer to.

    Yes, you have, please don’t be coy. It has happened throughout history. Unknown aspects of the natural world have been attributed to a god or gods since humanity created the idea of gods. Weather was caused by God… until we learned how weather works, and God’s power receded as our scientific understanding advanced. Diseased was caused by God… until we learned how germs and biology work, and God’s power receded as our scientific understanding advanced. Eclipses, comets, etc, etc.

  70. @Michael Eberly

    Pompous, eh? I’m not sure that’s a charge anyone here can dodge, least of all you.

    Are you here with the open possibility that you could be wrong? I – or a dozen other commenters, if not Michael himself – will be glad to carefully explain what’s going on here. I’m a bit harsh with this swaggering nonsense you’ve walked in with, but I really would prefer to see you come to faith, and call you a brother.

    Really, think about that. You’re going to reply, because there’s a lot of pride already invested. As you do, consider whether you’d actually like to discuss these things openly and honestly, or whether you’re here to slap down theists.

    If the latter, it’s simply not going to happen.

    If the former, you will get a good conversation. There are a lot of insightful people who visit here.

  71. @Kenny

    Are you familiar with the Aristotelian/Thomistic understanding of God?

  72. Doug says:

    @Kenny,

    until we learned how weather works/until we learned how germs and biology work

    When was that, exactly? We know that molecules and germs move, but we absolutely do not know how chaotic systems “work”. We might have statistical models for them, but that is by no means the same thing.
    And if we knew “how biology works” without God, then you could propose a scientifically coherent model of abiogenesis. You can’t.
    While certainly folk have attributed all manner of phenomena to God’s direct action I feel no need to defend those attributions, and the suggestion that I am beholden to them is bizarre. For reference, the only Biblical claims for God’s direct action are:
    1. the creation of the universe
    2. the creation of life
    3. the creation of humankind
    These three items also happen to appear on the short list of most difficult and unanswered scientific questions. What a coincidence!

  73. Doug wrote.. When was that, exactly? We know that molecules and germs move, but we absolutely do not know how chaotic systems “work”.

    Ok, if you’re not going to have a serious conversation, then I can spend my time waiting for the OP to finally respond to my answers. Please don’t try to play word games with me. We know how disease works. Germ Theory explains it.

    Doug wrote… And if we knew “how biology works” without God, then you could propose a scientifically coherent model of abiogenesis. You can’t.

    Wow, talk about switching topics at the drop of a hat. My “how biology works” statement was in reference to how diseases spread and how our immune systems work. As for the a model of abiogenesis, scientists get closer to that every year. Get ready for your God to be pushed out of that space as well.

    Doug wrote… For reference, the only Biblical claims for God’s direct action are:
    1. the creation of the universe
    2. the creation of life
    3. the creation of humankind
    These three items also happen to appear on the short list of most difficult and unanswered scientific questions. What a coincidence!

    I feel like you haven’t read the Bible then. The Bible has many stories of weather and disease being caused by God.

    Also, #3 has been answered by science. Evolution. That’s how humanity came to exist.

  74. You are an intelligent person – and I don’t mean that condescendingly, you might be more intelligent than me for all I know – I would urge you to look it up.

    We – especially Catholics – are not arguing for anything like a God of the gaps. We are arguing for a God beyond scientific inquiry. (And if you believe in any kind of morality, you know this is a deep and meaningful thing).

    In this post, Michael is skewering those atheists who strawman God (or god, as they like) as the one who is receding while Science is advancing.

    The True God could not possibly recede. He is all or nothing.

    Michael is quite right; you can admit that, and still be an atheist. But you’ll have to ascend philosophically to remain an atheist.

  75. Michael says:

    Like when we do medical experiments to see if intercessory prayer helps heal the sick. Those who get prayed for recover or die at exactly the same rates as those who do not get prayed for.

    Depends on the study. Here is a place where some of the prayer studies are summarized – some show a positive result, others don’t.

    It doesn’t have to be this specific example, but it should be a test where we can isolate prayer as the variable as much as possible. Lots of people pray to get a job, but are they getting them in greater numbers than those who don’t pray (or get prayed for)?

    If you are serious and sincere about the prayer study issue (I’m cynical because I’ve encountered too many New Atheists who use this topic as a talking point), you need to engage the theology inherent in such demands. I touched on this a few years back: The Futility of Prayer Studies

    However, that’s kind of a red herring. The only reason evidence is part of this discussion is because we’re talking about convincing SOMEONE ELSE. So, unless you can show your evidence is justified in a way that will convince someone else, it’s not really that helpful, is it?

    It’s not that simple anymore. One of the core arguments/positions of the New Atheist movement is the truth claim “There is no evidence for God’s existence.” What’s more, we are told Christians are either delusional, stupid, or dishonest because they believe in God – something for which there is no evidence. According to the New Atheists, the only reasonable position is the one which recognizes there is no evidence for God. The aggressive nature of this posturing has negated the old burden of proof argument.

    Those aren’t my chosen types of evidence. I know that you want to try to get back to your assumption that all atheists will demand giant demonstrations for evidence, I’m not doing that here. So, let’s stick with my actual points, and not the points you wrongly assumed I’d make.

    You are back pedaling. Here is what you wrote: “I’m not asking for a dramatic, sensational event like all of the stars aligning to spell a message or all humans hearing the same message but in their own language or something. Now, those would be pretty good evidence, but I’m not even asking for something that dramatic.”

    You claim that “the stars aligning to spell a message or all humans hearing the same message but in their own language” would be ” pretty good evidence.” That’s your position and your claim. I am thus asking you why. Why would those be pretty good evidence?

    The structure of the experiment is designed to exclude chance, that’s why I asked for a statistically significant result. We put together a hypothesis about the efficacy of prayer. We design an experiment designed to falsify the claim. We run the experiment in a manner to produce statistically significant results. It could test several religions, several God claims, including intentionally fake ones, etc. If just any old prayer seemed to benefit, that would be a very weak result, but if only Muslim prayer gave a statistically significant result then that would be a much stronger positive result. However, every time we’ve tested prayer we’ve found no support for the claim that prayer works.

    None of this answers my question. Let’s try again: What if the working prayer could be adequately explained by natural laws and chance? Would it still be evidence for God?

  76. Michael says:

    Ok, if you’re not going to have a serious conversation, then I can spend my time waiting for the OP to finally respond to my answers.

    Let’s not play this game. If you check the calendar on the front page of the blog, I went 16 days without posting. This is because I have been, and continue to be, incredibly busy. I only responded because this particular blog entry has begun to pull in 1000+ hits/day for the last couple of days. And since I replied, I figured I may as well spend a few minutes and post a new blog entry about the faith of the New Atheists. Anyway, I responded to your “answers” and will continue to respond. Future responses may be delayed, but that’s pretty much out of my hands.

    As for the other atheists who showed up to defend their god of the gaps reasoning, I will get to them eventually also.

  77. Michael wrote… One of the core arguments/positions of the New Atheist movement is the truth claim “There is no evidence for God’s existence.” … The aggressive nature of this posturing has negated the old burden of proof argument.

    No, it hasn’t. Being aggressive, or even insulting, doesn’t negate your burden of proof.

    Michael wrote… You are back pedaling.

    Nope, I just want to talk about the example -I- offered instead of the made-up examples you wish I had used.

    Michael wrote… That’s your position and your claim. I am thus asking you why. Why would those be pretty good evidence?

    I told you those AREN’T the examples I’m offering. I know that you really, REALLY want to talk about those kinds of examples, but I offered “prayer working” as my example. I know you’ve got a great little script that you want to use about those sensational examples, but I offered you a different example, so please try to stay on topic.

    Michael wrote.. None of this answers my question. Let’s try again: What if the working prayer could be adequately explained by natural laws and chance? Would it still be evidence for God?

    You don’t seem to understand. a) We build the test specifically to account for chance. That’s the point of a statistically significant result. Do you understand how statistics work? b) The test is specifically designed to test an action that is NOT explainable by natural laws (i.e. prayer). If the prayed-for-action can be explained by natural laws, then the experiment was poorly designed and we design a new one.

  78. Kevin says:

    Question# 1 is malformed and disingenuous – a dishonest trick really. There is no defined definition of “god”. There are over 3,000 god claims – all different. So until you theists agree on a definition of god, describe it’s characteristics and properties it is NOT up to the atheist to provide what type of evidence would be required for something that is NOT defined. Again the question is purposely vague – dishonest – no need to go to the other two.

    Let’s start with a very basic definition then. In very simplistic terms, I define God as the creator of the universe (or multiverse, if there even is such a thing), matter and energy and all the laws governing them. God is the reason that anything exists.

    What type of evidence would be required for this type of deity?

  79. Kevin says:

    Answer 1: I don’t know. YOU are making the claim about a god existing, YOU are making claims about that god’s attributes, what evidence do YOU have?

    What I do know is that evidence is something that is verifiable, supports the proposition, MUST be the case if the proposition is correct, and could potentially falsify the proposition.

    This can easily be flipped back around onto those who believe in philosophical naturalism (atheism). What evidence do you have that existence is possible in of itself? In other words, that matter/energy have simply existed, for all eternity (or just poofed into existence from a literal nothing), for no reason whatsoever, other than simply being a brute fact? There is in fact zero evidence to support this faith-based belief, other than specific interpretations of thermodynamics that don’t solve the problem at all.

  80. Kevin says:

    No, it hasn’t. Being aggressive, or even insulting, doesn’t negate your burden of proof.

    Saying “there is no evidence for God’s existence” is not only really stupid, but also a truth claim. Someone making that claim has the burden of proof to back it up. If these atheists wanted to try being a bit smarter about it, they could say “I have seen no convincing evidence to believe that God exists.”

  81. Michael says:

    No, it hasn’t. Being aggressive, or even insulting, doesn’t negate your burden of proof.

    Sure it does. You think I am supposed to agree “there is no evidence for God,” right? And that I am being unreasonable/delusional for thinking God exists. If you are going to make those truth claims about me, and tell me what I am supposed to believe, you better have something more than an inability to convince you about God. The world does not revolve around you and your opinions.

    Nope, I just want to talk about the example -I- offered instead of the made-up examples you wish I had used.

    Yes, you are back pedaling. You asserted that a message in the stars “would be pretty good evidence.” Clearly, my blog entry was spot on, as you are now hung up on question #2. You refuse to tell us WHY it would be pretty good evidence.

    I told you those AREN’T the examples I’m offering. I know that you really, REALLY want to talk about those kinds of examples, but I offered “prayer working” as my example. I know you’ve got a great little script that you want to use about those sensational examples, but I offered you a different example, so please try to stay on topic.

    Er, I have been talking about your example (no need for this either/or distinction you are hiding behind). Didn’t you read my response? I think you are projecting when it comes to a script.

    You don’t seem to understand. a) We build the test specifically to account for chance. That’s the point of a statistically significant result. Do you understand how statistics work? b) The test is specifically designed to test an action that is NOT explainable by natural laws (i.e. prayer). If the prayed-for-action can be explained by natural laws, then the experiment was poorly designed and we design a new one.

    I understand perfectly. I’m not sure why you are anxious about answering my question, as it is clear your answer is no. That is, if the answered prayer could be explained by chance and/or natural law, it would not be evidence for God. In other words, answered prayer is only evidence for God as long as it is a Gap – “an action that is NOT explainable by natural laws.”

    So y’see, my blog entry is spot on accurate. In your attempt to argue against it, you end up being perfectly described by it. 😉

  82. Doug says:

    Kenny wrote… “Germ Theory explains it” and “Evolution.”

    On the contrary. Evolution describes how humanity came to exist. Germ Theory describes how folks acquire diseases. Description and explanation are not the same thing. Both of them are “driven” by causes entirely external to either “Germ Theory” or “Evolution”. As a result, the classical understanding of these things has historically been that they are secondary causes that God is by no means too haughty to utilize. Perhaps you need to read your Bible more carefully? But you are correct: I made a mistake concerning what the Bible says. It does claim God’s direct participation in the person and resurrection of Jesus. On the other hand, you made a verifiably false claim concerning abiogenesis research:

    Kenny also wrote… “scientists get closer to that every year”

    They do not. Unless you consider demonstrating that every proposal for abiogenesis has now been shown conclusively to be untenable “closer to that”. That’s a “gap” that is “opening”, and if you were half-familiar with the scientific literature on the topic, you’d know that.

    For reference, check out questions #1, #2 and #6 here

  83. Adam says:

    As an atheist I’ll respond to your questions.

    1. I don’t know. I’m sorry if you think this is not a valid response, I’m just being honest. It seems you think that my lack of ability to define what would convince me of something you believe is some failing of mine. It is not. I am willing to look at what you consider evidence and see if it convinces me. If it is compelling and stands up to critical thought then I will grant it warm acceptance.

    Looks like questions 2 and 3 are irrelevant because my answer was not “Do a magic”. I don’t think I’m hiding the goalposts… I just don’t see them.

  84. Pingback: How to Defeat Modern Day Atheism With Three Easy Questions | A disciple's study

  85. Doug says:

    @Adam,

    It takes a special kind of outlook to construct (at least part of) one’s identity (“As an atheist”) around one’s disbelief (or “lack of belief”, if you prefer) in something that one has no interest in thinking carefully about…

  86. John says:

    The writer’s self serving deconstruction of the nature of evidence is farcical. If evidence is in the eye of the beholder than I can tell you pigs indeed can fly and you have no way to refute such a claim. While I am at it, allow me to mention that I am a messenger of God and if you send me a check for $100 I can communicate with him on your behalf. Pfffff….

  87. Adam says:

    Doug,

    My outlook is not that uncommon. Many people do not find religion remotely convincing. I’d love to treat your beliefs the same way I treat Greek mythology, as poetry or ancient literature but largely just ignored. However, I cannot because your religion is the source of some unspeakable suffering in the world. So I take up the mantle of atheist in order to do my part to combat the spread of this poison. I look forward to a day when nobody needs to use this label

  88. Kevin says:

    Go ahead and tell us the standard of evidence then, John. Can’t wait to see how self serving it is.

    Adam, Christianity is also the source of much good. Way to attempt to remove a positive influence. Also, I assume you vote Republican since left leaning political ideologies have caused far more suffering than any religion. Or perhaps you’re a libertarian, since historically tyrannical government has been the number one perpetrator of misery and death.

    I mean, you want to stop those poisons, don’t you? Don’t you?

  89. @Doug writes… Kenny also wrote… “scientists get closer to that every year”

    They do not.

    For reference, check out questions #1, #2 and #6 here

    You realize that the blurb that goes along with question #6, the one we’re specifically discussing here, EXPLICITLY states that progress that we’re making on that question, right? It states that our experiments have gotten us closer to understanding that life may have started as RNA instead of DNA. Please try not to link articles that prove you’re wrong, it’s embarrassing.

  90. Michael wrote… Sure it does. You think I am supposed to agree “there is no evidence for God,” right?

    No, that’s your strawman atheist again. You introduced the “there is no evidence for God’s existence” claim on behalf of me instead of listening to the words that I actually used. The atheist you quoted in your blog post above just requests “actual, credible, real world evidence of this god.” He doesn’t claim there is none either. The closest he gets to your strawman claim is he implies there is no GOOD evidence.

    Michael wrote…. And that I am being unreasonable/delusional for thinking God exists. If you are going to make those truth claims about me, and tell me what I am supposed to believe, you better have something more than an inability to convince you about God. The world does not revolve around you and your opinions.

    Are you done with your tantrum yet? I never accused you of any of those things, so please don’t waste our time rambling about nonsense that no one in the conversation has said. Please don’t make crap up and try to put it my mouth in order to give yourself something to talk about.

    Michael wrote… Yes, you are back pedaling. You asserted that a message in the stars “would be pretty good evidence.” Clearly, my blog entry was spot on, as you are now hung up on question #2. You refuse to tell us WHY it would be pretty good evidence.

    That paragraph was me telling you that is NOT THE EVIDENCE that I’m requesting. I know you’re desparate to talk about something that isn’t what I said I wanted to talk about… but again, you’re wasting our time.

    Michael wrote… Er, I have been talking about your example…

    No, my example is prayer. That’s the one I’m talking about.

    Michael wrote… I’m not sure why you are anxious about answering my question, as it is clear your answer is no.

    I’m not giving a yes or no answer to your question, because it’s a poorly formed question and I’m explaining to you why it’s poorly formed. When you’re asking about chance you’re effectively asking, “What if your results can be accounted for by something the test specifically removes from the equation?” That’s the entire POINT of getting statistically significant results. Requiring statistically significant results REMOVES the element of chance from the equation. You’re forming the question in a nonsensical manner.

    Now, if we set chance aside, and just talk about the “explainable by natural laws”, then that we can work with.

    If the results are explainable by natural laws, then we need to redesign the test. That’s how science works. You try to test ONE thing and if your results are contaminated with other things, then you redesign the test again and again until you isolate the one thing you’re trying to test. Along the way, you can design it to give you not just a negative result, but a POSITIVE result. That’s why I keep mentioning Muslim vs Christian prayer. If we are able to get a result, but it’s only when Muslims pray, that helps give us a POSITIVE result as well. If we find results that prayer gives us a positive result, maybe it isn’t God but it is aliens who have technology we don’t understand? That’s the kind of thing you keep thinking about, but you’re ignoring those positive results. If it was aliens, it wouldn’t make much sense that only Islamic prayers would cause the aliens to intervene, especially if you could compare Christian prayers in English, Christian prayers in Arabic, Islamic prayers in English, and Islamic prayers in Arabic. That way you could try to isolate the language as well.

    It’s the scientific method. That’s literally how it works. If the results are ambiguous, you redesign the test.

  91. Doug wrote… Kenny wrote… “Germ Theory explains it” and “Evolution.”

    On the contrary. Evolution describes how humanity came to exist. Germ Theory describes how folks acquire diseases. Description and explanation are not the same thing.

    Incorrect. Describe and Explain are synonyms. These kinds of word games don’t lend credence to your argument.

    Doug wrote… Both of them are “driven” by causes entirely external to either “Germ Theory” or “Evolution”.

    Depending on how far you want to abstract it, everything is due to the external factor of physics. The Theory of Evolution explains the mechanisms by which life evolved over time.

    Doug wrote… But you are correct: I made a mistake concerning what the Bible says. It does claim God’s direct participation in the person and resurrection of Jesus.

    You also forgot that the Bible says that God gave people tumors, i.e. those people thought diseases were caused by God.

  92. Doug says:

    Kenny writes: “It states that our experiments have gotten us closer to understanding that life may have started as RNA instead of DNA.

    Two points:
    1. For a question to make it to the “top 10” unanswered scientific questions, the “close”-ness of our understanding is necessarily limited.
    2. Try to keep up. Since 2005, there has been quite a lot of research, and the problems of “RNA world” have become essentially insurmountable.

    But as I said before, if you really want to, I suppose you can spin “discarding hypotheses one by one” as “getting us closer to an understanding”. It isn’t exactly a scientific attitude, but if it makes you feel better…

  93. Doug says:

    Kenny writes: “Describe and Explain are synonyms.”

    Not in any informed scientific setting.

    Kenny also writes: “Depending on how far you want to abstract it, everything is due to the external factor of physics.”

    You could quite sensibly abstract it further, if you had sufficient imagination.

    But you don’t seem to understand what we mean when we say that God causes something. You see, God is in control of the whole shebang. Evolution, germs, you name it – He can use them. Just like a scientist using a computer or a sniper using a rifle, the secondary causes (computer/rifle/Evolution/germ) don’t get all the credit for the outcome. When I said “directly”, the Bible uses a word that means exactly that – it uses altogether different words for all the other things that He is responsible for.

  94. @Doug, are you saying that when the Bible says God gave cancer to the Ashdodites that He didn’t actually do it with his magic hands, he just used his magic iPhone app to give them cancer and so that doesn’t count as God “directly” giving someone cancer?

  95. Mr. Green says:

    Kenny Wyland: That’s why I keep mentioning Muslim vs Christian prayer.

    Since you have mentioned it more than once, I’m curious: just what is difference supposed to be? Suppose Fred is sick, and he has a Christian friend who prays for him, and he also happens to have a Muslim friend who prays for him. How do you distinguish them?

    Describe and Explain are synonyms.

    ? I hope you can get a refund on your dictionary.

  96. FZM says:

    1. I don’t know. I’m sorry if you think this is not a valid response, I’m just being honest. It seems you think that my lack of ability to define what would convince me of something you believe is some failing of mine. It is not. I am willing to look at what you consider evidence and see if it convinces me. If it is compelling and stands up to critical thought then I will grant it warm acceptance.

    It looks like it would be a failing on someone’s part if after finding out about a particular belief held by another individual they could not define/identify any of the criteria they were going to use to decide whether it was worth adopting or not.

