Atheist Tries to Defend Demand for Evidence

Eric Hyde lists 10 common atheist arguments and explains why they fail. He nails it with #1 on his list:

“1. There is no evidence for God’s existence.”

Hyde comments:

There are a couple of problems with this line. Starting with the idea of ‘evidence,’ what exactly does one mean by evidence? What is sufficient evidence for one person is often not sufficient evidence for another. A court of law provides innumerable examples of how two parties can possess the same collection of data, the same power of logic and reasoning, yet argue for completely different interpretations of the data. The old saying is true: the facts do not determine the argument, the argument determines the facts.

Indeed. As we have seen, there is a distinct subjective aspect to evidence, meaning that “evidence” does not rescue us from the subjective nature of our beliefs.

Atheist Bob Seidensticker, a Hardware designer and software programmer who graduated from MIT, responds by side-stepping this point:

Hyde begins by asking what “evidence” means. My answer: evidence or argument of sufficient quality that would convince you the other guy’s argument is strong.

Seidensticker never addresses the subjective element of evidence and thus ends up reinforcing Hyde’s point. His entire definition is entirely dependent on subjectivity – what someone might personally might find to be of “sufficient quality” to be “convincing.” So when the atheist demands “evidence” from the theist or insists “there is no evidence for God’s existence,” we need to probe the subjective demands of the atheist; we need to know what data would count as “sufficient quality” to “convince” the atheist. Failure to provide this information is Hiding the Goalposts.

Seidensticker then quotes Hyde:

… but this is hardly sufficient evidence in the court of atheist opinion, a court which presupposes that only what can be apprehended by the senses rightly qualifies asevidence. For the Christian who believes in a transcendent God, he can offer no such evidence; to produce material evidence for God is, ironically, to disprove a transcendent God and cast out faith.

and replies:

Ah, the old “Science can say nothing about God because God is immaterial” argument. If your point is that God hides in his supernatural realm, which science can’t access, then I agree.

Once again, we see the atheists struggling with Theology101. That God is transcendent is not some rhetorical trick designed to “hide” God in the supernatural. It’s just a basic part of the definition of God. Does Seidensticker think that if God existed, this would entail science’s ability to tell us how tall God is and how much God weighs?

But your God then becomes not only immaterial but irrelevant. God is only relevant to our reality if he changes our reality—tweaks evolution, causes miracles, answers prayers. And those interactions in our reality are things that science can (in principle) test for.

At this point it becomes clear that the MIT graduate does not know how to think like a scientist. First of all, the “in principle” qualifier is bogus. “In principle” means “in the imagination of Bob Seidensticker” and something that exists only in the imagination of Bob Seidensticker is not science.

Second, and more importantly, those of us who understand how science works know that a tweaking of evolution, a miracle, or an answered prayer do not necessarily entail the ability to science to detect it. Science is not some kind of magic wand that can detect each and every empirical event that has ever happened and is currently happening everywhere. Science detects only through the limitations if its experimental design. I’ve already show this, for example, in my discussion of the resurrection:

Once we recognize the theological dimension of the resurrection, it becomes clear that science cannot address the actual Christian belief. For how could you possibly test this one-time divine intervention with an experiment?

If science is going to address a claim, science must be able to formulate that claim as a testable hypothesis. If you want science to pass judgment on the Resurrection, you need some type of scientific analysis to determine whether or not this miracle occurred. You need to formulate the resurrection belief as a testable hypothesis. So what is it? If Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, what do you predict that we should be able to find in the lab or in the field?

Or fill in the blank. If Jesus rose from the dead, then we should be able to detect ___________.

To date, there isn’t a single atheist on this planet who can answer that question or fill in that blank. This is because God can indeed change the world without science being able to confirm it.

Lastly:

As for atheists demanding evidence, well yeah. How else do we reliably understand something? If you sense a truth in a vague way that no one else can experience or verify, that may be important to you, but it is useless in convincing others. You wouldn’t be convinced by that argument from some other religion, so why should I accept it from you?

