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.”
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.
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.
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.