  97. Ratheist says:

    Try to keep up. Since 2005, there has been quite a lot of research, and the problems of “RNA world” have become essentially insurmountable.

    Since 2005 there has been progress made on the abiotic synthesis of RNA on several fronts. A small sampling of published examples, none of which say that any of the problems are insurmountable:

    1. Chemoselective Multicomponent One-Pot Assembly of Purine Precursors in Water. J. Am. Chem. Soc (2010)
    2. Phosphate-Mediated Interconversion of Ribo- and Arabino-Configured Prebiotic Nucleotide Intermediates. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. (2010)
    3. A Stereoelectronic Effect in Prebiotic Nucleotide Synthesis. ACS
    Chem. Biol. (2010)

  98. Doug says:

    @Kenny, if your position were defensible, you wouldn’t need to resort to such juvenile tactics.

  99. Crude says:

    Gotta hand it to you, Mike. You really struck a nerve with this one – it just took people a while to notice it.

    And best of all? No one has an answer. At best is ‘I don’t know’, which completely undercuts New Atheist confidence. Otherwise they all fall into the same trap – ‘God of the gaps!’ and ‘This other thing but I don’t know why it counts!’

  100. Ratheist says:

    Doug did you even bother reading the article, theyre not saying its insurmountable

    To Lehman, the chemical pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. “I’m optimistic that within 5 or 10 years, we will indeed have a chemical route from the stuff that was laying around on the prebiotic earth to RNA or something quite close to RNA.” (See “A Pre-RNA World?” below.)

  101. Michael says:

    Adam:
    As an atheist I’ll respond to your questions.
    1. I don’t know. I’m sorry if you think this is not a valid response, I’m just being honest. It seems you think that my lack of ability to define what would convince me of something you believe is some failing of mine. It is not. I am willing to look at what you consider evidence and see if it convinces me. If it is compelling and stands up to critical thought then I will grant it warm acceptance.

    So you don’t know what data would count as evidence for God, but you are quite sure there is no evidence for God. How can you be so sure there is no evidence for God when you have no idea what evidence for God would even look like? The “I don’t know” position is incompatible with the “there is no evidence for God” declaration. You have to choose.

    Joe:
    Question# 1 is malformed and disingenuous – a dishonest trick really. There is no defined definition of “god”. There are over 3,000 god claims – all different. So until you theists agree on a definition of god, describe it’s characteristics and properties it is NOT up to the atheist to provide what type of evidence would be required for something that is NOT defined. Again the question is purposely vague – dishonest – no need to go to the other two.

    Here we have a similar problem. How can the atheist be so sure “there is no evidence for God” when the atheist is now claiming they have no idea what anyone means by “God?” If you are going to insist “there is no evidence for God,” you must have some definition of God in mind to make the claim meaningful and sensible.

    What Adam and Joe don’t seem to understand is that I am responding to the common New Atheist posture that insists:
    1)There is no evidence for God
    2) Therefore, those who believe in God are delusional and/or stupid.

    If someone comes at me insisting “there is no evidence for God” and that I am delusional for thinking otherwise, then they need to address the question I ask. In this context, “I don’t know” and “Not sure what you mean by God” excuses fail.

    John:
    The writer’s self serving deconstruction of the nature of evidence is farcical. If evidence is in the eye of the beholder than I can tell you pigs indeed can fly and you have no way to refute such a claim. While I am at it, allow me to mention that I am a messenger of God and if you send me a check for $100 I can communicate with him on your behalf. Pfffff….

    This response is farcical. I never said evidence is in the eye of the beholder. Try again.

  102. Pingback: mid-week apologetics booster (8-27-2015) « 1 Peter 4:12-16

  103. Doug says:

    @Ratheist,

    Research is always “optimistic” (my favorite example of this is the comment in the final chapter of L. Rabiner’s “Digital Processing of Speech Signals [1978]” along the lines of “optimistic that all the problems of speech recognition will be solved within the next five years”. When he published “Fundamentals of Speech Recognition [1993]”, the same expression appears in the final chapter — published optimism is always helpful for researchers to get funding). But hey — you’ll likely last another 5-10 years — pay close attention to the developments? Besides (and this is NOT moving the goalposts, it is calling attention to the facts on the ground), construction of RNA (“or something quite close to RNA”) from pre-biotic elements is the easy part of the problem. The difficult part is to build up the information requirements of the first cell. Good luck with that.

  104. Ratheist says:

    Doug, if you actually read the article, you’ll see that they give experimental reasons for being optimistic, check out Nick Lane’s book, one of the researchers featured in the article you obviously didn’t even bother reading:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0393088812/ref=s9_psimh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=0KA6PK3NR2PSJNBVE8WF&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2079475242&pf_rd_i=desktop

  105. Crude says:

    Doug, if you actually read the article, you’ll see that they give experimental reasons for being optimistic

    I’m not interested in getting drawn into this side-question, which I think is irrelevant. But I will back up Doug’s point on one thing:

    The claim of “The pieces are falling into place, just give us 5-10 more years” has been said repeatedly. 10 years ago, I heard repeatedly that the OoL would be solved within five years, complete with ‘experimental reasons for being optimistic’ (unpack this phrase and you’ll see why it’s not encouraging.) In the same time frame, I heard that the hard problem of consciousness would be on the cusp of a solution as well. We’d also discover multiverses, and a whole lot more.

    Ever notice that there’s a certain class of atheist who wants to treat ‘I think maybe one day this problem will be solved’ as equally intellectually interchangeable with ‘this problem is solved right now and thus is not a problem’?

  106. Ratheist says:

    ‘this problem is solved right now and thus is not a problem’?

    Doug made this rather dishonest claim:
    “Unless you consider demonstrating that every proposal for abiogenesis has now been shown conclusively to be untenable “closer to that”. That’s a “gap” that is “opening”, and if you were half-familiar with the scientific literature on the topic, you’d know that.”

    and again

    “Since 2005, there has been quite a lot of research, and the problems of “RNA world” have become essentially insurmountable.”

    I showed that both claims are completely false, not that there aren’t any problems. But to try to keep this thread on topic

    Otherwise they all fall into the same trap – ‘God of the gaps!’

    I think you guys are confusing the God of the gaps fallacy with solipsism. You can , theoretically, sufficiently rule out a natural explanation or a supernatural explanation but not with 100% absolute certainty. The ‘god of the gaps’ fallacy is when your explanation, however, amounts to non-specific fluff, e.g. goddidit. But even a supernatural explanation can escape that accusation by being able to explain a wide array of empirical data on assuming a specific and falsifiable supernatural hypothesis. They might even be able to get applications out of it and fund entire cities and industries. But right now, only natural explanations have been capable of such feats.

  107. Doug says:

    “dishonest”? Nice try. “completely false”? Dream on. But like I said, the proof is in the pudding. You will be around 5-10 years from now. Good luck!

  108. Doug says:

    I find it quite entertaining that otherwise intelligent people seem to fall so gullibly for the proposal that:
    – Life is easy to construct, we just need…
    – cells… which are easy to construct, we just need…
    – RNA… which is easy to construct, we just need…
    – nucleotides… which are easy to synthesize, we just need…
    – to work really, really hard to design the perfect experiment.
    But oh boy, when we synthesize those nucleotides in the lab it’ll justify all those combox atheists claiming that randomly-occurring abiogenesis is a sure thing!

  109. FZM says:

    If the results are explainable by natural laws, then we need to redesign the test. That’s how science works. You try to test ONE thing and if your results are contaminated with other things, then you redesign the test again and again until you isolate the one thing you’re trying to test. Along the way, you can design it to give you not just a negative result, but a POSITIVE result. That’s why I keep mentioning Muslim vs Christian prayer. If we are able to get a result, but it’s only when Muslims pray, that helps give us a POSITIVE result as well. If we find results that prayer gives us a positive result, maybe it isn’t God but it is aliens who have technology we don’t understand? That’s the kind of thing you keep thinking about, but you’re ignoring those positive results. If it was aliens, it wouldn’t make much sense that only Islamic prayers would cause the aliens to intervene, especially if you could compare Christian prayers in English, Christian prayers in Arabic, Islamic prayers in English, and Islamic prayers in Arabic. That way you could try to isolate the language as well.

    It seems like when you set aside chance and what can potentially be explained within the framework of our current understanding of nature and the laws of nature it is more the miraculous kind of cure and healing that would count as a significant or relevant result.

    So you would need to be fairly sure that it is part of the God concept you are testing that God does miraculously intervene on a regular/routine basis in response to petitionary prayer from people engaging in it. Also that it is clear that this God will only intervene on behalf of people using certain specific kinds of prayer. (For example, I think relying on the Old Testament to support a claim that the God described therein intervenes in this kind of miraculous way in the usual workings of his creation on a routine basis for anyone who uses a particular form of words to ask him to do so, would be open to challenge.) It looks like only God concepts and beliefs about divine behaviour that fit within these criteria could easily lend themselves to testing of this kind.

    Then as far as I know our current knowledge of the laws of nature and of nature itself is incomplete. If these kinds of prayer related cures happened in a predictable, mechanical kind of way I guess they could constitute evidence of a new, previously undiscovered, law of nature.

    I don’t know if you could exclude the aliens hypothesis so easily with the kind of experimental variations you describe. It seems to depend on being able to make reliable conjectures about what intentions and purposes aliens in possession of advanced technology might have for doing things and then being able to test/evaluate these hypotheses in turn. Other possible explanations that would also need to be ruled out might include say, the intervention of powerful spiritual beings able to perform acts we consider miraculous, but which don’t actually possess many of the key attributes of God as described in say Christian and Islamic theology or some kind of as yet unidentified powers of the human mind etc. I suppose it could be argued that further experiments could potenitally be devised to try to isolate and test for each of these possibilities but I’m not sure what form they would take.

    Finally I think there is another point about some of these potential hypotheses that might be used to explain potential observational evidence linking prayer and miraculous healing if it was observed. If similar healing has happened at various times in the past, they could be interpreted as an explanation of the emergence of the religion and God concept you are trying to test; the idea of the existence of God emerging as a consequence of the phenomena that has been identified as opposed to the existence of this God being the cause of it. So it seems it would be necessary to come up with further experiments to try and test that.

  110. FZM says:

    But even a supernatural explanation can escape that accusation by being able to explain a wide array of empirical data on assuming a specific and falsifiable supernatural hypothesis. They might even be able to get applications out of it and fund entire cities and industries. But right now, only natural explanations have been capable of such feats.

    This is something I’m not 100% clear on, but would a ‘supernatural’ hypothesis not start to become classified a ‘natural’ one if it worked and could be used in this way?

  111. My Green wrote… Kenny Wyland: That’s why I keep mentioning Muslim vs Christian prayer.

    Since you have mentioned it more than once, I’m curious: just what is difference supposed to be?

    If the experiment is intended to determine the existence of God by testing whether prayer works, it’s important to not only test multiple Gods, but multiple types of prayer to each God. Christians and Muslims pray to the same God unless the Christian is explicitly praying to Jesus as opposed to God The Father (i.e. Yahweh which is the same as Allah).

    My Green wrote… Suppose Fred is sick, and he has a Christian friend who prays for him, and he also happens to have a Muslim friend who prays for him. How do you distinguish them?

    In the experiment we are discussing, we are actively trying to isolate our variables, so we are doing our best to avoid that situation. We use large sample sizes and control groups in order to produce a statistically significant result to separate those results from the rest.

  112. Crude wrote… Gotta hand it to you, Mike. You really struck a nerve with this one – it just took people a while to notice it.

    And best of all? No one has an answer.

    Except for the several posts we’ve made explicitly answering. Please try reading before you comment.

  113. Ratheist says:

    This is something I’m not 100% clear on, but would a ‘supernatural’ hypothesis not start to become classified a ‘natural’ one if it worked and could be used in this way?

    I once played a game where there was a society and all the needs of the people (clean water, safety, food, etc) were taken care of by gods. The people would walk by them almost ignoring them, I can fathom that happening , in a way, it’s just treated like it’s a something thats just supposed to be there.

  114. Kevin says:

    Atheists aren’t looking for gaps in scientific knowledge. They are just looking for events or phenomena in the natural world that aren’t explained by science. See the difference?

    *sarcasm font off*

  115. Crude says:

    Except for the several posts we’ve made explicitly answering.

    Let’s be blunt here, Kenny: those ‘answers’ bombed.

    We’ve got “I don’t know”, which completely forfeits the Cultist of Gnu confidence and all claims that belief in God is delusional.

    We’ve got “Which God!?!” which blew up in the face of the person who posited it, because that just makes their stance even worse taken at face value.

    All that plus… what? ‘God of the gaps event!’, which Cult of Gnu atheists love to go for, until it’s pointed out that they’re asking for a gap after all?

    See, I did read. The difference here is that I comprehended, and you’re stuck diving for topic changes.

    Mike’s right – this does defeat modern day atheism. It turns out all that confidence – the Dawkinsian ‘I’m 99.999% sure God doesn’t exist / I’m a 6.999 out of 7 on the scale!’ is bluster and atheist faith.

    Here, look on the bright side. This doesn’t mean you have to believe in God. But if you’re intellectually honest, you either need to start making arguments for the claim ‘God does not exist’ (which modern day atheists are petrified of), or back off to ‘I really have no goddamn idea’, which is tantamount to surrender.

    Take your pick.

  116. Ratheist says:

    ha, Crude it’s no wonder you’re a fan of Trump. This is the second time I’ve seen you ignore specific criticism and simply double down.

  117. Ratheist – *that* was your takeaway from Crude’s reply?

    Cut to the chase for us: What was the specific criticism?

  118. Ken Ammi says:

    Re: Question 1: I find that when an Atheist is asked “What would you count as ‘actual, credible, real world evidence for God?’” their answer needs to be dissected for them and it generally comes in two categories:
    1) evidence that only God could provide, such as “some dramatic, miraculous, sensational demonstration of God’s power”
    2) evidence I, at least theoretically, could provide.

    If they demand evidence that only God could provide then I would make sure to point out that I cannot help them with that. One Atheist told me “show me Jesus” well, just how am I supposed to do that? Although, I suppose that I could show him Jesus but then that would be called murder ;o) “Your honor, he asked me to show him Jesus—capiche!?!?”

    And, of course, they will seek to demand things that they know you cannot provide.

    There is also a much deeper issue which is, for example, Richard Dawkins wrote, “The God of the Bible is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction,” etc., etc., etc. (note that he did not write of the God of the Qur’an or any other religion as Atheism is an anti-Christian support group). If you could prove to Dawkins that the God of the Bible exists, he would hate him all the more for existing.

    The point is that, as per Romans 1 for example, the issue of God’s existence is not the issue with Atheists, it is rebellion against God.

  119. Crude says:

    ha, Crude it’s no wonder you’re a fan of Trump. This is the second time I’ve seen you ignore specific criticism and simply double down.

    As James said – what was this ‘specific criticism’? I pointed at the replies that have actually come up in this thread. Mike’s already pointed out their deficiencies – I gave a condensed version, and a bit more.

    Should I have paid more attention to the person arguing that they’re going to try to ‘control the variables’ for performing a scientific test on a being which is conceived of as omniscient, omnipotent and given to His own plans?

    How about the one who insisted that God’s very existence is contradictory – which would be news to the other atheists, who alternately say they have no idea what would qualify, or that there’s soooo many definitions of God that they don’t know where to begin?

    Mike’s probably going to make his point, but I’m going to beat him to it this time: we’ve got the Cultists of Gnu here, who typically argue that science and reason can give clear answers about most, even all things, including God’s existence… and they’re not even on the same page when it comes to the question of ‘What would qualify as evidence for God’s existence?’

    Very informative, that.

  120. Taylor says:

    Why are we obligated to give you the criteria? You guys are the ones trying to foist off a world view dependent on commands and dictates of a deity that only communicates one way, and selectively at that. If god can reveal, and can communicate to anyone, then there is no hardening of hearts, or sins, or choices that logically could get in the way of him wanting to reveal itself to us in her great wisdom. The entire process of beyond our means of perception, but cares what we eat and when we work is so evident of small men making rules based on what they think this god idea must want of them. And the whole idea of progressive revelation and a new covenant is so absurd, it is amazing you guys buy into it with a straight face. Just more evidence of how flexible the god definition is and can be stretched to fit the uses of anyone who comes along with a revelation. Paul/Saul, Mohamed, Joseph Smith, etc… are all in good company.

  121. Crude says:

    Why are we obligated to give you the criteria?

    See, that’s the great thing. You’re not! You are entirely free to go about your business, leave the discussion of God and deities and natural and supernatural and teleology and all that stuff behind you.

    But. You don’t want to do that. You want to one the one hand say ‘God doesn’t exist! God’s a delusion!’ or ‘It’s 99.9% likely that God doesn’t exist!’ or ‘There is no evidence for God!’, but when time comes to back any of this up with argument, with evidence – hell, in this case, with even discussing what the evidence looks like – you balk. Suddenly there’s too many Gods to even know where to begin with, you have no idea what evidence would even look like, or you DO know what evidence would look like but it just so happens to be a God of the gaps argument.

    In other words – the people putting a requirement to ‘give the criteria’ is yourselves. You all have made the claims, gents. That you’re not backing them up – that you find the very idea of backing them up to be offensive, even a bit frightening – speaks for itself.

    Here, I’ll make it easy for you. Do you ‘lack God belief’ but have no idea what evidence for God would even look like, and when you get right down to it the whole thing confuses you and all you have is a feeling of incredulity? Alright – run with that. And leave the Cult of Gnu. Become what you really are: an individual with an opinion, more gut feeling than anything else, and you can’t really substantiate it and if others disagree, oh well. I and others may think you’re mistaken, even ignorant, but such is life.

    But when you want to make claims, when you want to hop on the ‘God probably doesn’t exist’ train, pissing and moaning when you’re asked to provide a pretty fundamental bit of information does not impress.

  122. So Taylor – can you stomach the “live and let live” approach? May I have my God belief, and you have your lack of belief, and in all other ways we associate as decent human beings?

    If you say yes, then no one has to prove anything to the other, and you’re not a Gnu.

    If you say no, then you are making a claim, something like, “God belief is delusional and must be eliminated,” and you are most definitely a Gnu. And you have to back up that claim.

  123. Kevin says:

    Taylor, a couple things.

    1. God is capitalized when referring to the name or title of a specific deity, such as “If God can reveal”.

    2. God is never referred to as a female in the Bible.

    If you can’t even get these extremely basic concepts down, I’m unsure why anyone should take anything else you say as anything but ignorant opinion.

  124. Michael says:

    Kenny:
    No, that’s your strawman atheist again. You introduced the “there is no evidence for God’s existence” claim on behalf of me instead of listening to the words that I actually used.

    “There is no evidence for God” the most popular atheist claim out there these days. But I suppose it is possible you are different from most atheists. Are you telling me you don’t agree that “there is no evidence for God?”

    Are you done with your tantrum yet?

    Interesting. I am perfectly calm as I reply to you, so you are clearly reading emotion into my words. I suspect you are the one who is upset with my questions and points and are reading your own frustration into my words.

    I never accused you of any of those things, so please don’t waste our time rambling about nonsense that no one in the conversation has said. Please don’t make crap up and try to put it my mouth in order to give yourself something to talk about.

    So are you willing to acknowledge that I am not being unreasonable or delusional for thinking God exists?

    That paragraph was me telling you that is NOT THE EVIDENCE that I’m requesting. I know you’re desparate to talk about something that isn’t what I said I wanted to talk about… but again, you’re wasting our time.

    I’m afraid the one who sounds desperate is you. You wrote:

    “I’m not asking for a dramatic, sensational event like all of the stars aligning to spell a message or all humans hearing the same message but in their own language or something. Now, those would be pretty good evidence, but I’m not even asking for something that dramatic.”

    You are clearly asserting that the dramatic examples “would be pretty good evidence” for God. So I ask you why would they be good evidence for God. You refuse to back up your claim by intensely complaining it’s not a topic you want to talk about. Why such a desperate attempt to sweep your own claim under the rug?

    No, my example is prayer. That’s the one I’m talking about.

    There is no significant difference between your demand for answered prayers and the demand for star messages – both demands are demands for Gaps, thus both demands emanate from God of the Gaps reasoning.

    Nevertheless, I have indeed addressed your example of prayer (this is a simple fact that can be easily verified by reading the previous text of our exchanges). Apart from noting the God-of-the-Gaps logic inherent in your demand for answered prayers, in reply to you, I wrote:

    Depends on the study. Here is a place where some of the prayer studies are summarized – some show a positive result, others don’t.

    If you are serious and sincere about the prayer study issue (I’m cynical because I’ve encountered too many New Atheists who use this topic as a talking point), you need to engage the theology inherent in such demands. I touched on this a few years back: The Futility of Prayer Studies.