That’s fine. But we are still left with Hyde’s observation:

What is sufficient evidence for one person is often not sufficient evidence for another. A court of law provides innumerable examples of how two parties can possess the same collection of data, the same power of logic and reasoning, yet argue for completely different interpretations of the data. The old saying is true: the facts do not determine the argument, the argument determines the facts.

Look, atheism is not the Truth.

Atheism is not some scientific discovery.

Atheism is a subjective opinion.

Atheist’s are entitled to their opinions. I, for one, do not demand they abandon their opinion and embrace theism “because of the evidence.” The problem is when the atheist expects us to accept their opinions as Truth or Science.

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5 Responses to Atheist Tries to Defend Demand for Evidence

  1. Jakeithus says:

    Hiding the goalposts seems to be Bob’s M.O., one of the more frustrating atheist bloggers I’ve ever had the displeasure of debating. His entire argument around why abortion is ok depends on his idea that infants are people while fetuses are not, yet he fails to provide any sort of goalpost for what personhood actually entails. It’s the only way I could see for him to paper over the flaws in his thinking and this topic seems no different.

  2. mclasper says:

    There are things that can be called evidence of God, but there is no evidence that cannot be explained in any other way.

  3. Michael says:

    ….which is probably relevant to the anal retentive types with a psychological need for certainty.

  4. No Man's Land says:

    Oh my. Existence, consciousness, higher causality, intentionality, abstract ideas, intelligibility of the world and so forth do not admit of natural or material solutions. Indeed only a deep confusion could cause one to think that they do.

  5. Larry Olson says:

    “Starting with the idea of ‘evidence,’ what exactly does one mean by evidence?”

    Starting with the idea of ‘God’, what exactly does one mean by God? Vague handwaving and a thousand different religious cults all have different definitions of God, therefore there are either multiple gods, all catering to each person individually, or millions of people got God wrong. Pascal’s wager is a joke because if you choose God, you might be choosing the incorrect God. If one chooses the Islam God, it is a completely different God than the Christian God, and one cannot move the goal posts and claim as long as you believe in some sort of God you are scot free and are well on your way. This is not resolvable because each god has completely different rules than the other, so you can’t just choose one God like Pascal’s Wager seems to think you can.. if you for example choose the christian god and the muslim god happens to be the correct one, then you’re so out of luck…. all your life as a christian you may have been allowing women to walk around without bags on their heads, but the Islam god demands sharia law, not christian law.

    By not practicing Sharia law you have violated the Koran, so choosing Christianity or Hinduism when you should have chose Islam could literally mean you end up in hell of some kind, even if not a literal hell but possibly purgatory for thousands of years, or maybe even just no invitation into heaven at all and back on earth you go (jehovah witness belief?) or maybe you just end up as void nothingness. And it’s all your fault, for not picking the right religion, even though God never told you the correct religion.

    After all if God told you the correct religion, then he most certainly would have told those suicide pilot people on the plane that hit 9/11 “you’re doing it wrong” before they killed themselves and thousands of people in the world trade center. Even if the 9.11 was rigged by the government (fat chance) this only shows that God let the government get away with murder and could care less about saving the lives of hundreds of innocent people in the trade center (blame free will – but if we have free will and control over our lives, then god can’t have control, because free will overrides God, therefore God has no purpose, and is more like a deist God who set it and forget it).

    Back to the quote: so what do you mean by God. Each person has strange definitions of what God is, each religion has his own version and rules. God definitely is not perfect, yet almost all God’s are defined as being perfect. If someone would come up with a definition of God as a science experimenter with no up front plan, this would be much more of a convincing religion. The people starving in africa (millions) could be explained away by a God who just hasn’t tweaked the knobs or buttons correctly in the game of life, since he’s not a perfect God. Eventually a lot of these people who converted to the Imperfect God theory, would then become antitheists fed up with the thousands of years it takes God to get even basic things right, like say, oh I don’t know, 99 percent of animals going extinct. Throwing temper tantrums and having meteors crash in to earth to kill the dinosaurs because you didn’t like your design, seems rather strange. did the asteroid that hit earth have free will, or did god throw it in earth’s direction? did he use physics to kill the dinosaurs, or do physics themselves have free will?

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