We have seen that the central claim of New Atheism – “There is no evidence for God” – is equivalent to saying “There are no Gaps.” That is, the evidence that the atheist demands is a Gap – something that cannot be explained by natural laws. Yet the same atheist will insist that the God of the Gaps approach is not a valid way of determining whether God exists. Heads I win, tails you lose.
Of course, don’t make the mistake of thinking that if only you could find a big enough Gap, the New Atheist would have to embrace that as evidence for God. After all, that’s not how it would work with Richard Dawkins, the most famous atheist alive. Dawkins made this clear some time ago in an interview with atheist Peter Boghossian. You can see the demonstration for yourself in the video below. It starts at 12:30 and goes to 15:30. I’ll post a transcript below the fold.
Here is the transcript (with the relevant claims):
Boghossian: What would it take for you to believe in God?
Dawkins: I used to say it would be very simple. It would be the Second Coming of Jesus or a great, big, deep, booming, bass voice saying “I am God.” But I was persuaded, mostly by Steve Zara, who is a regular contributor to my website. He more or less persuaded me that even if there was this booming voice in the Second Coming with clouds of glory, the probable explanation is that it is a hallucination or a conjuring trick by David Copperfield. He made the point that a supernatural explanation for anything is incoherent. It doesn’t add up to an explanation for anything. A non-supernatural Second Coming could be aliens from outer space.
[Peter Boghossian begins to speak and is in full agreement with Dawkins, arguing, for example, that if the stars spelled out a message from God, we would first have to rule out alternative explanations, like an alien trickster culture.]
Dawkins then agrees with Boghossian.
Boghossian then asks him: So that [stars aligned into a message] couldn’t be enough. So what would persuade you?
Dawkins: Well, I’m starting to think nothing would, which, in a way, goes against the grain, because I’ve always paid lip service to the view that a scientist should change his mind when evidence is forthcoming.
As Dawkins says, even if the Second Coming of Christ were to actually occur, Dawkins would not consider even that evidence for God. In his mind, it would be more likely that aliens would be playing a trick. Dawkins has painted himself into a corner with his extreme skepticism. In his mind, God = the supernatural and natural explanations, no matter how vague or incomplete, are always better than explanations that invoke the supernatural. Thus, it is not surprising he effectively admits nothing would persuade him to believe in God. In fact, he even makes a Freudian slip in acknowledging that all along, he has merely been paying “lip service” to the view that “a scientist should change his mind when evidence is forthcoming.” It’s all been an illusion.
As atheist activist PZ Myers once wrote, ” There is no valid god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence, so let’s stop pretending the believers have a shot at persuading us.”
It is indeed time New Atheists stop pretending they can persuaded with Gaps.