    Your response? To completely ignore these points/links. Why would you ignore such relevant and central points when you posture as if you are sincere about wanting to talk about answered prayers as evidence for God?

    Anyway, I’m starting to notice a pattern.

    You try to sneak in the point that star messages in the sky would be good evidence of God. When I ask you why this is, you have a tantrum and demand we all ignore you ever said that.

    You then claim you want to talk about answered prayer as evidence for God. So when I raise the issue of mixed results with such studies and try to focus you on an essential aspect – the theology of prayer – you completely ignore me.

    This is a pattern that indicates your inquiry is rooted in intellectual dishonesty.

    Next, you engage in some impressive hand-waving:

    I’m not giving a yes or no answer to your question, because it’s a poorly formed question and I’m explaining to you why it’s poorly formed. When you’re asking about chance you’re effectively asking, “What if your results can be accounted for by something the test specifically removes from the equation?” That’s the entire POINT of getting statistically significant results. Requiring statistically significant results REMOVES the element of chance from the equation. You’re forming the question in a nonsensical manner.
    Now, if we set chance aside, and just talk about the “explainable by natural laws”, then that we can work with.
    If the results are explainable by natural laws, then we need to redesign the test. That’s how science works. You try to test ONE thing and if your results are contaminated with other things, then you redesign the test again and again until you isolate the one thing you’re trying to test. Along the way, you can design it to give you not just a negative result, but a POSITIVE result. That’s why I keep mentioning Muslim vs Christian prayer. If we are able to get a result, but it’s only when Muslims pray, that helps give us a POSITIVE result as well. If we find results that prayer gives us a positive result, maybe it isn’t God but it is aliens who have technology we don’t understand? That’s the kind of thing you keep thinking about, but you’re ignoring those positive results. If it was aliens, it wouldn’t make much sense that only Islamic prayers would cause the aliens to intervene, especially if you could compare Christian prayers in English, Christian prayers in Arabic, Islamic prayers in English, and Islamic prayers in Arabic. That way you could try to isolate the language as well.
    It’s the scientific method. That’s literally how it works. If the results are ambiguous, you redesign the test.

    Such a needless word salad. You need to learn to be more succinct. What you wrote above can be easily encapsulated as follows:

    In order for answered prayer to be considered evidence for God, the answered prayer must a) occur in the context of a controlled, scientific study and b) represent some phenomena that cannot be explained by chance or natural law.

    We can make that even more succinct:

    In other words, the prayer evidence that you seek amounts to a Gap. You are demanding a Gap. You are building your case on God of the Gaps logic.

    So let me provide you yet another opportunity for evasion and ask you one more question: Is God of the Gaps reasoning a valid, scientific way of determining whether God exists?

  125. Taylor says:

    Kevin, of course I get that, and I was deliberately pointing out that I do not have to respect your claims for deity in their entirety when there is not only the possibility that you are wrong, but that you could be wrong in terms of the number of deities, and the gender. (As in why should I accept your particular claim over the multiple claims that include many different definitions of deity, all of them of course living on metaphysical planes and interacting with mortals on their whim, not ours). So no, that does not disavow any of my points, it is just a different point.

    And you guys are really big about flipping what theists are doing on top of atheists.

    If theists were willing to live and let live, things would be very different. I.e. you don’t have to support gay marriage in your family our your community. You can lead by example and show better ways, and encourage better ways, and that is end of story. But that is not enough. You want to deny gay marriage to someone you don’t even know. And why? Not because you are in the corner pontificating about esoteric qualities of a non manifested deity. Because you say that you KNOW this is wrong according to this deity and it is your responsibility to ensure that his will gets legislated. At that point I call foul. Because you are not being a live and let live neighbor, you are trying to alter other people’s lives based on your assertions. And when you want to push your assertions into the public realm as the way everyone else must live, then I am going to say no.. there is just as much reason to be skeptical about your claims as others and you do not get to freely run over other ideas because you “believe” you are right.

    And you saying God of the Gaps the wrong way. God of the Gaps is not a way of determining God exists. God of the Gaps is asserting that God exists. The Gaps are the things that are claimed to be God until the gaps are proven to be natural phenomena. So you keep acting like this is some kind of trump card, but you are really just evading and twisting it in the wind to be something it is not. It is really a very poorly put together strawman argument you are using on this topic.

    Saying we should test prayer is not a gaps idea. If prayer were effective there would be a statistical demonstrable measurement of that success. But instead what we have is this…

    If we measure prayer, we get the same success as chance.

    If we listen to testimony of prayer we get an overwhelming success rate.

    That sure points to confirmation bias when it cannot be demonstrated equally effective in both ways of testing. Unless your god is shy, or whimsical and deliberately refuses to answer prayers when they are being measured.

  126. Michael says:

    And you guys are really big about flipping what theists are doing on top of atheists.If theists were willing to live and let live, things would be very different.

    Jerry Coyne, one of the leaders in the New Atheist movement, thinks it should be illegal for parents to indoctrinate their children in their religion. Do you agree?

    And you saying God of the Gaps the wrong way. God of the Gaps is not a way of determining God exists.

    Yet when atheists are asked what type of data they would count as evidence for God, they demand some type of Gap. Out of one side of their mouth, they demand Gaps. Out of the other side of their mouth, they insist Gaps cannot determine God exists. Go figure.

    The Gaps are the things that are claimed to be God until the gaps are proven to be natural phenomena.

    So you keep acting like this is some kind of trump card, but you are really just evading and twisting it in the wind to be something it is not. It is really a very poorly put together strawman argument you are using on this topic.

    You are projecting.

    Saying we should test prayer is not a gaps idea. If prayer were effective there would be a statistical demonstrable measurement of that success.

    So please explain WHY the success of prayer must be evidence of God. What if scientists came up with a way to explain that statistical measure of success to be natural phenomena? Would you still consider it evidence for God?

    That sure points to confirmation bias when it cannot be demonstrated equally effective in both ways of testing. Unless your god is shy, or whimsical and deliberately refuses to answer prayers when they are being measured.

    So in other words, either God is a Magic Genie who grants every wish or God is shy, or whimsical and deliberately refuses to answer prayers when they are being measured. Your grasp of theology is not much of a grasp, now is it?

  127. Taylor says:

    First of all, there are no “Leaders” of the atheist movement. There are thought leaders in terms of people who have opinions based on their scientific or philosophic background, but that is not the same thing as a leader of the movement. Coyne has some interesting ideas that are convincing, but his opinions have nothing to do with the credibility of your god claims. And no, I do not agree, because I don’t want the government to have the power to make it illegal for me not to believe either.

    Again, you are misconstruing gaps. You are trying to redefine gaps as something atheists do, when it is something theists do. We would much rather have verifiable evidence. We could care less about having gaps. Why is that so hard to understand?

    OK, lets follow this through. Why must the success of prayers be evidence of god? Because so many theists tell us they believe not just because of evidence, not just because of their religious texts, but because of the power of prayer in their lives. Because you want to gnaw on a logical or philosophical bone and exclude prayers as a valid criteria does not mean that prayer claims are not a huge part of how theists behave and defend their beliefs. These believers will not look skeptically at the claims of their bible, because they have been reinforced by their prayer communities that see… prayer IS working. Yet when we test it, all we find is confirmation bias.

    So no, we do not need to see God as a magic Genie. We need to see that in absence of physical tangible proofs that your claims of metaphysical interaction actually seem to pan out. Because so far prayer claims are honestly the only tangible thing theists have to offer in terms of a being that does interact with us. If you throw those out, you are talking about a deistic view of the world, where there is a creator and it does not matter what we do.

  128. Michael says:

    Coyne has some interesting ideas that are convincing, but his opinions have nothing to do with the credibility of your god claims.

    We were not talking about the credibility of god claims. We were talking about the live and let live attitude.

    And no, I do not agree, because I don’t want the government to have the power to make it illegal for me not to believe either.

    Very good. Can you point to the place where atheists like you have publicly disagreed with Coyne’s extreme views on this?

    Also, do you think it is child abuse for parents to indoctrinate their children in their religion?

    Again, you are misconstruing gaps. You are trying to redefine gaps as something atheists do, when it is something theists do.

    Wrong. I’m pointing out that gaps are something atheists want and demand.

    We would much rather have verifiable evidence. We could care less about having gaps. Why is that so hard to understand?

    What would you count as “verifiable evidence” for God?

    OK, lets follow this through. Why must the success of prayers be evidence of god? Because so many theists tell us they believe not just because of evidence, not just because of their religious texts, but because of the power of prayer in their lives.

    The whole topic of prayer was raised because one atheist claimed he would consider a scientific demonstration of prayers being answered as evidence for God. Do you agree?

  129. Taylor says:

    Do I think it is child abuse for parents to indoctrinate their children in their religion? For some religions absolutely. For some denominations of some religions absolutely. I know some very sweet Christians. I have no pressing urge to tell them they are wrong or hurting anybody. On the other hand, I have some super intolerant Christians in my family that have caused a lot of pain in our family over religious differences.

    Gaps are not something atheists want or demand. How do you get to that conclusion?

    You keep asking for us to come up with criteria for you to insert your conclusions into. That is not my responsibility. You have not just a burden of proof that there is a deity (and only one according to your claims), but that you have accurately captured and understood communications from this deity? Because all you have is personal testimony (which we know is highly subject to confirmation bias) and your religious text (which we know is prone to translation errors and was selectively edited by the council of Nicea, then King James, depending on which flavor you and your crew like.) , you are the one who is desperate for us to define a gap for you to insert your theology into. We are under no obligation to do this for you.

    If I encountered someone doing fantastic things, there is still an amount of questioning to determine what it is and how/why it is doing it. I.e. is it an alien with quantum technology, or post quantum technology that feels inspiring to us, but is third grade stuff to it? We would not know just by the seeing, but here is where we would have an incredible advantage…. We would be able to interact with it and move the conversation forward instead of hiding behind religious cloaks of obscurity.

    On one hand, god approves of us doing this or that and blesses us or curses us appropriately. But only in some mysterious under the cover of darkness way that is not obvious to us. His messages have little nuggets of wisdom and grace inserted between outright hucksterism. This is evidence of men inventing religions, not evidence of a god communicating a true message.

  130. Michael says:

    Do I think it is child abuse for parents to indoctrinate their children in their religion? For some religions absolutely. For some denominations of some religions absolutely.

    So you are saying it should be legal for people to abuse children?

    Gaps are not something atheists want or demand. How do you get to that conclusion?

    Easy. The New Atheist tells me there is no evidence for God and declares that I am delusional for thinking otherwise. So I ask the New Atheist what would count as evidence for God, and dozens and dozens of them have told me they need some form of Gap (although they don’t like to use the word “Gap”).

    You keep asking for us to come up with criteria for you to insert your conclusions into.

    I do? I am simply responding to the “there is no evidence for God” claims by asking for clarification of what the atheist means.

    That is not my responsibility.

    I see. So you can attack me as being delusional and/or stupid for being a theist, but don’t need to be held responsible for such attacks?

    You have not just a burden of proof that there is a deity (and only one according to your claims), but that you have accurately captured and understood communications from this deity?

    I do? And who gets to be the Judge as I plead my case? You?

    Because all you have is personal testimony (which we know is highly subject to confirmation bias) and your religious text (which we know is prone to translation errors and was selectively edited by the council of Nicea, then King James, depending on which flavor you and your crew like.) ,

    I know…..you need a Gap.

    you are the one who is desperate for us to define a gap for you to insert your theology into. We are under no obligation to do this for you.

    If you insist “there is no evidence for God” and paint me as delusional or stupid for not agreeing, then yes, you have an obligation to clarify your position. That is, if you want to be perceived as being reasonable.

  131. Mr. Green says:

    Kenny Wyland: In the experiment we are discussing, we are actively trying to isolate our variables, so we are doing our best to avoid that situation. We use large sample sizes and control groups

    Sure, but how is that going to help distinguish prayers when they are effectively the same? What does your control group consist of, and how are you going to control it? Perhaps it’s better to ask this the other way around: what would your experiment to test prayer look like? Can you describe it, and explain how it will work?

  132. Crude wrote… Let’s be blunt here, Kenny: those ‘answers’ bombed.

    We’ve got… “I don’t know” … “Which God!?!” … ‘God of the gaps event!’

    That doesn’t describe any of my answers. I gave a specific response not based on gaps. Try again.

    Crude wrote… if you’re intellectually honest, you either need to start making arguments for the claim ‘God does not exist’ (which modern day atheists are petrified of)…

    That’s just another thing you’re incredibly wrong about. I’m happy to provide positive arguments against the existence of certain gods, it’s actually rather easy. When it comes to the Christian God, which is supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, the Problem of Evil is an excellent argument against His existence. Before you go about giving me all the standard bullshit apologetics about the Problem of Evil, I’ve heard it all before and it’s ridiculous. I’ve read plenty on the subject, including the Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis which is a favorite of Christian apologists. You can read my response at length here: http://liberalgeek.com/content/problem-with-problem-of-pain

  133. James Parliament wrote.. So Taylor – can you stomach the “live and let live” approach? May I have my God belief, and you have your lack of belief, and in all other ways we associate as decent human beings?

    I could if Christians ever did that, but they don’t. Christians inject their religion into public policy in the United States and try to control laws based on their religious beliefs.

    Until they knock that shit off, you’re going to keep hearing from us in loudly.

  134. @Kenny The swear words prove you’re serious. I like it.

    Granted, the proofs of St. Thomas Aquinas take a bit longer to digest than you’ve had time for, but my earnest recommendation was that you consider what the more thoughtful Christians think about God. I suggested that because you seemed to be an intelligent and thoughtful person, though I wonder now whether you would give them a fair hearing.

    Anyway, you want to take issue with my question to Taylor, so I will answer: You are operating from a false concept. You – at best, condescendingly – think religion is a merely private thing, a quiet story a lot of people whisper to themselves to get through life. You think it is just a story, and so, should have no bearing on public policy.

    You could not be more mistaken, and I will show you. Go ahead and ask a follow-up question. Try to get to the root understanding of your complaint, from my perspective.

  135. Michael wrote… “There is no evidence for God” the most popular atheist claim out there these days.

    Wrong. “There is no evidence for God” is the most popular claim that theists claim that atheists make. The actual most popular claim that atheists make is “I’m not convinced God exists.”

    Michael wrote… Are you telling me you don’t agree that “there is no evidence for God?”

    I would say, “there is no compelling/convincing/good evidence for God.”

    Michael wrote.. So are you willing to acknowledge that I am not being unreasonable or delusional for thinking God exists?

    I believe that your claims and argument in the blog post above are unreasonable. Being delusional means having false or unrealistic beliefs. So, yeah, a LOT of religious beliefs are false and/or unrealistic and therefore the label is warranted. However, I don’t walk around pointing at people in the face and yelling, “You’re delusional!” at them. That’s not a helpful approach.

    Michael wrote… You are clearly asserting that the dramatic examples “would be pretty good evidence” for God.

    This kind of thinking is probably why you believe the ridiculous claims in the Bible. You asked me for what evidence would be convincing to me and I offered you prayer, and you’ve spent SO MUCH TIME desperately trying to talk about something else. I offered prayer, but that doesn’t fit into your script, so you don’t want to keep talking about the thing I explicitly said is NOT what I’m asking for.

    Michael wrote… Nevertheless, I have indeed addressed your example of prayer (this is a simple fact that can be easily verified by reading the previous text of our exchanges).

    Yes, I read through quite a few of them. It was tiny sample size, tiny sample size, tiny sample size, flawed control group, flawed experimental group, overturned results during a follow-up experiment, etc, etc. In other words… a lack of evidence to support the power of prayer.

    Michael wrote… Next, you engage in some impressive hand-waving… Such a needless word salad. You need to learn to be more succinct.

    No, Michael, in our previous comments I assumed that you were intelligent enough to understand how science worked and I explained my points succintly. However, you demonstrated that you didn’t understand how science or statistics works, so I needed to explain it in a fashion that even you should be able to understand.

    Michael wrote… In other words, the prayer evidence that you seek amounts to a Gap.

    Nope, I’ve presented a situation in which the experiment provides positive evidence, not a gap.

    Michael wrote… Is God of the Gaps reasoning a valid, scientific way of determining whether God exists?

    I’ve already answered this question once before and I’ll answer it again: No, it’s not, that’s why I’m not using it.

  136. Taylor says:

    Michael, if I said to you, come over and play with my pet invisible dragon, you would say you have an invisible dragon? Cool, let’s play. OK, he is right there in the corner, looking at you. Can I pet him? No. No? Why not? Well, he is not only invisible, he is intangible. But hundreds of my friends have come over and had a great time playing with him. Really? Yep. What game? Hide and seek. Do they have fun? Yeah, we have a blast, I have cokes in the fridge, a pool in the backyard, plenty of bedrooms to hide in. But do they ever catch him? Nah, he has had too much practice.

    If I came to you with this kind of story, you would be skeptical. You would probably call me delusional, and maybe as long as I was not hurting anyone you would take a live and let live approach and just write me off as somewhat absurd.

    I think you are being intellectually dishonest. First of trying to insist that we are the ones creating the gaps, which is a distinct shift of what the gaps mean. The gaps are by definition what the theist claims god to do, when he does not know better. There is absolutely nothing about atheistic skepticism that demands or wants gaps. As a matter of fact, we have healthier debates when theists do not resort to gaps. I.e. Intelligent design, universe from nothing, etc. The key difference here is that when we do not know something, we say I don’t know. When you don’t know something, you say Awesome, God! This entire word game you are playing trying to reverse what the meaning of Gaps are is downright silly and it is a deliberate word ploy to try and twist meanings around. This is obfuscation and why I say you are being dishonest.

    I am not attacking you as delusional. I am saying you are making a culturally reinforced claim without any good evidence for it. You cannot even give a good explanation for how you know that the claims of Mohamed and Joseph Smith cannot be true. Because of this, how can you make any god claims?

    Who gets to be the judge is a tired Christian apologetic. If I ask you to verify my invisible pet dragon, yes, you get to be the judge, because I am making a claim and trying to prove it to you, and YOU have to accept my claim or not. So just because you want a sense of majesty on your imaginary friend does not mean that I do not get to judge evidence you bring before me of your story. Again, it is intellectually dishonest to make this kind of “Who are we to judge God” defense when we are not judging god, we are judging the credibility of your claims vs the credibility of every other god claim, that YOU are equally willing to stand in judgement of.

    Personal testimony and council of NIcea are historical aspects of dealing with Christians. How you can call this a gap when it is the paramount basis of the texts chosen to be in the bible and the primary experience in dealing with Christians is beyond me. I think you are really twisting in the wind here trying to keep your bad position afloat.

    So final time. You present evidence, if the evidence is more likely to be man made than evidence of God, I will say the probability appears to be that men are making stuff up like they have for centuries. The term delusional is an emotionally loaded term I prefer to avoid, funny enough this term is dismissed in the introduction to The Christian Delusion, Why Faith Fails, which is a very good read to talk about how people come to believe and reinforce one another. You live in a culture that constantly reinforces the god claim, so yes, it is hard for you to imagine that it is not true. Yes, you have been told everything good that happened was a confirmation of this claim. And both of those things can happen and be reinforced on top of a made up story.

    So it is not unreasonable to stay that you are culturally fixated in a belief, and you are having trouble seeing past the reinforcement of this belief. That is neither and attempt to paint you as delusional or stupid, so please stop putting the words you WANT to argue with into my mouth, because that is not what I am saying at all.

    I have clarified my position about as well as I can… Are you going to keep struggling to twist this into something different, or are you intellectually honest and smart enough to recognize that yes, there is credible reason for skepticism on god claims. That human history has a plethora of god claims that have proven to be wrong. (Cargo cults is a great modern example, Scientology, even Joseph Smith the founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints was a documented con artist). And we have a long tradition of con men willing to take advantage of people who want to believe more than is good for them.

    This does not preclude good acts from happening by theists at all. But the good acts in themselves do not prove the claim to be true. In my experience church goers have just as many personal problems, just as many life struggles, and just as many ups and downs as secularists. So yes, prayer would be a good test, because if one groups prayers were statistically validated as being consistently more effective than another groups prayers, we would have something tangible to base a belief on. But this silly idea of, I was born into this culture so it must be right, and how dare you pretend to stand judge over my god (when we are really just judging the validity of your claims) is why religion persists in the face of a lack of good evidence.

  137. Michael says:

    Kenny:

    Wrong. “There is no evidence for God” is the most popular claim that theists claim that atheists make. The actual most popular claim that atheists make is “I’m not convinced God exists.”

    As someone who has been on the receiving end of the “there is no evidence for God” taunt many times over, I can say that you are wrong. If more atheists would simply acknowledge their atheism boils down to “I’m not convinced God exists,” things would improve much. But the problem is that once atheists admit that their atheism is simply about being unconvinced God exists, it becomes clear what atheism is – a personal opinion. Not the Truth, not a scientific discovery, not objective reality. A personal opinion. And that’s why the New Atheist movement itself is not satisfied with the restrained position you claim to be most popular among atheists. Dawkins and Coyne know that the “I’m unconvinced” position is easily ignored with a “so what?” That’s why they need to dress up the opinion as a scientific discovery. They need the authority of science in order to label theists as delusional. They need to go on offense – declaring “there is no evidence for God.”

    I would say, “there is no compelling/convincing/good evidence for God.”

    In your opinion. Compelling, convincing, good – all subjective qualifiers. Anyway, so what would count as compelling/convincing/good evidence for God?

    I believe that your claims and argument in the blog post above are unreasonable. Being delusional means having false or unrealistic beliefs. So, yeah, a LOT of religious beliefs are false and/or unrealistic and therefore the label is warranted. However, I don’t walk around pointing at people in the face and yelling, “You’re delusional!” at them. That’s not a helpful approach.

    So you think belief in God is false and unrealistic, therefore delusional, all because your opinion is that there is no compelling/convincing/good evidence for God. That’s pretty arrogant and self-centered.

    This kind of thinking is probably why you believe the ridiculous claims in the Bible. You asked me for what evidence would be convincing to me and I offered you prayer, and you’ve spent SO MUCH TIME desperately trying to talk about something else.

    You are confused. You are the desperate one – the one desperately trying to get away from the very claim that you made here. You claimed that a star message would be pretty good evidence of God. It’s true you did not want to focus on this, but that did not stop you from trying to sneak in that claim. You didn’t sneak it past me, so I simply ask you to explain yourself and you stubbornly refuse and want us to pretend you never made such a claim. Why is that?

    I offered prayer, but that doesn’t fit into your script, so you don’t want to keep talking about the thing I explicitly said is NOT what I’m asking for.

    Then you try to make it look like I won’t talk about your example. I have not only talked about it, I have highlighted your errors. When are you going to discuss the flawed theology that is entailed by your simple-minded notions of prayer experiments? I provided a link to something I wrote years ago about this and you ignored that too.

    Yes, I read through quite a few of them. It was tiny sample size, tiny sample size, tiny sample size, flawed control group, flawed experimental group, overturned results during a follow-up experiment, etc, etc. In other words… a lack of evidence to support the power of prayer.

    LOL. In other words, any peer-reviewed study that doesn’t fit your talking points gets dismissed. Confirmation bias at play. Look, I don’t buy into any of the prayer studies and I have explained my reasoning (they are flawed from a theological perspective). But you’re the one who thinks these things are all relevant. If you are going to pooh-pooh the results you don’t like, you are only hurting your own credibility.

    No, Michael, in our previous comments I assumed that you were intelligent enough to understand how science worked and I explained my points succintly. However, you demonstrated that you didn’t understand how science or statistics works, so I needed to explain it in a fashion that even you should be able to understand.

    You are in no position to teach how science and statistics work given your own inability to think like a scientist. Being able to mimic sciencey-sounding words to imagine half-baked experiments does not impress me. I focus on the logic of your experimental design and it is fatally flawed in two fundamental ways: a) you have no established that answered prayers would be entailed by the existence of God and b) have not explained why answered prayers would be evidence of God’s existence.

    Nope, I’ve presented a situation in which the experiment provides positive evidence, not a gap.

    You are fooling only yourself, Kenny. Just WHY would those answered prayers be “positive evidence” for God’s existence? Only because they would be Gaps. If those answered prayers could be explained by chance or natural law, you would not consider them to be positive evidence.

    I’ve already answered this question once before and I’ll answer it again: No, it’s not, that’s why I’m not using it.

    Of course you are using it. You demand something that cannot be explained by chance or natural forces. Whether it’s the star message you endorsed, or the answered prayers – you want something science cannot account for – A Gap. Your atheism boils down to this – you are not convinced God exists because you see no Gaps. No Gaps mean no God in your mind.

    So you build your atheism around a form of reasoning that you admit to be flawed when it comes to determining the existence of God. Quite a mess you have there.

    Look, either you are not giving this much thought or your are obfuscating in The Name of The Atheist Cause. It looks like you are wasting my time.

  138. Michael says:

    Taylor,

    Your last response was over 1000 words that display a massive amount of confusion. You think you know what I believe, when you don’t. You think I make claims that I don’t. And you don’t seem able to grasp the actual claims that I am making. So let’s keep this short and simple for clarity’s sake.

    Once again, I never said atheists were creating gaps. I am pointing out that the evidence they demand is supposed to be a gap.

    You write:

    I am not attacking you as delusional. I am saying you are making a culturally reinforced claim without any good evidence for it……So final time. You present evidence, if the evidence is more likely to be man made than evidence of God, I will say the probability appears to be that men are making stuff up like they have for centuries.

    Simple question – What data would you count as good evidence for God?

    One more thing. You ask:

    are you intellectually honest and smart enough to recognize that yes, there is credible reason for skepticism on god claims.

    Yes. In fact, I have previously noted that I find atheism to be a reasonable position. Now, can you reciprocate? Do you think theism is a reasonable position?

  139. Doug says:

    @Kenny,

    Thanks for the link to your blog.
    Thanks for this especially:
    http://liberalgeek.com/content/what-would-make-me-believe-god
    Thanks for demonstrating that your rants here are simply attempts to avoid the fact that you’ve been totally owned by Michael in the O/P.

  140. FZM says:

    When it comes to the Christian God, which is supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, the Problem of Evil is an excellent argument against His existence.

    I’ve read a lot about the Christian God and only once come across a claim that He is omnibenevolent, and if I remember that was on the Wikipedia page about the divine attributes.
    A lot of Christian theology in the ‘Classical’ tradition (Aquinas, for example, has already been mentioned in this thread) seems to get by without making such a claim.

  141. Michael says:

    That’s just another thing you’re incredibly wrong about. I’m happy to provide positive arguments against the existence of certain gods, it’s actually rather easy. When it comes to the Christian God, which is supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, the Problem of Evil is an excellent argument against His existence. Before you go about giving me all the standard bullshit apologetics about the Problem of Evil, I’ve heard it all before and it’s ridiculous. I’ve read plenty on the subject, including the Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis which is a favorite of Christian apologists.

    The Argument from Evil is weak and unconcinving. Look, modern day atheism is built around two claims: 1. There is no evidence for God(!) and 2. The Argument from Evil. I’ve completely neutered #1, as we can see from the atheist replies in this thread. Shall we proceed to the Argument from Evil?

  142. Doug wrote… Thanks for the link to your blog. Thanks for this especially…

    Doug, you misunderstand the difference. I’m answering two different questions here vs the blog post. My blog post you linked is what would make be believe in God, i.e. CONVINCE me to believe. The discussion here is NOT about making me click from non-belief to belief. It’s merely about evidence. It’s the difference between proof and evidence. Proof is a preponderance of evidence. This discussion here is merely about evidence for God and as I’ve said clearly above, evidence of prayer working would count as evidence for God even if it wouldn’t convince me to the 100% mark. My very first comment explained that explicitly:

    Question 3: Is the God of the Gaps reasoning a valid way of determining the existence of God?

    No, it’s not. This question and follow-up, however, betray your misunderstanding of the discussion at hand. When we talk about evidence it’s not about 100% certainty. If you could show me the evidence I’ve requested from #2, that would move me closer to believing. It wouldn’t flip me immediately to 100%, but it would move me closer to believing.</blockquote.

  143. FZM wrote… I’ve read a lot about the Christian God and only once come across a claim that He is omnibenevolent, and if I remember that was on the Wikipedia page about the divine attributes.

    It’s a very common claim in Christian theology, but you don’t hear it stated that way in Church on Sundays, however, you hear it in just about any philosophical discussion of god. The claim is generally formed similar to “God is the standard for good” or “God has the quality of goodness to the maximal degree” (you’ll hear that last one mostly from philosophers).

  144. Michael says:

    Kenny: This discussion here is merely about evidence for God and as I’ve said clearly above, evidence of prayer working would count as evidence for God even if it wouldn’t convince me to the 100% mark.

    Yet Kenny won’t tell us WHY “evidence of prayer working” would count as evidence for God. He’s been asked this time and time again, yet provides no answer. I interpreted this to mean that Kenny was trying to hide his God of the Gaps logic. But it just occurred to me there is another explanation for the evasion. That is, when Kenny claims “evidence of prayer working would count as evidence for God,” he is lying. He is just making it up so he can appear to win some argument on the internet. After all, is there any evidence that Kenny would count evidence of prayer working as evidence for God? Nope. None. We are being asked to blindly believe the hypothetical, future Kenny would behave in such a way. And frankly, I don’t buy it.

  145. Michael says:

    Lucky day for you, Taylor. Got out of a chore so I have time for your response.

    Michael, if I said to you, come over and play with my pet invisible dragon, you would say you have an invisible dragon? Cool, let’s play. OK, he is right there in the corner, looking at you. Can I pet him? No. No? Why not? Well, he is not only invisible, he is intangible. But hundreds of my friends have come over and had a great time playing with him. Really? Yep. What game? Hide and seek. Do they have fun? Yeah, we have a blast, I have cokes in the fridge, a pool in the backyard, plenty of bedrooms to hide in. But do they ever catch him? Nah, he has had too much practice.

    Cute example. However, to make it relevant, you first need to establish that God is analogous to the pet invisible dragon.

    I think you are being intellectually dishonest. First of trying to insist that we are the ones creating the gaps, which is a distinct shift of what the gaps mean.

    As I pointed out above, I am not insisting you are creating gaps. I am observing that atheists are demanding gaps.

    The gaps are by definition what the theist claims god to do, when he does not know better. There is absolutely nothing about atheistic skepticism that demands or wants gaps.

    Sure there is. The claim “there is no evidence for God” translates perfectly as “There are no gaps.” When atheists/skeptics demand evidence, they demand gaps.

    As a matter of fact, we have healthier debates when theists do not resort to gaps. I.e. Intelligent design, universe from nothing, etc. The key difference here is that when we do not know something, we say I don’t know. When you don’t know something, you say Awesome, God!

    I don’t accept God of the Gaps reasoning, so knock yourself out trying to find a place where I use it. You are wrong in characterizing me as shouting Awesome, God! in response to a gap. The key difference is that while I reject the logic of God of the Gaps reasoning, you embrace it as long as it supports your atheism. You build your atheism on God of the Gaps logic.

    This entire word game you are playing trying to reverse what the meaning of Gaps are is downright silly and it is a deliberate word ploy to try and twist meanings around. This is obfuscation and why I say you are being dishonest.

    So because I point out that you demand gaps when you demand evidence for God, you lash out at me as being dishonest. It figures.

    I am not attacking you as delusional. I am saying you are making a culturally reinforced claim without any good evidence for it.

    Tell us what would count as “good evidence for it.”

    Who gets to be the judge is a tired Christian apologetic. If I ask you to verify my invisible pet dragon, yes, you get to be the judge, because I am making a claim and trying to prove it to you, and YOU have to accept my claim or not. So just because you want a sense of majesty on your imaginary friend does not mean that I do not get to judge evidence you bring before me of your story. Again, it is intellectually dishonest to make this kind of “Who are we to judge God” defense when we are not judging god, we are judging the credibility of your claims vs the credibility of every other god claim, that YOU are equally willing to stand in judgement of.

    You are confused. You posture in a way where you demand the right to pass judgment on my views. That is, you will be the one who gets to decide whether or not any evidence for God exists. If you insist on passing judgment on my views, such that I am rationally obligated to accept your judgment, then you need to provide evidence that you can pass such judgment in a fair- and open-minded manner. I’m not going to waste my time in someone’s private kangaroo courtroom.

    Personal testimony and council of NIcea are historical aspects of dealing with Christians. How you can call this a gap when it is the paramount basis of the texts chosen to be in the bible and the primary experience in dealing with Christians is beyond me. I think you are really twisting in the wind here trying to keep your bad position afloat.

    I didn’t call these a gap. I noted that you needed a gap.

    So final time. You present evidence, if the evidence is more likely to be man made than evidence of God, I will say the probability appears to be that men are making stuff up like they have for centuries.

    What would you count as evidence?

    You live in a culture that constantly reinforces the god claim, so yes, it is hard for you to imagine that it is not true. Yes, you have been told everything good that happened was a confirmation of this claim. And both of those things can happen and be reinforced on top of a made up story. So it is not unreasonable to stay that you are culturally fixated in a belief, and you are having trouble seeing past the reinforcement of this belief.

    LOL. You believe this about me, do you? Are you using your psychic powers?

    That is neither and attempt to paint you as delusional or stupid, so please stop putting the words you WANT to argue with into my mouth, because that is not what I am saying at all.

    So you admit that I am not delusional nor stupid for being a theist?

    So yes, prayer would be a good test, because if one groups prayers were statistically validated as being consistently more effective than another groups prayers, we would have something tangible to base a belief on.

    So why would this effective prayer be evidence for God?

    But this silly idea of, I was born into this culture so it must be right, and how dare you pretend to stand judge over my god (when we are really just judging the validity of your claims) is why religion persists in the face of a lack of good evidence.

    Arguing against your stereotypes, eh? I have never thought I was born into this culture so it must be right. I never said how dare you pretend to stand judge over my god. I fully recognized you have this need to pass judgment on the validity of my claims. That’s why I asked who are you to judge? You insisted that I have this burden of proof. So I asked, ” And who gets to be the Judge as I plead my case? You?” Are you threatened by the idea that someone out there might not give a shit about your personal judgments?

  146. Crude says:

    That doesn’t describe any of my answers. I gave a specific response not based on gaps. Try again.

    As I pointed out, you’re talking about conducting a scientific study on the effects of prayer – complete with the hilarity of saying you’ll try to ‘control the variables’ with regards to an omniscient, omnipotent God. There’s no controlling that variable, period.

    Mike’s already pointed out that you haven’t explained why ‘evidence of prayer working’ would count as evidence for God, and I’ll point out another failure: you’re not testing for God’s existence. You’re testing for lawlike regularity – measurable effects on reports, offered up almost purely for the purposes of conducting a scientific test. It’s not a God of interest to anyone.

    When it comes to the Christian God, which is supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, the Problem of Evil is an excellent argument against His existence.

    A) Atheists don’t reject just the Christian God’s existence. They reject God’s existence, period – any God or gods.

    B) ‘Omnibenevolence’ is part of no Christian creed I’m aware of.

    C) The Christian view of God is entirely compatible with the existence of evil, down to the most biblical levels. You can argue that a God which permits evil at any point is not omnibenevolent, but your view of benevolence won’t be of interest.

  147. Michael wrote… Yet Kenny won’t tell us WHY “evidence of prayer working” would count as evidence for God. He’s been asked this time and time again, yet provides no answer.

    So, I guess we’ve gotten to the part of our discussion where you stop speaking to me, but quote me and then direct your words to everyone else. I’ll assume that’s because you CAN’T respond TO me, you need to start behaving like I’m not in the virtual room.

    But to make matters worse, you seem to be lying IN the very statements where you accuse me of lying. You haven’t asked me time and time again why prayer-working would be evidence for God. You’ve asked me time and time again why something-I’m-not-talking-about would be evidence for God.

  148. Crude wrote… As I pointed out, you’re talking about conducting a scientific study on the effects of prayer – complete with the hilarity of saying you’ll try to ‘control the variables’ with regards to an omniscient, omnipotent God. There’s no controlling that variable, period.

    No, I specifically said we would control for the naturalistic variables. Please work on your reading comprehension, it’ll make this discussion flow more smoothly.

    Crude wrote… Mike’s already pointed out that you haven’t explained why ‘evidence of prayer working’ would count as evidence for God…

    When you say, “Mike’s already pointed out” what you really should say is “Mike has lied.” Mike has desperately been asking me about why SOMETHING ELSE would be good evidence for God, but it’s not my claim about prayer.

    Crude wrote… I’ll point out another failure: you’re not testing for God’s existence.

    I’ve spoke to MANY believers over my lifetime and one of the most common responses to “why do you believe God exists?” that I’ve seen is, “because I’ve prayed and had those prayers come true.” The Bible claims several times that prayer works because God answers those prayers. The goal of my experiment is not to prove God exists (i.e. get to 100% certainty), it is to provide evidence to support the claim that God exists (i.e. maybe get to 5% to 10% certainty). Do you understand the difference? We aren’t talking about proof of God, we’re talking about evidence that supports the God claim.

    Crude wrote… A) Atheists don’t reject just the Christian God’s existence. They reject God’s existence, period – any God or gods.

    Agreed. However, when you want me to provide evidence AGAINST a god, then it should be a god that has defined qualities, etc, as opposed to an amorphus deistic god who doesn’t interact with humanity at all. Since the people involved in this discussion are Christians and keep referring to their god as God, that means they are referring to a SPECIFIC god. So, I chose to provide a counter-argument to the god that everyone seems to be talking about. Make sense?

    Crude wrote… B) ‘Omnibenevolence’ is part of no Christian creed I’m aware of.

    Do you believe your God is the greatest possible good?

    Crude wrote… The Christian view of God is entirely compatible with the existence of evil…

    Only if you accept that God is not the perfect embodiment of goodness. That’s why it’s called the PROBLEM of Evil. Philosophers have long seen that the existence of suffering in the world presents a problem for Biblical claims.

  149. Crude says:

    By the way – notice that there’s a bait and switch going on when it comes to the ‘prayer’ claim for evidence.

    Mike’s pointed out that asking what would constitute evidence for God stumps the New Atheist. Someone replies with the claim that they’d consider ‘studies that show prayer works’ as evidence for God.

    I’ve noted problems with this move: God is omniscient and omnipotent, not exactly a ‘variable’ that can be controlled for in a scientific study. Likewise, you’re not going to be able to control for the variables of ‘other people praying for a person’ in the general sense. If you zero in and start praying for specific but esoteric things – ‘I pray that the next person to walk into this store be wearing a zebra mask’ – you’re praying for the sorts of things ‘The Christian God’ (and really, pretty well no traditional God, even no pagan god) isn’t known for answering. Add on the fact that having this happen not just once, but with lawlike regularity such that you start getting results on a grander scale (thousands of people pray, etc), and the problems get obvious.

    But another big problem here is this: a test for the efficacy of prayer is… a test for the efficacy of prayer. It’s not a test for God’s existence.

    God’s existence would be a hypothesized *explanation* of the efficacy of prayer. But you would have no mechanism. Someone may say, ‘Yes, but in Christian teaching, God answers prayers!’ Yeah – but God also sustains the existence of the universe, the regularity we see in nature, and more. But those don’t get cited as evidence for God’s existence by New Atheists.

    Why do hypothetical, bizarre prayer studies get treated as such?

    Simple: Because they create a gap.

    It’s the same exact God of the gaps scenario other atheists posit, just with the additional step of supposedly scientifically verifying the existence of the phenomenon which creates the gap that God is called to fill in. Which is why PZ Myers would simply say ‘It’s some natural event we can’t explain yet – maybe some grand conspiracy, or latent psychic powers!’, and Michael Shermer would say ‘It’s aliens’. It’s also why they -could- say the same thing.

    So once again – the God of the gaps reasoning that New atheists criticize turns out to be the exact sort of reasoning they rely upon.

  150. Crude says:

    Kenny,

    No, I specifically said we would control for the naturalistic variables.

    You realize that saying ‘We’ll control for every variable we can control for’ doesn’t help you when massive, relevant variables are fundamentally outside of your control, right? It doesn’t somehow make your study successful when you say ‘Okay, I can’t control for this variable which is central and which wreaks havoc on my ability to conduct this experiment, but screw it – I’m doing it anyway and it will work!’

    Mike has desperately been asking me about why SOMETHING ELSE would be good evidence for God, but it’s not my claim about prayer.

    Will you please answer him about why ‘statistical evidence of prayer working’ would be evidence of God’s existence?

    Crude wrote… I’ll point out another failure: you’re not testing for God’s existence.

    I’ve spoke to MANY believers over my lifetime and one of the most common responses to “why do you believe God exists?” that I’ve seen is, “because I’ve prayed and had those prayers come true.”

    That’s not a reply to the question. I’ve also spoken with many believers who simply think the world looks completely designed, and that even evolution looks designed.

    Why is it evidence?

    Agreed. However, when you want me to provide evidence AGAINST a god, then it should be a god that has defined qualities, etc, as opposed to an amorphus deistic god who doesn’t interact with humanity at all. Since the people involved in this discussion are Christians and keep referring to their god as God, that means they are referring to a SPECIFIC god.

    I’m Catholic, but if you disproved Catholicism today I’d still be a theist. And there’s nothing ‘amorphous’ about bare theism – God is still omnipotent, omniscient, even “Good”. Are you saying that there are no arguments against that God’s existence?

    As for Christians – you’re not even talking about a Christian concept of prayer with your example. The idea of a God who conforms to scientific testing is actually out and out unChristian, so what in the world are you doing with this example?

    Do you believe your God is the greatest possible good?

    God is goodness – He doesn’t conform to an external standard.

    Only if you accept that God is not the perfect embodiment of goodness. That’s why it’s called the PROBLEM of Evil.

    It’s called the problem of evil not because it’s historically treated as evidence against God’s existence, but a challenge for humanity to understand God’s thinking with regards to evil. The problem is one of theodicy, not existence.

  151. Crude wrote… You realize that saying ‘We’ll control for every variable we can control for’ doesn’t help you when massive, relevant variables are fundamentally outside of your control, right?

    Ooohhhhh, I get it now. You don’t understand what “controlling a variable” means in science and statistical analysis. I see why you’re confused. When we “control for variables” in our experiment, that doesn’t mean that we are trying to control the physical world and what is happening when/where/to whom. It means that we structure our experimental and control groups in a certain way and we analyze the data as a whole as well as in certain group slices so that we can see if the positive results only apply to certain groups. To use a different topic as an example. Let’s say there were some research studies done many decades ago that wrongly made the claim that black people committed more crimes than white people. Some other researchers decided to look into the data to confirm or falisfy the original findings. Instead of just analyzing racial data though, they also analyzed family income, which state they lived in, level of education, etc. When they analyzed these different slices of the data, they found that the statistical correlation in increased crime rates wasn’t associated with race, but it was associated with income and level of education. That’s what “controlling a variable” means. That’s why in all of my descriptions of the experiments above I talk about constructing the control and experimental groups in a varied fashion so that we can analyze the different slices to see if the prayers are getting answered, but only for Arabic-speaking-Muslims, for example. Because maybe the overall results don’t show any statistical significance, because the rest of the group’s negative-results are overwhelming the Arabic-speaking-Muslim’s positive data.

  152. Crude wrote… Will you please answer him about why ‘statistical evidence of prayer working’ would be evidence of God’s existence?

    I already did, but I’ll repeat it for you. It’s because we design the test to produce a positive result that indicates intercessory prayer was successful.

    Crude wrote… That’s not a reply to the question. I’ve also spoken with many believers who simply think the world looks completely designed, and that even evolution looks designed.

    It is, you just aren’t very good with reading comprehension. I’ll try again for you: Prayer is something Christianity claims works and something that many Christians cite as their primary reason for believing, so it is one of the valid choices to test to check for evidence of God’s existence.

    Crude wrote… I’m Catholic, but if you disproved Catholicism today I’d still be a theist.

    Why?

    Crude wrote… God is goodness – He doesn’t conform to an external standard.

    I didn’t ask you if your god conforms to an external standard. I asked you if your god is as good as it is possible to be? By saying “God is goodness” that says to me that your answer should be “yes”… and that IS what omnibenevolent is referring to. People used to claim that God was omnipotent and then philosophers asked if God could create a rock so big he couldn’t lift it. That kind of inherent contradiction lead the theological philosophers to use “omnipotent” as “maximally powerful” as opposed to “all powerful” to avoid the inherent contradiction.

    Crude wrote… It’s called the problem of evil not because it’s historically treated as evidence against God’s existence…

    No, it’s called the “Problem” of evil because it points out a logical flaw in the claims made by Christians, but they didn’t want to admit their claims were inherently contradictory. It remains a problem for Christians to this day.

  153. TFBW says:

    Kenny said:

    I already did, but I’ll repeat it for you. It’s because we design the test to produce a positive result that indicates intercessory prayer was successful.

    That doesn’t tell you that God exists — it tells you that intercessory prayer has an effect. In order to interpret it as evidence for God, you need a little more reasoning, like so.

    1. Intercessory prayer works (conclusion of experiment).
    2. There is no natural explanation as to why intercessory prayer would work (a gap).
    3. Therefore, God did it.

    Aside from the obvious God-of-the-gaps reasoning which you’ve been denying so hard, this also draws attention to weaknesses in your experimental design (if such a rough sketch can even be called that). If you’re using answered prayer as a test for God, then you need a well-defined theory of the conditions under which God grants petitioned prayers. If you don’t, then the result won’t be particularly meaningful. I suspect that this is the kind of thing Crude was referring to when he spoke of experimental controls.

  154. Crude says:

    You don’t understand what “controlling a variable” means in science and statistical analysis. I see why you’re confused.

    Aww, that’s cute. Listen lil’ buddy, pull up a chair and let me help ya out a little bit.

    See, what we’re doing here is we’re talking about investigating God’s existence, and the problems science has with that.

    Shh, shh, settle down now, stop getting all antsy. I know the idea freaks you out, but I promise, you’ll learn something if you listen.

    Now, when you talk about prayer studies, you’ve got a few problems. First is the fact that your subject – the central being who is of interest, the reason you’re investigating to begin with – well, gosh darnit. He just happens to be omnipotent and omniscient, along with willful. And this means, I’m afraid, that He’s just not a factor that can be controlled. You can’t have ‘The group that God won’t be interacting with’, because He’ll interact with whomever He pleases on whatever terms.

    Wait, it gets worse.

    You also can’t even control the human factor adequately.

    See, people will do as they please. You may be conducting an experiment and telling everyone who’s part of it to prayer for some people undergoing heart surgery – but you can’t place anyone else under those rules. And prayer is not local; you can’t place the people in a prayer-proof box. See: omnipotent, omniscient being, mixed in with a huge mass of people, worldwide, praying.

    Now, hold on, I see you raising your hand and going ‘ooh ooh ooh’. Yes, I understand that you may be able to control some variables in terms of who you’ll be paying attention to, and who you’ll be studying for a given data analysis. But what I’m pointing out here is that you can’t control any of the data which would be relevant for the actual question you’re trying to answer.

    See, you can analyze data to get an idea of the cultural makeup of people who pray. Or what they’re praying about. Or you can use some entirely arbitrary assumptions about God and prayer (‘God will only pay attention to people who are praying for this random number to be generated by the RNG when the space button is pressed, in this experiment, by people who are praying for exactly that result versus the control group in the other room.’) But the factors at work wall off your ability to meaningfully perform a test that will give any data about what you’re looking for data about

    See that? Scientific limitations! Knowing what they are is part of why science works, and what makes science great.

  155. Kevin says:

    And that’s the whole crux of the matter. The two possible types of evidence are “natural” evidences (fine tuning, consciousness, lack of any sort of logical naturalistic alternative to existence) and Gap evidence. Atheists do not accept natural evidence EVER (we don’t know NOW, but science will save us from Goddidit), yet they simultaneously reject Gap logic while demanding supernatural events that can’t be explained by science…a Gap.

    And the whole point of highlighting this trend of atheists is to point out their intellectual dishonesty. It isn’t reason and evidence that causes them to reject a deity, because they reason their way out of the possibility of thereal being evidence for a god. This isn’t being rational, it’s called rationalizing.

    Gnu atheists call themselves champions of reason, yet it’s plain as day they are not. Pointing that out is why this blog exists.

  156. Crude says:

    I already did, but I’ll repeat it for you. It’s because we design the test to produce a positive result that indicates intercessory prayer was successful.

    Putting aside all the complicating factors with even getting that far – you haven’t answered my question or my criticisms. Let’s say you get a result that says intercessory prayer was successful. Where is ‘God’ coming into this?

    Let me give you the answer: because you have a gap (‘Why is this intercessory prayer successful?’) which you’re putting your answer into (‘God’).

    Prayer is something Christianity claims works and something that many Christians cite as their primary reason for believing, so it is one of the valid choices to test to check for evidence of God’s existence.

    So when a Christian talks about how they prayed for something and their prayer was answered, well – you’re admitting then they have evidence for God’s existence right there?

    You’re telling me it’s a ‘valid choice to test for’, but remember: some theists engage in God of the gaps reasoning. Saying ‘Well many Christians believe answered prayer is evidence for God’ isn’t responding to my question – it’s just saying ‘Well these other people say it’s evidence.’ Okay. They also say regularity in the universe, fine tuning, and various other things are evidence. I suppose they all count now too?

    Why?

    Because my belief in God comes before my particular religion, of course. You realize that most of the arguments for God’s existence have nothing to do with Christianity intellectually, yes?

    I didn’t ask you if your god conforms to an external standard. I asked you if your god is as good as it is possible to be?

    Uh. ‘As good as it is possible to be’ IS an external standard. You’re comparing God to a scale of goodness. That’s an external standard.

    I’m a classical theist. God is not ‘a good guy’ or ‘the most good guy’. He’s the Good, period.

    No, it’s called the “Problem” of evil because it points out a logical flaw in the claims made by Christians,

    No, it doesn’t. The ‘problem’ predates Christianity itself, and it’s largely a non-issue. The logical problem is largely considered to have been killed a while ago. The evidential problem still gets discussed, which rolls right back to theodicy.

    I’ve pointed out that your argument is just another version of a God of the Gaps argument. Even granting your own hypothetical case – which is riddled with problems to begin with – all you could ever get to is a statistical frequency that there seems to be a correlation between prayers and certain effects in such and such situations. You imply you’d have no explanation for the correlation – and thus you have a gap into which you would place God.

    Saying that you’ve spoken with many Christians who believe God answered a prayer does not answer my criticism.

  157. TFBW wrote… That doesn’t tell you that God exists — it tells you that intercessory prayer has an effect.

    We’re not trying to produce a result that proves God exists, we’re merely trying to produce evidence that would support the idea that God exists.

  158. Crude wrote…. He just happens to be omnipotent and omniscient, along with willful. And this means, I’m afraid, that He’s just not a factor that can be controlled.

    a) You still seem confused about what “controlling a variable” means when doing statistical analysis.
    b) The implication of what you’re saying is that the situation “God exists” is indistinguishable from the situation “God doesn’t exist.”

  159. Crude wrote… I’ve pointed out that your argument is just another version of a God of the Gaps argument.

    Correction…. you’ve -wrongly- pointed out…

    Crude wrote.. Even granting your own hypothetical case … all you could ever get to is a statistical frequency that there seems to be a correlation between prayers and certain effects in such and such situations.

    Finally! You’re getting it! That’s all I’m TRYING to find. Evidence that supports the God Claim doesn’t have to prove God’s existence to 100% certainty. It just needs to provide SOME support that the claim might be true. It could only be pushing the needle by 1%, but if it does that then we can consider it evidence for God.

    Finally! You’re actually comprehending!

  160. Michael says:

    Kenny:

    “So, I guess we’ve gotten to the part of our discussion where you stop speaking to me, but quote me and then direct your words to everyone else. I’ll assume that’s because you CAN’T respond TO me, you need to start behaving like I’m not in the virtual room.

    Huh? I have been responding to you. I ask you questions and you ignore them. I provide a link to a relevant blog entry I previously wrote about prayer studies and you ignore it. I bring up relevant points and you ignore them.

    But to make matters worse, you seem to be lying IN the very statements where you accuse me of lying. You haven’t asked me time and time again why prayer-working would be evidence for God. You’ve asked me time and time again why something-I’m-not-talking-about would be evidence for God.

    It’s been both, Kenny. I have focused on your prayer study assertions and discovered that you are making a God-of-the-Gaps argument. You evade this point with lots of tap-dancing. As for the other thing you “are not talking about,” you omit the part that you floated a truth claim. Here are your words:

    I’m not asking for a dramatic, sensational event like all of the stars aligning to spell a message or all humans hearing the same message but in their own language or something. Now, those would be pretty good evidence, but I’m not even asking for something that dramatic.”

    Notice the highlighted point. Yes, I know you want to talk about prayer and I (and others) have done so many times over now. But you also made the claim that a star message would be “pretty good evidence” for God and have never retracted it. Since this is not your blog, you don’t get to pick and choose what truth claims you want to support.

    My patience was worn thin. So once again I have two questions for you:

    1. Why would a message in the stars be evidence for God?
    2. Why would the answered prayers be evidence for God?

    I (and others) would like you to answer these relevant and fair questions.

    Failure to do so in your next response to this thread means you will be banned.

  161. TFBW says:

    Kenny said:

    We’re not trying to produce a result that proves God exists, we’re merely trying to produce evidence that would support the idea that God exists.

    That’s all that science can ever do, so I’m not really sure how that affects the argument. The point remains that you need some sort of rational connection between “answered prayer” and “God exists” (not with 100% certainty, but maybe “5% to 10% certainty”, as you said earlier). So — help me out here — the argument goes something like this:

    1. Intercessory prayer works (conclusion of experiment).
    2. The people who prayed successfully tell me they are praying to a God who acts on such things.
    3. I subjectively estimate that this is 5% to 10% likely to be the correct explanation.

    I assume that I’ve missed something here, because that’s mush, rationally speaking. Please fill in the details. It would help if the explanation were general enough that we could also derive from it your reasoned response to other possible evidences, such as a message in the stars, or the Intelligent Design argument.

  162. Kevin says:

    Finally! You’re getting it! That’s all I’m TRYING to find. Evidence that supports the God Claim doesn’t have to prove God’s existence to 100% certainty. It just needs to provide SOME support that the claim might be true. It could only be pushing the needle by 1%, but if it does that then we can consider it evidence for God.

    LOL. I know you don’t realize it, but what you just said is that you are trying to find a suitable Gap to support the God Claim.

    You are absolutely right that evidence doesn’t need to prove something to full certainty. However, in your search for something that supports the idea that the God claim “might be true”, you don’t even remotely need to look at some sort of farcical prayer study. The fact that the universe exists supports the idea that the God claim “might be true”. The fact that the man Jesus taught in Israel and Christianity exploded as a result supports the idea that the God claim “might be true”. The fact that humans are moral beings supports the idea that the God claim “might be true”. Consciousness supports the God claim. Life supports the God claim.

    But it’s not about what supports the God claim, is it? The existence of the universe, the birth of Christianity, morality, consciousness, and life have alleged scientific explanations, so you do not consider them to be things that provide even SOME support that the claim “might be true”. No, what you and every Gnu atheist is demanding is a Gap. Something that science can’t come up with some just-so hypothesis to explain. You’re searching for God of the Gaps evidence. You and Taylor fell directly into Michael’s little trap there, and the sad thing is that after repeatedly having it pointed out to you, neither of you can even see it.

    If you don’t get yourself banned by not answering Michael’s rather simple questions, please explain why the existence of the universe does not provide SOME support that the God claim “might be true”.

  163. Dhay says:

    A sideways thought on prayer studies experiments is that The Guardian on Friday 28 August 2015 printed a newspaper article entitled, “60% of psychology research ‘cannot be replicated'”, and with the two sub-titles, “Findings disappeared when experiments repeated” and “Be sceptical of your own evidence, scientists told.”

    The 100 experiments repeated were published in top ranking psychology journals in 2008, and covered the two broad categories of cognitive psychology (with a 50% [“half”] rate of failure to replicate findings) and social psychology (with a 75% rate of failure to replicate findings); the overall success rate for replication was “only 36%” [sic — not 40%?].

    “Even when scientists could replicate original findings, the sizes of the effects they found were on average half as big as found first time round.”

    The newspaper article has not been reproduced online (so far?), but there is a similar article online dated the previous day, and the “related content” section at the bottom links to several similar articles.

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/aug/27/study-delivers-bleak-verdict-on-validity-of-psychology-experiment-results

    It may well be that prayer studies do not fall into either of these two broad categories — though psychology is but the most notorious example of an effect reported at various strengths in all of the peer-reviewed experimental disciplines; regardless, the message to take their results with a big pinch of salt, whatever the result, is clear.

  164. Doug says:

    What Kevin said — if Kenny isn’t really looking for a Gap [TM], but is simply looking for “support” for a “might be true” (he writes)

    This discussion here is merely about evidence for God and as I’ve said clearly above, evidence of prayer working would count as evidence for God even if it wouldn’t convince me to the 100% mark.

    …then why doesn’t a single instance of answered prayer “count” for the pray-er(s) who experience it? (this is, of course, just the flip-slip of Michael’s “relevant and fair questions”)

  165. Taylor says:

    First to the idea of delusion. I am being charitable by saying that you have a set of beliefs reinforced by your community with good intentions that I believe are based out of man made god claims. If you say that you are having visions and god is talking through you through this blog, we can elevate the discussion to you personally are delusional. But no, I do not think we have to tar and feather people following a flawed idea with good intentions as somehow delusional. As you see, there is nothing about my being charitable to your mental state or your intentions that necessitates that I agree with your conclusions, but I think we can have a civil discussion without making that kind of attack. To the idea of being stupid, no claims here on this issue, because I know lots of very sharp people that are convinced by their Christianity, and spend a lot of time looking into ways to support it logically. Because they know they do not have the empirical evidence to support their claims. But being smart does not insulate someone from being wrong. I know I have made mistakes in my life, and I propose we can forgive them theirs as well while we are being charitable here.

    How is God analogous to the pet invisible dragon?

    There you again make the mistake of shifting what I am saying to what you want to argue. The point is not that the pet dragon is the same or similar to god, it is that my assertions about there being a pet dragon are similar to your assertions that not only is there A god, but this god is accurately captured by your assertions and not by the assertions of other world major or minor religions. It is about comparing claims, not about comparing conclusions.

    Again, the fact that you really want to spin what a Gap means to argue the point you want to argue is irrelevant to the way that Gaps terminology is applied in discussion with atheists. You can keep redefining Gaps to mean whatever you like it to mean on your personal blog, but you have had two reasonable atheists trying to explain to you that you are playing word games and your final conclusion is accept my word game or expect a ban. I guess we will be here as long as you want to have a meaningful dialog.

    You state “The claim there is no evidence for God translates perfectly as there are no gaps”. This is the heart of your word game and where you are incorrect. I can make a claim, there is no evidence for life on other planets. Because I have not been to another planet, this is a factual statement, but I have no way of knowing for sure. Am I creating a gap? Not at all. Why? Because I have not asserted anything about the why of it. If I were to say, God loves us and this one little planet, thus he only made life here on this lonely little planet, therefore there cannot be life on other planets. At this point I am taking an I don’t know and inserting God, thus creating the Gap. Atheists do not need or create or look for gaps. We are comfortable saying in a discussion that we do not know. So your word game fails here, because you are pretending that atheists try to do something we really do not have any need to do. And because you insist on defining gaps as something we do not use as gaps, yes you are being dishonest on your underlying premise or “trap” as one of your commentators called it.

    So lets talk about what would make good evidence, but let’s frame the discussion just a bit. Is there evidence that men have created gods and religions around the world? Indisputably. Has this happened in multiple parts of the world at various times and places in our history? Absolutely. So we are not just talking about a single unique occurrence that has not happened before or since, we are talking about a living process that has happened multiple times in our history. So right out the gate there is room for skepticism towards any particular god claim, because there have been so many of them, they are so different from one another, and they are always culturally significant to the claimant at that time in history.

    Next, for the major religions in Abrahamic traditions and the west today we have evidence of a single individual having a pivotal point in the creation and transformation of the message of the underlying religion. Paul/Saul, Mohammed, Joseph Smith all claim to have had revelations. Their followers all claim that the works spawning from their claims are unique, wondrous and marvelous because they have touched the lives of so many people. Yet each message fundamentally changes the previous message amidst claims of past perversion of the deity message and a need for yet one more set of instructions. We have evidence of scientology founded by one man, we have had anthropologists on site when cargo cults were formed who document the process of people making things up based on their understanding of events at the time and then mythologizing them.

    So this is not just some simplistic I don’t want to believe in god, love my sin type of skepticism. Church history has shown that what the church accepts and what the church encourages and teaches changes with society. History has shown that the church is willing to schism over differences in opinions and what a Christian believes depends a great deal on the community he is a part of. Notice how many analogies we make to what the Christians in our lives believe and do, that you happily deflect as “not my personal take on Christianity”. So many flavors of vanilla, but they are all still vanilla-ish? I would even hazard to say that the William L. Craig type of defense is yet another strain of Christianity. Why? Because nobody is taught to believe or comes to belief from that line of argument. It is entirely a manufactured structure based on deductive and inductive reasoning from a desired conclusion.

    And again to the judgement of the claim. I am not confused at all. If I made a claim about my pet dragon (invisible, intangible, loved by all who have interacted with it), you would be right to judge my claim based on the evidence I present. If I say you can’t touch it, you can only feel the happiness in your heart and see the happiness in the hearts of my friends, you can’t smell it, it leaves no heat trace…. You would be right and properly logical to say, nope, no evidence.

    So understanding this…. let’s do the same for Zeus. Can I see him? No, can I touch him? No. Has he touched the lives of multitudes? Yes, even recently you can see the story of Zeus in modern fiction and movies. I have been told by Christians that we can say no Zeus because we can go to Mount Olympus and show he is not home. But these same Christians do not show how we can show that he is not at home in the Metaphysical Godhome sitting above Mount Olympus. So again, we have to judge the evidence based on what we can verify. Can we verify anything about Zeus other than people worshiped him and a pantheon of gods? Not that I know of.

    So lets move to the next category. Abrahamic religion. In the origins of the religion we not only have stories of what god did and how he chose his people to be special, we have stories of tests and trials and interactions he had with the followers. This is not some external force that is radiating a sense of truth and morality. This is a wrathful spiteful god who loves his people but apparently has no time of day for the neighbors, who are naughty and must be punished. If we stopped there, we would have reason for skepticism because this feels just like the claims about Zeus and Odin and Ra. Only the tribes of Israel have latched on to something interesting. If you only have one god, you only have one temple with a hand out. So there might be something appealing to the neighbors, if only we could get past that pesky God of the Jews only thing.

    But where there is a demand, opportunities can be met. Here comes Rome and kicks the stuffing out of everyone in the neighborhood. All of a sudden we have a bunch of confused Jews who were waiting for a Messiah to put them over the top, but this Rome thing is a big deal. New ideas come into the area with the Romans and all of these nice little ideas and synthesis of ideas start popping up, with a Messiah fever going on. One of these little ideas has survived. Using our knowledge of human history, is it more likely that this religion was just as made up as the others, or that God has waited patiently for Rome to stop by and allow his purpose of teaching his message to the Gentiles to come to fruition? It gasps, it struggles, it hangs on and eventually it catches on. Again, not something you expect a revealed truth from a god to have troubles with, exactly what you have to expect from man made initiatives.

    Then comes Mohammed, who is the child of a family of people that take care of the holy relics of the tribesmen when they stop in town. They do all the veneration and prayers for these relics, store them and give them back when the tribe leaves town… all for a fee of course. This guy hears the local jews preaching and decides he can do that, earning himself a heavy dose of mockery. But hey, some folks are looking for something new to hear and this is a good story, so let it ride. He is poor and kicked around until he marries a much older woman and merchant. Now he has some money to arm his group of followers, and Allahu Akbar! Again, claims of a revelation from on high. Claims of being the last message sent to correct all other messages. Agains assertions of revelations. But we have a problem here, because the story changes with his fortunes. So we pick up ideas like abrogration and progressive revelation and refinement of the story.

    Then we have some nice dark ages, a Crusade, an Inquisition, and a nice young known con man known as Joseph Smith picks up the whole revelation thing and runs with it. Despite the oddity of his claims, and the known bad reputation, he has a whole lot of people believing his story today.

    And we are not even into the rest of the world religions, who’s followers outnumber the followers of Abrahamic religions. Only mentioning them here to say if we are going to compare and contrast god claims, we have to rule out all the claims before we can settle on the one.

    So understand these are all claims made by men, asserting that they have a special message or truth from on high. And the claims are structured within the times and climate of what is going on in their society at the time. Without Rome providing legal normalization across tribes and religions through a vast area, Christianity would not have had room to breath and spread. Without the tribal warfare and might makes right ideology of the tribes of the desert, Mohamed would not have gained such footholds. Without a vast area of land to move out to setup his own echo chamber, the ideas of Joseph Smith would not have grown so well.

    Does it really take an incredible amount of hubris to say that all of these are man made? No, I assume you do it with the claims about Mohamed and Joseph Smith on a daily basis. You most certainly do it about Norse and Greek mythology. So there is not a special category mistake here. UNTIL you prove your claim. And at that point, I don’t owe you an apology, I owe your god an apology. So lets not pretend that my being equally skeptical to your claims is any different than you being skeptical to those of Hinduism or Joseph Smith.

    And at the end of your comments we get to the meaty part. “Are you threatened by the idea that someone out there might not give a shit about your personal judgements?” And I thought we were having a nice logical discussion with a couple absurdities thrown in for fun. Threatened? In what way am I appearing threatened. I am here as a guest on your blog disagreeing with some twists of definitions that you have, and showing you that there is good reason to be skeptical of all man made god claims. If I was threatened in any way I would definitely not be sitting here typing this! Are you so threatened by reasoned attack of your “logical” framework that you have to ban people who disagree and cherry pick out of their comments whatever you want to use to try and validate your position?

    The answer is simple. If I claim there is an invisible pet dragon, I have the burden of proof. I would never play word games and twist definitions to try and shift that responsibility on you my friendly adragonist. If I say there is an invisible pet dragon, and I want you to accept this proposal, then yes, the burden is all mine to convince you.

    Now, you are saying that there is a god. There are many competing god claims out there. So you need to settle on your definition. And yes, because you are making the positive assertion, you bear the burden of proof. And because you are asking me to make personal choices about my life and how I live it, based on benefits or consequences of your claim, then yes. Of course I have to be the judge. You can’t have it both ways.

    The problem here is that you are leaping past the burden of proof of the claim into the presupposition that the claim is accurate. If your claim is accurate, then there is already a hell waiting for me in eternity. So where does the moral high horse come of saying that I do not get to judge your claims?

  166. Kevin says:

    Aside from the two reasonable atheists missing point after point, Michael is much more charitable than I about whether atheism can be a reasonable position (it can’t). Agnosticism and deism are reasonable. Non specified theism is reasonable. But disprove Christianity all you want, atheism doesn’t magically become a reasonable position to hold.

  167. Doug says:

    @Taylor – yes: we are all familiar with the litany of vague atheist talking points you’ve provided. Too bad they don’t actually constitute an argument, let alone address the “three questions” that this thread is about. Instead, in keeping with Dawkins’ strategy of “two thirds of a syllogism”, you’ve implied a fallacious argument (only plausibly deniable because you didn’t make it explicit) — one that amounts to little more than an exercise in confirmation bias. But hey: it worked for him, it must work for you, too! Just please don’t expect any of your readers to be particularly moved by it.

  168. TFBW says:

    Memes and enthymemes — am I right, Doug?

  169. FZM says:

    It’s a very common claim in Christian theology, but you don’t hear it stated that way in Church on Sundays, however, you hear it in just about any philosophical discussion of god. The claim is generally formed similar to “God is the standard for good” or “God has the quality of goodness to the maximal degree” (you’ll hear that last one mostly from philosophers).

    I do agree that you hear some claims along the lines of ‘God is the standard for good’ etc. made in many philosophical discussions of God (post later 17th-18th century especially). I’m more uncertain about whether these claims are always present with same meaning though. Personally I’m mainly interested in Catholic and Orthodox theology and religious thought; I’d say there are some differences in the way these ideas of God are discussed or understood. For example, God is frequently understood not as just being a standard for goodness, but as being goodness. Similarly, God is seen as being maximal goodness.

    I think these things probably arise because of differences in the metaphysical and ontological assumptions underpinning these kind of claims. Another contributor to the thread has already noted that the kind of arguments for the existence of God put forward in the more Aristotelian/Platonic ‘classical’ theistic tradition can be quite different to some of the others in general circulation. I think probably the same goes for responses to the problem of evil.

  170. Crude says:

    Kenny,

    You still seem confused about what “controlling a variable” means when doing statistical analysis.

    You still seem confused about the fact that what I’ve said undercuts your entire hypothetical. Actually, you’re not confused – you realize it. Which is why you’re stridently trying to avoid acknowledging it.

    The implication of what you’re saying is that the situation “God exists” is indistinguishable from the situation “God doesn’t exist.”

    The implication of what I’m saying is that “God does not exist” and “God exists” are claims which science are completely incapable of meaningfully interacting with. In fact, larger metaphysical questions in general are outside science’s scope. Science is utterly silent on those issues, pretty well by necessity.

    Heresy to your eyes, I know. Pity that it’s true.

    Correction…. you’ve -wrongly- pointed out…

    I’ve correctly pointed it out, Kenny. You realize that mere denial is not refutation, right?

    Finally! You’re getting it! That’s all I’m TRYING to find.

    Kenny. Buddy. You gotta read.

    I didn’t say that your statistical analysis gives you a slight bit of evidence for God’s existence, but not a complete proof. I said that the only thing you’re gathering here – the only thing ‘moving the needle’ in this case – is a gap. You’re filling in the gap with God.

    Cry out, “But I’m only moving the needle a little bit! 1%”

    Fine, Kenny. But it’s still being moved by a gap. Your hypothetical is a data analysis in search of a gap, and you treat that gap as evidence for God’s existence.

  171. Michael wrote.. I provide a link to a relevant blog entry I previously wrote about prayer studies and you ignore it. I bring up relevant points and you ignore them.

    Please stop lying, Michael.

    Here is my exact response to the prayer studies:

    I read through quite a few of them. It was tiny sample size, tiny sample size, tiny sample size, flawed control group, flawed experimental group, overturned results during a follow-up experiment, etc, etc. In other words… a lack of evidence to support the power of prayer.

    Michael wrote… I have focused on your prayer study assertions and discovered that you are making a God-of-the-Gaps argument. You evade this point with lots of tap-dancing.

    I haven’t evaded a single point. I explained to you why your questions were stupid because you don’t understand how statistics or science works. You want to CLAIM that I was tap dancing, but you just don’t like that I pointed out the problem with your questions AND THEN followed up that explaination with an answer to the question. Several times.

    Michael wrote… Notice the highlighted point.

    I’m not asking for a dramatic, sensational event like all of the stars aligning to spell a message or all humans hearing the same message but in their own language or something. Now, those would be pretty good evidence, but I’m not even asking for something that dramatic.

    Notice the highlighted point, Michael.

    Michael wrote… Since this is not your blog, you don’t get to pick and choose what truth claims you want to support.

    I know that you have your script you need to stick to and it’s uncomfortable for you to have to think about a new response.

    Michael wrote… 1. Why would a message in the stars be evidence for God?
    2. Why would the answered prayers be evidence for God?

    1. Don’t care, it’s not my answer to your questions above.
    2. Because many religions claim that God answers prayers, so it could provide an indicator, i.e. evidence, that God exists.

    Michael wrote… I (and others) would like you to answer these relevant and fair questions.

    I’ve already answered them ad nauseum, you just keep lying and saying that I didn’t.

    Michael wrote… Failure to do so in your next response to this thread means you will be banned.

    Go ahead, but it’ll just show the failure of your argument and ideology. You got knocked off your script and can’t think for yourself, so you didn’t know how to respond to an ACTUAL atheist. You only know how to knock down straw men.

  172. TFBW wrote… That’s all that science can ever do, so I’m not really sure how that affects the argument.

    Yes, I agree, but apparently a lot of the commenters don’t understand that is how science works.

    TFBW wrote… The point remains that you need some sort of rational connection between “answered prayer” and “God exists”

    Would prayer work if God doesn’t exist?

  173. Kevin wrote… I know you don’t realize it, but what you just said is that you are trying to find a suitable Gap to support the God Claim.

    Only if you don’t know what words mean.

    Kevin wrote… The fact that the universe exists supports the idea that the God claim “might be true”.

    YES. I AGREE. It’s not very good or compelling evidence, but TECHNICALLY it counts as evidence. The reason why we don’t USE it for anything though is because we have OTHER evidence which is far more compelling and produces a higher propability of being true.

    Kevin wrote… The fact that the man Jesus taught in Israel..

    Not a fact.

    Kevin wrote… and Christianity exploded as a result

    Not a fact either. The Mormon church grew at the same rate as Christianity did. It’s not anything special.

    Kevin wrote… The fact that humans are moral beings supports the idea that the God claim “might be true”.

    Yes, I agree. However, we have MUCH BETTER evidence that morality is a product of evolution because “moral” behavior provides an evolutionary survival advantage. That’s why we see moral behavior in chimpanezes, macaques, and other animals.

    Kevin wrote… Consciousness supports the God claim.

    Yes, technically, I agree, However, we have MUCH BETTER evidence that consciousness is merely a result of brain activity, and that’s why we don’t really give much credence to the existence of consciousness as an indicator of God’s existence.

    Kevin wrote.. But it’s not about what supports the God claim, is it?

    It better be, because that’s what evidence IS.

    Kevin wrote… No, what you and every Gnu atheist is demanding is a Gap.

    Two things. 1) I hope you realize that whenever you feel the need to use silly names like “Gnu” atheist you are just showing yourself to be childish. 2) No, that’s merely the strawman claim about atheists.

    Kevin wrote… the sad thing is that after repeatedly having it pointed out to you, neither of you can even see it.

    I don’t particularly care how often a bad argument is made at me, that doesn’t make it true. I’m not looking for a gap. Michael’s script desperately needs a gap for his argument to make sense, so he just focuses on that to the exclusion of all else.

  174. Doug wrote… then why doesn’t a single instance of answered prayer “count” for the pray-er(s) who experience it?

    Really? You don’t know why?

    *sigh*

    Because anecdotal reports are unreliable.

  175. I see, Michael, that all of my comments require moderation again. I hope you are brave enough to post my comments instead of just cowardly blocking me.

  176. Kevin wrote… Agnosticism and deism are reasonable. Non specified theism is reasonable. But disprove Christianity all you want, atheism doesn’t magically become a reasonable position to hold.

    Agnostic atheism is the only reasonable position to hold.

    Don’t make the mistake that atheism and agnosticism are somehow opposed concepts. Agnosticism and Gnosticism are about knowledge. Atheism and Theism/Deism are about belief.

    You can be a Gnostic Theist (one who believes in and KNOWS FOR SURE it to be true).
    You can be an Agnostic Theist (one who believes in God and doesn’t claim to KNOW it is true).
    You can be a Gnostic Atheist (one who lacks belief and KNOWS it to be true).
    You can be an Agnostic Atheist (one who lacks belief and doesn’t claim to KNOW it is true).

    Atheism is the default position (i.e. the Null Hypothesis). I can’t know with absolute certainty that my position is correct and therefore I am ALSO agnostic.

    I just identify myself as an atheist because most conversations would just get bogged down with the fine semantics of the terms.

  177. Michael says:

    Sorry, Kenny, those were not answers. Good bye.

    PS: I did let you have the last word.

  178. That was the longest rendering of “QED” that I’ve ever seen.

    But it was thoroughly that. Great post, Michael.

  179. Kevin says:

    Just in case he bothers reading replies.

    I hope you realize that whenever you feel the need to use silly names like “Gnu” atheist you are just showing yourself to be childish.

    The term was coined by atheists who didn’t like the New Atheist label, which itself was coined by an agnostic. Sounds like the New Atheists are the childish ones, correct?

  180. TFBW says:

    Eh, I’ve been brushed off, so I’m not going to be so generous with regards to the last word. Here’s an analysis of why Kenny’s multiple responses are, as Michael succinctly puts it, “not answers”.

    Michael: Why would the answered prayers be evidence for God?
    Kenny: Because many religions claim that God answers prayers, so it could provide an indicator, i.e. evidence, that God exists.

    Many religions claim that God created the universe, but the existence of the universe is not something that Kenny accepts as evidence, so this was never a categorically true answer. Rather, as we see later, there must also be no “better” (i.e. naturalistic) explanation for the phenomenon in question. In other words, there needs to be a gap in the naturalistic theory of everything for God to fill.

    Kenny: Would prayer work if God doesn’t exist?

    He answered my question with a question. Let’s cut through the rhetoric and assume he meant to assert what he asked: i.e. that prayer wouldn’t work if God didn’t exist. This is what makes it an archetypal example of a “God of the gaps” argument: it is premised on the idea that nothing could explain answered prayer except God. Suppose some later experiment found support for “the power of positive thinking” — no God required — and was able to classify prayer as an instance of positive thinking. So much for the premise, and so much for the gap. Suddenly this wouldn’t be evidence any more, as we are about to see.

    In Kenny’s response to Kevin, he repeats the phrase, “yes but we have MUCH BETTER evidence that …” quite a lot. These are all examples of Kenny declaring the naturalistic gap to be closed, and therefore discounting the argument. And by “much better” it’s fairly clear he means “naturalistic” (i.e. no God involved). I mean, for goodness sake, he cites “evidence that consciousness is merely a result of brain activity.” That “ow!” you just heard was Jerry Fodor pulling a muscle from rolling his eyes so hard.

    Doug: … why doesn’t a single instance of answered prayer “count” for the pray-er(s) who experience it?
    Kenny: Because anecdotal reports are unreliable.

    Kenny, the question included the qualifier, “for the pray-er(s) who experience it.” This is about direct experience, not anecdote. I could theorise as to why there is such a terrible mismatch between the question and answer, but I’ll just point it out as yet another example of why we say you don’t answer our questions.

    I’ll refrain from commenting on the whole “agnostic atheism” thing, except to say that Humpty Dumpty would approve of such use of language. When Kenny uses a word, it means just what he chooses it to mean; neither more nor less.

    So, goodbye Kenny: we (you included) are all going to save ourselves a lot of time now that you’ll leave questions unanswered by remaining silent rather than blathering and blowing smoke.

  181. Doug says:

    Kenny provided:

    it could provide an indicator, i.e. evidence, that God exists.

    as an answer to the question:

    Why would the answered prayers be evidence for God?

    But surely Kenny (and any other reader) is clever enough to appreciate that the question meant

    Why would answered prayers provide an indicator – i.e., evidence – that God exists?

    On the other hand, Kenny provided:

    anecdotal reports are unreliable

    as an answer to the question:

    why doesn’t a single instance of answered prayer “count” for the pray-er(s) who experience it?

    While it is true that statistics can help with generalization from anecdotes, they don’t magically transform them. If there is nothing of value in any anecdote, then there can be nothing of value in any aggregation of them. The problem, of course, is the common confusion between ontology (reality) and epistemology (knowledge), a distinction that is critical to understanding “how science works”. If prayers (plural) “could provide an indicator” of anything, then it must be the case that a prayer (singular) “could [also] provide an indicator” of precisely the same thing.

    Kenny’s endearing (and EMPHATIC) expressions of faith in materialism notwithstanding, life, consciousness, the universe itself, morality, art, science, rationality, and language, really have only the most hand-waving of materialistic groundings. Do they represent “gaps”, susceptible to “God-of-the-gaps” accusations? Sure thing. But as we’ve seen, that is precisely the kind of thing that atheists uniformly require as “actual, credible, real-world” evidence for God.

  182. Michael says:

    Taylor,

    The other day I had just enough time to stop at McDonalds in the morning before work. I’m out in my car, eating my breakfast sandwich and I check out your reply on my phone. I get to where you write, “So lets talk about what would make good evidence,” and say to myself, “Finally! Let’s get to the point.” So I read and scroll. Read and scroll. No answer. So I then scroll and scroll and scroll some more. I don’t have time for this, I say to myself. Off to work I go.

    So later that night, I read the rest of your reply. Two thousand five hundred words of reply and no answer about “what would make good evidence.” Look, when you post a 2500 word blizzard rather than just answer the simple question, it makes your position look weak. Very weak. It’s as if you were trying to hide the fact you had no answer by making my eyes bleed all over the keyboard.

    Okay, you claim you are being charitable and I will, in turn, be charitable and accept that on faith. But I focus on the New Atheists and their movement. And the New Atheist movement, judging from the rhetoric of its leaders and fans, is certainly not charitable. This blog, and its arguments, are almost always focused on New Atheist claims. And the whole idea behind New Atheism is not only that “there is no evidence for God,” but that science itself has shown there is no evidence for God. Those are the core claims that I have defeated with this blog entry.

    As for your pet dragon, unless you can show that your invisible pet dragon is analogous to God, then any claims about invisible pet dragons are irrelevant in a discussion of God. I know it is popular among atheists to raise invisible dragons, unicorns, teapots, fairies, whatever, when talking about God, but such bogus analogies muddy the water rather than provide clarity.

    As for Gaps, you are still missing the point. As I noted, the core/common assertion of the New Atheist movement is that “there is no evidence for God.” You yourself make similar claims over and over again:

    To the idea of being stupid, no claims here on this issue, because I know lots of very sharp people that are convinced by their Christianity, and spend a lot of time looking into ways to support it logically. Because they know they do not have the empirical evidence to support their claims.

    In your 1000 word reply, you asserted:

    I am not attacking you as delusional. I am saying you are making a culturally reinforced claim without any good evidence for it……

    And you also claimed:

    So final time. You present evidence, if the evidence is more likely to be man made than evidence of God, I will say the probability appears to be that men are making stuff up like they have for centuries.

    According to you, my Christian theism is just a culturally reinforced claim “without any good evidence for it.” I am supposed to “present evidence” while also knowing I “do not have the empirical evidence to support” my views.

    I understand these are your opinions (although you don’t seem too keen on labeling them as personal opinions). But the first question that comes to my mind is this – Am I supposed to agree with you? Am I supposed to believe that the only reasonable position is the one that claims there is no evidence for the existence of God?
    The answer is clear if we interpret your claims through the prism of the New Atheist movement – Yes! Yes, I am supposed to agree there is no evidence for God because this is the only reasonable position.

    Well, if I am supposed to agree with the atheist when the atheist insists there is no evidence for God, I need to know what that atheist would even count as evidence for God. It’s not a trick or a trap. It’s a clarification.

    So when you claim there is no evidence for God, I ask you what would count as evidence for God. And when you answer with a 2500 word reply that does not answer the question and instead talks about dragons, Zeus, and Joseph Smith and how charitable you are being, I see someone who can’t or won’t answer my question.

    So what’s next? A 5000 word reply that still doesn’t answer the question but adds Santa Claus, Kim Davis, and the Westboro Baptist Church to the mix?

  183. Pingback: How to Defeat Modern Day Atheism With Three Easy Questions – THINKAPOLOGETICS.COM

  184. Sick says:

    Answer to question one:
    For example: A discovery in science that proves a god to be necessary to create a universe such as we live in. I don’t know how that would be proven I am no Scientist.
    But since this is a little game you want to play: If (I could be sure that for whatever reason I am not under any Illusion) god would reveal himself to me by demonstrating his divinity in whatever way necessary (mastery over space and time would be nice, if I knew these had to be supernatural).

    Answer to question two:
    Well I would know that god can’t possibly be a part of nature willfully toying with me if he demonstrates that he is supernatural.

    Answer to question three:
    No. The God of the Gaps is a nothing but an argument from ignorance. You can not claim: I don’t know therefore God. As people do with Abiogenesis.

    I have given you a scenario in which we positively discover God/ supernatural forces as a part of the Universe, which can be understood an studied. Not a scenario in which we bump into a problem that we can’t solve right away and proceed to call it God on principle.

    Bonus question:
    Yes, technically. We could wire my brain to a lie-detector and you ask me whether I am open to the evidence.

  185. Pingback: Como derrotar o ateu moderno com três perguntas simples. | Em Defesa do Design Inteligente

  186. Michael says:

    mastery over space and time would be nice, if I knew these had to be supernatural).

    In other words, a Gap.

    But….

    Answer to question three:
    No. The God of the Gaps is a nothing but an argument from ignorance. You can not claim: I don’t know therefore God.

    But the Gap is nothing but an argument from ignorance.

    Sick demands a gap, then proceeds to insist any attempt to provide a gap is invalid.

  187. Sick is like the man who approaches a 190 car pile-up and, improbably, can’t find his brakes in time.

  188. Skeptic42 says:

    Answer 1: Any evidence for god has to lack natural explanations, but lack of explanation in and of itself is not proof of god. It also has to be

    Answer 2: Why does it have to be dramatic, miraculous, or sensational? These are all feelings. Modern day religion is built on the god of the gaps, atheism rejects it. But answering your question, if evidence proves god exists, it doesn’t require showmanship, it will stand on it’s own, as it is for anything that exists.

    Answer 3: As I stated, religion is based on the god of the gaps, and it goes beyond that to explain all chance events that favor you as god’s blessing, and events you dislike as god’s testing you. Misunderstanding random chance is used as evidence. But answering your question anyway, no, the god of the gaps is not evidence because you misunderstand that the term means invoking god to explain a phenomenon, even a natural phenomenon with a natural explanation.

    Your reasoning on answering this question is farcical. If I don’t just accept god as the explanation, then I’m close-minded, if I unconditionally accept what you have as evidence then I am dis-proven and you don’t even need to prove god exists. Demanding evidence is not deceitful, invoking the god of the gaps is. Gaps in knowledge does not equate to proof of god.

    Bonus Answer: As a skeptic, I keep an open mind, and work hard not to let it close, but I also don’t just accept anything, and what is presented I examine critically. Anecdotes, stories, fables, and presenting things that can’t be tested are not forms of evidence. If this is all you have, which I suspect, and you don’t like it being subjected to critical analysis, then there’s no point in presenting the evidence or examining it. If you evidence is really proof of god, then it will withstand any amount of examination.

    If you wish to prove god exists, you can’t do it with logic debates. First, you need to understand the terms you are using. Second, you need to study the topic and know what has already been debated before. You won’t come up with anything original. Third, you have to plug the holes in your logic. Fourth, and most important, you need the evidence. If you can only meet one of these, then make it #4, the rest won’t matter.

    Withholding evidence under the condition that I accept it unquestioningly not only undermines your position, it exposes the evidence as worthless.

    Present your evidence, I can keep an open mind. Can you?

  189. TFBW says:

    @Skeptic42:Your first answer is incomplete. You might want to try that again, and proofread a little before posting the comment. Your second answer is a non-answer: “it will stand on it’s own” is a vague appeal to obviousness which tells us precisely nothing. The goalposts are still well hidden. Your third answer is clear: you answer in the negative — one just has to read past the irrelevant commentary to reach the answer. The bonus question requested that you “provide evidence that you are capable of considering my evidence in an open- and fair-minded manner.” No such evidence is presented: you provide verbal assurances and general comments, but evidence is required because verbal assurances don’t cut it, and general comments are just worthless padding.

    You were able to answer one out of three questions, and did not meet the challenge of the bonus question. You opted for the “hide the goalposts” solution. Not a bad performance, given the record so far, but that’s faint praise. You could improve your work by cutting the superfluous commentary, getting straight to the point, and ensuring that it actually addresses the question as asked.

  190. Allallt says:

    YOUR QUESTIONS
    1. I don’t know. But, you know what convinced you. Perhaps we should be entertaining the question of how convincing and how communicable that it… I… oh… you still want me to somehow predict a state of future knowledge? Okay. It would need to be an observation whose best explanation is that of intelligence from outside our planet.. Something like the stars rearranging to say “I am the LORD”. But, each person observes this in their own language.
    This isn’t foolproof evidence (nothing is). Aliens could still be a good explanation (or a super-advanced race of humans for the future). But, at this point, what is the difference between aliens would can remotely move stars and/or effect perception and a God? It could also be a shared mass delusion, but that’s a much poorer explanation and an immensely powerful intelligence.

    2. It’s an event that appears to subvert the laws of physics with the intention of conveying meaning. The subversion of physics is evidence of immense power. Intent and meaning convey intelligence.

    3. No. This was not an example of ‘I don’t know, therefore God’. This was an event that acted as evidence for intelligence and power.

    A PROBLEM
    There’s no definition here of a God. So, I’ve got something that would convince me of immense power harnessed by an intelligence. But, you don’t get to append to that other elements of a God, like a moral arbiter or a universe-creator.

    I only see fit to accept those two characteristics, and maintain that the rest are not supported. If, to you, that means I haven’t accepted “God”, perhaps it’s on you to present a definition.

    PHILOSOPHICAL OBJECTION
    It may be that all functional ontologies don’t let you discover whether there’s a God, regardless of whether one exists. If that’s the case, you have to decide whether you believe in a God capricious enough to punish one for sticking to functional ontology and epistemology.

  191. TFBW says:

    Allallt has responded with the Demand for a Definition. Given that the questions in this post are targeted at the Demand for Evidence, not the Demand for a Definition, I don’t see any point in further analysis of the response. The Demand for a Definition is subject to an entirely different kind of criticism.

  192. Doug says:

    @Allallt,
    Don’t you think that it first makes sense to decide if the limits of functional ontologies are indeed ontological limits? And if you make such a decision, how do you propose to justify it?

  193. Doug says:

    @Allallt,
    I’m very much entertained by this framing of the hypothetical:

    …God capricious enough to punish one for sticking to functional ontology

    Let’s put it in human terms: your teenage son, as teenagers are wont to do, overlooks many of [all?] the benefits received from his parent, and suddenly (and, it seems, cruelly) begins to operate as though you do not exist. You (justifiably) feel slighted, and think you might get his attention by neglecting to pay his mobile phone bill…. How do you respond when he accuses you of being “capricious” in this “punishment”?

  194. Allallt says:

    Doug:
    I don’t think ‘functional ontologies’ necessarily include all of reality. I think that is very clear from what I said: “don’t let you discover whether there’s a God, regardless of whether one exists”. But the concept of a functional ontology is a real limit to our knowledge.

    If we have to start relying on dysfunctional ontologies and their resultantly chaotic epistemologies, we throw so much doubt into our ‘acquisition’ of knowledge as to not have achieved anything. So, actually, yes, having an ontology that functions is necessary. All ontologies that are dysfunctional inherently create so much doubt that they cannot lead to ‘knowing’.

  195. Allallt says:

    Doug:
    Sorry, I neglected your second comment, there. I’m not sure what you presented, the father/son scenario, really is putting my ‘philosophical objection’ into human terms. There are big and significant differences.

    Firstly, the son isn’t operating a functional ontology if one of the results is to not be aware of his own, physical, father, on whom the son has material dependence in elements of what he does.
    Secondly, getting one’s attention by ceasing their phone bill payments is very different from (what I understand to be) irreversibly being sent to hell as a matter of punishment.
    Thirdly, as the father is materially present and can literally and measurably interact with his son, the father has a reasonable expectation to be acknowledged; he is part of a functional ontology.

    God may not* be a part of our ontology. We have good reason to suspect It’s not: how long since your religion made it to your country? (Now consider all the people who lived and died in that country before the religion arrived. Other than by the say-so of a specific book, they had no access to such data.); the Bible describes God as being outside our ontology (“unseen”) as does a lot of theology. Knowing that, and being reasonable (which I assume you believe God is) God can’t really expect to be known. (The father can expect to be known.) That’s a major distinction in the evaluation of whether one is capricious (in this context).

    * I mean “may not” in likelihood terms, not in permissive terms i.e. I mean ‘there is a likelihood that God isn’t a part of our ontology’, not ‘I forbid God from being part of our ontology.

  196. Doug says:

    @AllAllt,
    John 1:18 might address your final point…

  197. Doug says:

    the concept of a functional ontology is a real limit to our knowledge

    I can’t find a sense of those words that works for me. A concept does not (cannot) limit knowledge. An ontology (cf. The Ontology — which I’ll grant is a different thing and almost certainly includes stuff beyond our ability to know) does not limit knowledge. Please clarify?

  198. Doug says:

    A functional ontology (among other things) precludes one’s ability to know whether a functional ontology is appropriate. And if I understand what you mean by a functional ontology, it pre-supposes a functionalist philosophy of mind, which is also indeterminate given a functional ontology. It is slightly odd to assess God on the basis of his (in)determinacy when the lever you use to do so is also indeterminate on its own basis.

  199. nawdew14 says:

    The very first line in Steve Greene’s argument fails to establish what is meant by evidence. “So this is how you validate atheism in one easy step: Ask the god-believer to produce actual, credible, real world evidence of this god.”

    What real-world evidence is he referring to and how can he determine what is real-world evidence? Steve Greene starts with the premise that only what is natural can be considered evidence. Since science cannot disprove a miracle, how can Steve claim “real-world” evidence is one proof for the existence of God? Can anyone claim a miracle has never taken place? NOPE. The empty tomb is a miracle that has yet to be refuted.

    So what is credible and according to who can judge what is credible, Steve? HARDLY. The Holocaust took place and the mountain of evidence validates it. But yet, there are those that claim it never took place. So does it matter if this supposed credible evidence exists? Nope. Based on the fact that Steve Greene only believes in natural science, nothing other than that will suffice. This is what he believes is a catch-22. But it is not.

    So what are some proofs for God that cannot be measured by natural science: free will, morality, contingency, the argument from evil, are some but there are others.

    Steve forgets the simple law of causality as well. If the universe exists, what caused it? Since we know that energy cannot create or destroy itself, what is the cause of the universe? Both Krauss and Hawking believe that the universe began at a point in time and was proven by the radiation afterglow discovery by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson.

    So what did Arno say about the discovery that Stephen Hawking said was the most important discovery of the 20th century;

    “The best data we have [concerning the Big Bang] are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the bible as a whole.” – Arno Penzias.

    Another quote about the Big Bang;
    An initial cosmological singularity… forms a past temporal extremity to the universe. We cannot continue physical reasoning, or even the concept of spacetime, through such an extremity… On this view the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself.
    Source: P. C. W. Davies, “Spacetime Singularities in Cosmology,” in The Study of Time III, ed. J. T. Fraser

    “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” ― Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers

    Now, why would someone, who was the head of NASA’s Goddard Center, say such a thing and from an agnostic no less.

    Then there’s Alister McGrath. “Atheism, I began to realize, rested on a less-than-satisfactory evidential basis. The arguments that had once seemed bold, decisive, and conclusive increasingly turned out to be circular, tentative, and uncertain.”

    He also makes a common mistake that many atheists make. Empirical Evidence. What exactly is empirical evidence? Well, according to the Live Science web site;

    “Empirical evidence is information acquired by observation or experimentation. This data is recorded and analyzed by scientists and is a central process as part of the scientific method.”

    That definition is accepted in the field of scientific research. Why do I say atheists get it wrong? Because in the context they try and force it, they expect it to be some tangible piece evidence. Can that evidence be placed in a comment section such as this? NOPE. It is, by Steve’s usage,
    something that can be deduced by our five senses. Here’s the problem, God is not material so He obviously cannot be tested in a lab. If He could, He would not be God. Besides, what constitutes empirical evidence for God and who makes that determination? NOT STEVE. For me, it is the observation of my life, that is something that Steve and many other atheists cannot accept, and really, I could care less. Nowhere in the Bible does it say to prove God’s existence. However, our lives should be a walking testimony. Too bad the atheists have buried their nose in a test tube instead of talking to Christians that live their life according to the God’s word instead of pointing to the false deeds of the Catholic church or that disgrace called the Westboro Baptist Church. Sadly, so many misguided people have taken the name of Christ and made a mockery out of His sacrifice.

    Nonetheless, the irony with Steve Greene is that he has no evidence to support his faith in atheism. He cannot point to something that can validate or even remotely justify his faith. This is his back door attempt. In essence, he is trying to cover up his inability to make an argument for atheism. He is committing the logical fallacy of Special Pleading. No less than setting the rules for discovery and if what is presented is not up to his standard, then it must not be true. It can be concluded that Steve Greene’s “one question” is nothing more than a sad attempt to cover up the failure of atheism.

  200. dognillo says:

    How do you know that God is not material and cannot be tested in a lab?

  201. Kevin says:

    Even if God has a perfectly suitable essence for scientific observation, the problem is the same as a theoretical multiverse. You can infer, but you can’t directly observe.

  202. dognillo says:

    Then we can’t know either way. At least not for now.

  203. Kevin says:

    I would agree. We can’t know. Suspicions and hunches may abound, however.

  204. G. Rodrigues says:

    @dognillo:

    “How do you know that God is not material and cannot be tested in a lab?”

    Because then he would not be God.

  205. dognillo says:

    He may not be your conception of God, but how do you know that your conception of God is the real God?

  206. G. Rodrigues says:

    @dognillo:

    “He may not be your conception of God, but how do you know that your conception of God is the real God?”

    He, meaning a “material god”, *cannot* be God as a matter of metaphysical necessity. Giving worship to such a being is idolatry, which in the Christian tradition is a sin and in fact the gravest sin, since it directly breaks the first and greatest commandment. Whether “my conception” (which is not mine at all, but the classical, traditional conception of God from Plato through the orthodox Christian tradition down to our days) is the “real God” depends on what you mean exactly by the question. You may be asking whether there exists a being that satisfies the desiderata of “my conception” of God, or you could be asking whether “my conception” of God is somehow deficient and fails to capture something that God of necessity must be.

    That may be the case (this is actually a tricky question), but it hardly matters for current purposes. For whatever one means by the word “God” it surely includes being the ultimate source and ground of all being — what this means exactly is spelled out differently, but with considerable convergence and overlapping by the different strands in the classical tradition. I suppose if one is to be a consistent atheist one would also have to deny that small-g gods exist (like a material god would necessarily be), but since, even if they do exist, these small-g gods are not God, I really do not care.

  207. dognillo says:

    So then it appears to me that you’re operating under the assumption that the material world requires something non-material to bring it into being. That might be true, but I’m not willing to assume that it is. I’m not assuming that anything is outside the bounds of science to understand.

  208. G. Rodrigues says:

    @dognillo:

    “So then it appears to me that you’re operating under the assumption that the material world requires something non-material to bring it into being.”

    I am not assuming anything. The only thing I mentioned is what God must be and cannot be. If I were to set out to find the Abominable snowman, I first would have to have some idea, even if only partial and incomplete, of what the Abominable snowman is, otherwise the search cannot even start. But to have an idea of what the Abominable snowman is is not the same thing as assuming that the Abominable snowman exists.

    What you say is indeed the case, but is not an assumption, but rather a conclusion established by argument.

    “I’m not assuming that anything is outside the bounds of science to understand.”

    Science — science in the sense of the modern empirical sciences (MES for short) — has for proper object, changeable material being. God is not a material being (or changeable for that matter), ergo God is outside the scope of what science can study.

    If on the other hand, you widen the scope of science to include more than its proper object, then not only you have to throw away the specific scientific methods which constitute the particular strength of the MES, it also follows that mathematics, metaphysics and theology are sciences in the same sense the MES are.

  209. dognillo says:

    Sorry, assuming was a poor choice of words. Concluding is much better, and what I really meant. I don’t think there’s anyone on this site that doesn’t have their reasons for believing as they do, at least from what I’ve seen. So please don’t take my comments as being critical of anyone’s belief.

  210. dee-u says:

    On Question 1: What would you count as “actual, credible, real world evidence for God?”, what if an atheist answers “Why don’t God show himself to everyone?”

    I’ve encountered such response from an atheist. How should an apologist respond to that? Thanks!

  211. Dhay says:

    The obvious response is, that doesn’t even attempt to answer Question 1.

  212. TFBW says:

    … what if an atheist answers “Why don’t God show himself to everyone?”

    Then he has simply re-phrased the “there’s no evidence” objection in a different way, and needs to answer a slight variation on question #1. Specifically, he needs to explain what it would look like if God were to show himself to everyone — what set of circumstances could clearly, unquestionably, and unanimously be recognised as God showing Himself to everyone? The atheist will probably nominate some kind of dramatic, miraculous, sensational event that would satisfy him personally — and then you’re back on script for question #2. The alternative is that he hand-waves in lieu of answering, such as saying that “God should be able to do it.” This is hiding the goalposts: stating that a requirement hasn’t been satisfied without ever spelling out the requirement in a way which would allow a third party to judge the case.

  213. dognillo says:

    Unless a precise definition/description of God can be provided then I see no way for the atheist to say what would count as real world evidence for God. The burden is on the believer, if they want an answer to question #1, to spell out exactly what they mean when they refer to God, and not on the atheist to try and guess what the believer is referring to. But from what I’ve seen there are so many variations in how God has been described, and each person seems to have their own version of exactly who God is, that spelling out exactly who God is would seem an almost if not impossible task for the believer. Which makes question #1 a rather pointless diversion.

  214. Kevin says:

    The burden is on the believer

    Not if an atheist opens with “There is no evidence for God”. He or she has obviously set the parameters if they can make such a declaration.

  215. Doug says:

    “insufficient precision” is only slightly more legitimate than “no evidence”.
    Its difficulty lies in the fact that there is also insufficient precision to require evidence for (off the top of my head):
    * other minds
    * love (& hence relationships)
    * beauty (& hence the arts)
    * value (& hence morality)
    * rationality (& hence science)
    But only the most impoverished folk lead lives denying any (let alone all) of the above.

  216. FZM says:

    dognillo,

    The burden is on the believer, if they want an answer to question #1, to spell out exactly what they mean when they refer to God, and not on the atheist to try and guess what the believer is referring to.

    I think Kevin is correct here:

    Not if an atheist opens with “There is no evidence for God”. He or she has obviously set the parameters if they can make such a declaration.

    If an atheist claims that there is ‘no evidence for God’ or that the existence of God is improbable, irrelevant etc. they seem to be making a positive claim of their own. In this case the burden is on the individual putting forward the claim.

    A side point, it also seems that unless an individual has some idea of what God is they can’t know whether they are an atheist or not.

  217. SteveK says:

    Looking at the 5 ways arguments, they begin with observations (evidence) and end with “and this we refer to as God”. How can anyone say there is no evidence for the conclusion? There could be something wrong with the argument itself, and we can discuss and debate the merits of that complaint, but that is different than saying there is NO evidence.

  218. dognillo says:

    I too agree with Kevin, if the atheist starts or ends the conversation with “There is no evidence for God”. That’s an obvious mistake. The problem I see is that the parameters the atheist has in mind may be and likely are vastly different than the parameters the believer has in mind. But the atheist and the believer can’t read each other’s mind to know exactly what the other is referring to. So the atheist and the believer just wind up talking past each other. I doubt that there can be a satisfactory resolution, other than agree to disagree, or live and let live. I’m all for live and let live. Such as don’t burn people at the stake, and don’t shut down the Amish, because they’re not doing anyone any harm.

  219. @dognillo

    Obviously we need to work on the parameters. Which, if I recall, is a major part of Michael’s point. He’s flushing out the idiots. You’re not an idiot.

    But I haven’t read the OP in a while. Just been getting the e-mail notifications, and I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe.

  220. dognillo says:

    I know, James. Sometimes I get a little hypersensitive, even though I know that Michael isn’t targeting normal (non militant) atheists like myself.

  221. Clay Cosmic says:

    Many atheists are, at least partially, and more specifically, igtheists. So I’ll see your article here and raise you one by the late philosopher Paul Kurtz: http://www.paulkurtz.net/Articles/skeptic%20about%20religious%20claims.htm 😉

  222. Kevin says:

    I certainly approve of that article. After all, I am skeptical of philosophical naturalism, but am open to changing my beliefs if given sufficient evidence.

  223. TFBW says:

    Clay, as far as I can tell from a brief skim of that article, it serves only to underscore the point raised here. Specifically, it demands “evidence” without ever making it clear what would qualify as sufficient in that regard. Where are the goalposts? Its conclusion states, “the skeptical inquirer finds inconclusive evidence,” so evidence exists, but is insufficiently conclusive. What would count as conclusive evidence, and why does it need to be conclusive anyhow? Is it just a case of setting the evidence bar high against an undesirable truth?

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  225. andydoerksen says:

    There’s also a related response that can, at the very least, level the playing field. For the atheist, the default position is that God doesn’t exist unless proved. The theist can simply turn this around by reflecting a reverse-mirror version of the question back to the atheist: “Can you produce actual, credible, real-world evidence of your ‘Non-god’? that Nothing created everything?”

    The point is this: Since most people throughout history have believed in some version of a Creator, then on what philosophical OR scientific grounds “should” atheism the default position? To allow the atheist that self-reassuring position is almost to give up the fight before you’ve laced up your gloves.

  226. Taylor Brett Walston says:

    For the atheist, the default position is… I have many neighbors who are asking me to be open minded about claims about the supernatural. Whether its Wicca, dowsing, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc. They all lead to different conclusions and all cannot be true. If you ask me to be open minded to supernatural occurrance, then its not just a false dichotomy of Atheism or Christianity.. I have to invite all my neighbors to the discussion. Because they cannot all be right, but they COULD all be wrong, the fair neutral position is the supernatural or god does not exist until you offer an objective way of demonstrating it. All of the believers that do not agree with you, use the same types of arguments about transformed lives, makes sense, has to be, prophecy, etc….So how do we objectively rule that one is true? Seems to me I am constantly invited to “prefer” one over the other because of problems with the people involved, the “rules” we don’t like about that system, yet we say our system is harsh and there are rules you will not like here… Its a silly game.

    So the philosophical or scientific grounding is just what I mentioned above.. They can’t all be true, but they can all be wrong. To not recognize the fairness of that position is tantamount to saying I am only going to fight in my home town arena, with my uncle the referee and my cousins the judges.

  227. James Parliament says:

    The fair/neutral position is agnosticism.

    Everything else you say makes sense.

  228. Taylor Brett Walston says:

    What I proposed is consistent with agnosticism. I.e. you show some objective proof and I am willing to accept it.

  229. James Parliament says:

    That’s why I say the rest of it makes sense.

    Except for: “the fair neutral position is the supernatural or god does not exist until you offer an objective way of demonstrating it.”

  230. Taylor Brett Walston says:

    So what is wrong with putting the burden of proof on the person making the affirmative assertion. I mean, if I said I had a lightsaber in my garage, would you be as accepting of a challenge back of prove I don’t?

  231. James Parliament says:

    First of all, I would not doubt that, because frankly one should not f*ck with light sabers. Better to believe you and arm myself.

    More seriously – you’re not wrong. But the tension in the debate is that the negative also labors under burden of proof. Without any knowledge or investigation, the proper answer is, “I don’t know.”

    What most atheists are saying about God is that they find it unlikely or incoherent to believe that God exists. They’re leaping ahead, in terms of investigation and knowledge, and making a negative claim. That’s fine – we’ll just want to know what the reasoning is.

    Likewise for claiming there is a God. I haven’t debated this with anyone in months, because it is so obvious to me that God must exist. That’s not the neutral position, though, and I acknowledge that.

  232. Kevin says:

    “So what is wrong with putting the burden of proof on the person making the affirmative assertion.”

    Dismissing the supernatural in the context of whether or not there is a god has a necessary flip side – the acceptance that there is a naturalistic explanation for existence and the features thereof. I find it fascinating that atheists describe atheism as the default position, yet they themselves have no evidence of a naturalistic explanation.

    For all practical purposes, since theism makes far more sense than atheism, I pretty well treat God as the default position, since I believe there is sufficient evidence and logical reason to believe he exists. After well over a decade of these debates, I personally can’t say the same for atheism.

    I don’t lose sleep if an atheist disagrees with me, but if he wants me to stop believing in God, as New Atheists actively do, the burden is on him to show how the evidence is better explained by a specific naturalistic explanation. “Science has only detected nature so why not accept that’s all there is” is not an argument, or at least a good one.

  233. James Parliament says:

    @Kevin

    “I pretty well treat God as the default position, since I believe there is sufficient evidence and logical reason to believe he exists.”

    I had a friend recently, who says he’s agnostic but “identifies” with atheists become upset when I quoted Proverbs, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” Just in general, not specifically to him.

    We had avoided the subject altogether for years, and following that, he said ok, he was ready to hear my arguments. I suggested to him that the arguments for God were more fundamental than the arguments for any given scientific finding – indeed, for all of Science (TM)!

    He couldn’t begin to process that. I went straight to my exit strategy.

  234. TFBW says:

    @Taylor Brett Walston:

    Because they cannot all be right, but they COULD all be wrong, the fair neutral position is the supernatural or god does not exist until you offer an objective way of demonstrating it.

    I think this position contains fallacious reasoning. The position of atheism (as a positive assertion that there is no God) is just one more incompatible claim about God among the many others. Nothing makes the non-existence position “fair” or “neutral” relative to the others. It has the special distinction of being a non-existence assertion rather than an existence assertion, but that in and of itself does not make it “fair” or “neutral”.

    Let’s put it this way: if I had neighbours which disagreed on the sum of one and one — some saying “one”, some saying “two”, some saying “three”, and so on, the fair and neutral position this would not be to assume that the sum was zero until mathematical proof was offered for one of the other answers.

    The fact that “they can’t all be right and they can all be wrong” is a non sequitur in this argument: it does nothing to justify the specific position you’ve assigned as the “default”. That is, you start the quoted sentence above with “because”, but there is no logical basis for the “because”. Clearly, if you don’t know what the sum of one and one is, the appropriate thing to do is admit that you don’t know, not assume that it’s zero. Similarly, if you don’t know whether God exists, the appropriate thing to do is admit that, not assume that He doesn’t until objective demonstration comes along.

    To justify the position “God does not exist” as the default in this manner is merely to accept an informal logical fallacy as rationalisation for one’s preferred position. I can explain why your “lightsaber in the garage” analogy fails to serve its intended purpose in this regard if you want it spelled out to you.

    But let’s suppose that you back off positively-asserted atheism (which would involve repudiating “there is no God” as a “neutral” position) and embrace agnosticism instead. On that subject, you say:

    What I proposed is consistent with agnosticism. I.e. you show some objective proof and I am willing to accept it.

    This brings our attention to the other elephant in the room: the question of what would count as “objective proof” for the existence of God in general, or the Christian God in particular. If “objective proof” is a meaningful concept in this context, then there must be some logically possible set of conditions which instantiate it. What would they be? If you don’t know what they are, then we have no assurance that you would recognise “objective proof” if you saw it, and the whole demand for objective proof is just a bluff — an excuse to hold on to your current position. If you do know what conditions would satisfy “objective proof”, then please share, and we can discuss the implications of your choice.

  235. Michael says:

    So what is wrong with putting the burden of proof on the person making the affirmative assertion.

    If someone (like Dawkins) is going to claim I am delusional, that is an affirmative assertion.

  236. Taylor Brett Walston says:

    TFBW the position of defaulting to not believing a particular claim is not a negation of a possible claim. When I say objective proof I am looking for objective proof of anything supernatural happening. You can claim this is meaningless but there are plenty of examples of miracles happening in your mythologies (using mythology until we have this objective proof) of miraculous things happening specifically as proof. Either of god’s anger, or to show your prophets are better than their sorcerors, etc. But these things all happen off camera so to speak. Its not like one faith is demonstrating true supernatural causation that we can say hey, I am not positive your god claim is completely right, but look here, there is definitely something worth investigating. Because the “proofs” we have today are all very subjective. Highly subject to confirmation bias, etc.

    And the neutral position of not accepting a god claim without proof is the ONLY position that will lead you open to a different god truth if it is not the one you (and likely your family before you) happen to like. If I were to say to you, hey, I have evidence you are partially right.. there is a god, its eternal, omniscient, but not all loving, that is just men making things up to make us feel more special in the big scale of things.. but the Muslims are also partially right, the universe is a test. And this god has seeded life across the universe, with the species that solve the puzzle being the ones actually worth talking to.

    All of a sudden I have a reason for more than just this planet, I have the evidence of creation, my god has no problem of evil, because I am not claiming its all good. There is a good reason for the difficulties we face in life, and there is no promise of anything. If we want to twiddle our thumbs arguing over who’s origin story is better, then we will quit searching for the real answer out there and likely kill ourselves off on this rock because of it.

    Now… my story is just as plausible as yours, avoids some of the problems of yours, but you won’t let me get away with telling this story without some kind of “proof” will you? You would want to KNOW how I know this right? But how would you be able to question any claims I made about the supernatural in a way you can confirm my answer? You can’t right, so that puts my answer in the bucket of a potential right answer, but no more falsifiable than any other intangible omniscient, omnipresent won’t give proof to the likes of you answers right?

    Do you really think a god that wants to talk to us would start with one tribe of people and wait for them to get around to spreading the message, then decide they are too slow, so bless the Romans without telling them what is going on, let them steam through, then send a message that is so unconvincing to this special tribe of people that you have to sell it to pagan tribes? Oh my, this exactly what you would expect to happen if people were making things up as they went along. No true answers, just subjective arguments over is this right, is this interpretation of this doctrine right, is this thing I find pleasing to god better than that thing you think is pleasing to god?

    And notice, despite the fact we have people “conversing” with god in the Old Testament where they could presumably learn or correct themselves, we have nothing but people asserting they have a relationship and migrating with the denomination that “feels” right to them. Whether its because this group feels more loving, this group feels more prestigious, or that group is “strict” in their Bible… there are many different ways of exercising your religion and unfortunately despite claims to the truth you have only three ways of handling dissenting opinions about what this Bible or God really tells you.

    Eradicate – in the good old days it seems god wanted you to eliminate the enemy, but keep their women. This has kind of fallen out of fashion today, so if our neighbors are heathens we are kind of frowned upon if we initiate violence against them.. so unless they start it.. no dashing babies against stones gleefully for this generation. I have to ask, with objective truth, morality etc… what would it take for you personally to be convinced by another man today, in this day and age that this is what your god needs you to do on its behalf? Could you?

    Assimilate. If we are caught between a rock and a hard place, well… its not politically expedient, or our dominant rulers aren’t going to let us squash the neighbors who have heretical ideas, then I guess we have to just hunker down and when they start talking about how great their gods are, we better make sure ours is even better. Like the fiery pits of hell idea you picked up from the Babylonians.

    Fragment. If you and your fellow faith keepers can’t agree on a point of doctrine, their is nothing to consult for this objective truth. You read the bible this way, your buddy reads it that way and you can’t agree to the point where your wives and friends that think you are right urge you to get away from this idea and let’s start a church of our own. Like those who think the love message of the Bible is more important than the hate the homosexuals message, to the point they allow homosexuals to minister. What can you do to confirm this? My mother in law belongs to a denomination that thinks that music in worship is not Biblical, yet I have many friends who are faithful and think that music enhances their worship. But it matters enough to some folk to say they have completely missed the mark and cannot get to heaven. Likewise on his deathbed, my catholic father in law was not loved and appreciated by his wife, she was terrified he would not get to heaven unless he converted. So despite 35 years of marriage and not accepting her faith, he grudgingly did at his last moments. So was this a true conversion or just making her happy? Would it really fool a god?

    So you see, despite the claims of having a truth, you really are in a position of “thinking you know”, but not being able to prove what you know. Because despite claiming an objective final truth giver, you can’t get it to weigh in on the question at hand. Only ask one another what we think, what we feel, what we “teach” about the truth.

    And that is also 100% consistent with what you would expect if all this was made up.

    So yes, the neutral position of I am not going to believe in something until I feel there is satisfactory objective proof of it is a very valid position to be in. It acknowledges I could be wrong. It allows for the possibility of heretofore unpresented answers, as much as you would like to pretend this is the case, it does not prevent me from entertaining other evidences. I am just more skeptical than you are about your particular claims.

    Which is more likely, that a god that is truth giving wants to hide messages from us in obscure textual understandings, or that people made it up? Has any god story shown a simultaneous origin at multiple places in the world at once? I mean, even if the Tower of Babel story were true, and god scattered everyone, wouldn’t their souls have been important enough to give them a base framework of what they need to do to be saved? A little hint of prophecy?

    But no, you are still thinking like men making up stories. This one is special, our god is special, if we keep telling each other we have the “Truth” than we must have the truth. But the holes in the story are there for the seeing if you quit glamorizing the founders and challenge them the same way you will challenge other faith traditions you don’t believe in.

    Which is why objective proof matters to me. I want the kind of proof that will get a Muslim, a Hindu, an atheist, and a Christian to all stop what we are doing and say hey, this is good enough we are all willing to give up our current position to go investigate it. And unfortunately, I see the same kinds of deflections used all around that how dare we challenge (not gods, because they are not in the conversation) the ideas of gods expressed to us by other men.

  237. Taylor Brett Walston says:

    For Kevin “. I find it fascinating that atheists describe atheism as the default position, yet they themselves have no evidence of a naturalistic explanation.” Please be honest about our position… and add the qualifier that we would use. No evidence for a naturalistic explanation YET. And we have ZERO confirmable proof of anything supernatural. So that does put naturalism a little bit ahead of the class right?

    The sad point is that what we are going to learn about a naturalistic explanation is probably going to change as we explore… the next system, the next galaxy, another galaxy across the universe… assuming we avoid killing ourselves before this is possible. But that answer is going to be very far in our future at this pace, and I do not find it an irrational or dishonest position to say that while I am sorry to not have answers to everything in my lifetime, I am not OWED answers to everything in my lifetime. So like you will die not knowing what the beaches of Alpha Centaur (habitable) planet number 1 feel like, so will I. Why does not knowing this not bother you? Because you don’t expect to in your lifetime. Pretending to have all the answers is not automatically a better position than an I don’t know, why don’t you show me answer…

  238. Vy says:

    Two word salads that amount to:

    I know I don’t know everything, and I admit it, but I know the evidence for God is subjective, he is mythological, and there’s ZERO “proof” – here are my ramblings on why… fragmentation, x, y z – and I know this is what made up stuff looks like. I know the probablymaybecouldness explanation is forthcoming and thus feel no reason to open-mindedly investigate the (strawman) ‘Goddidit’ explanation because again, the evidence for God is subjective and I’m looking for evidence that will get me, Muslims, Us, Vs, Bs, etc. to go “Hmm, that looks nice. I’m now a believer”

    .

    Apparently the moon landings never happened because all the evidence in the world is yet to convince those that deny it. Also add the heliocentrism of the solar system to the “subjective evidence” pile since we still have hypocrites like Rick DeLano who are impervious to such evidence.

  239. TFBW says:

    @Taylor Brett Walston: That was an exceedingly long reply which contained a great deal of verbiage which bore no relevance to anything I said. If you’re going to reply to me, please reply to my actual words. I’m going to ignore all the bits which were irrelevant, because time is precious.

    Now, as to some things which were relevant, you said, “the position of defaulting to not believing a particular claim is not a negation of a possible claim.” While that’s possibly true, it differs from what you said earlier, which was, “the fair neutral position is the supernatural or god does not exist until you offer an objective way of demonstrating it.” That is not a mere lack of belief in the existence of God: it is belief in non-existence. I was responding to that earlier remark. Are you repudiating it now?

    Also, you say, “I am looking for objective proof of anything supernatural happening.” Understood, but you’ll have to spell it out in greater detail than that. What sort of phenomenon would qualify as such objective proof? Perhaps you could give us an example. You mention miracles, but express some dissatisfaction that they aren’t available for you to scrutinise. Are you looking for miracles which can be produced on demand in controlled conditions, or what, exactly? And what quality makes an event a miracle, exactly?

  240. Doc Washburn says:

    I have been a Christian for almost 45 years. I interact with atheists on social media on a regular basis. I was looking forward to learning from your article, but unfortunately you assumed that everyone is already familiar with the concept “God of the gaps”. Since I am not at all familiar with the concept, I got lost rather quickly. It would be helpful if you would explain it for those of us who don’t understand it.

  241. Michael says:

    The God of the Gaps argument essentially states that gaps in scientific knowledge are taken to be evidence or proof of God’s existence. Put simply, if natural laws/chance/science cannot explain X, God must have caused it.

    Over the years, I have found that when the atheist demands evidence for God, the vast majority want some type of Gap – something that science could not explain. When they ask for evidence, they are asking for Gaps. I have also found the same vast majority to insist that God of the Gaps reasoning is flawed. It’s a game of “heads I win, tails you lose.” Such a closed approach then purchases a strong sense of certainty. If the theist provides a Gap as evidence, it will be denied as invalid because it is God of the Gaps reasoning. But if the theist provides anything less than a Gap, it will be denied as evidence because the atheist needs a Gap.

    Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll make changes when I rewrite and repost the essay.

  242. Doug says:

    Part of the background of “God of the gaps” is the history of many “gaps” used as (failed) evidence for God, having been closed due to scientific advancement. The “logic” appears to be:
    P1: scientific advancement has eliminated many gaps in the past.
    P2: vanishing gaps cannot possibly represent evidence for God.
    C1: (from P1) anything resembling a gap in our present knowledge will certainly become closed at some point due to future advances in science.
    C2: (from P2 and C1) a gap in present knowledge can never represent evidence for God.
    Typically, however, the skeptic wielding the phrase “God of the gaps” doesn’t want anyone to pay attention to the (remarkably weak) logic involved. Hence the sneering that typically accompanies its deployment.

  243. Rambling Jack says:

    So, what repeatable, tangible evidence of supernature is there? I’ll accept anything that is not explainable by scientific theory.

  244. Michael says:

    So, what repeatable, tangible evidence of supernature is there? I’ll accept anything that is not explainable by scientific theory.

    So you want a Gap? Are you admitting that the God of the Gaps approach is valid?

  245. badreporting says:

    I think the real problem is that atheists don’t know what to ask for in terms of proof. It’s not as easy as saying, “What would constitute proof for you that a unicorn exists?” We know how to define a unicorn. We know what one should look like and what its general behavior should be, based on the mythos. We can identify what a dragon is and what it should look like and how it should behave, but God does not fit into neat, tiny boxes that way. You can’t pinpoint what color God is or what gender or hair or eye color. You can’t specifically say what it is that you can expect from Him, since His behavior adapts to the person He encounters. He can appear as a destitute beggar or as an animal or as an unexplainable force. It’s entirely up to Him how and when and whether He appears. Most atheists fail to get that the evidence they should be looking for isn’t material per se. It’s not going to come in these flashy “gap” moments of unexplained phenomena. Their belief system would cause their brain to dismiss or discount those as coincidence, anyway. I’ve seen it happen. God is a being that, by all accounts and records, desires to connect with human beings on a personal level. Therefore, the evidence that an atheist who really wants to know if God exists should be seeking is whether or not they can get God to interact with them. This is where most atheists will tell you prayer doesn’t “work” because it doesn’t produce the results they ask to receive. Most people who are atheists and pray treat God like he’s supposed to be some algebraic equation where you put in x and you get y every time, but that would actually be an indicator that this is not a living being you’re dealing with but an automation. They pray for stuff like, “Let me win the lottery” or “Cure cancer”, but that’s kind of like walking up to a total stranger and demanding stuff from them without bothering to get to know them first. Even if they could do it for you, they aren’t likely to. Rather, what I would recommend being done is to spend about 5-10 minutes each day reading Scripture and then asking God a question about what you’ve read or about who He is or why He does things. Record the question in a journal and share it with no one else. Record each time you get an answer, how long it took you to get the answer, and what the answer was and how it came to you. Since God is supposed to be love, if you can develop a relationship with Him, you should begin to notice changes in your own behavior. You should start noticing an increase in your peace, patience, forgiveness, generosity, gratitude, etc. Track this stuff over 40-60 days and see what you find.

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