The militant atheist movement is built on the belief that there is no evidence for God. Of course, such atheists are entitled to their opinions on this matter, but because of their militancy, and the way it serves their agenda, they will not acknowledge their opinion is an opinion. Instead, they posture as if they have discovered some objective truth – There is no evidence for the existence of God. We’re all supposed to agree.
Yet if we are supposed to agree with this claim, we’d like to know exactly what it is we are supposed to agree with. So we ask the New Atheists what would actually count as evidence for the existence of God. Typically, the New Atheists will tap dance around that question, insisting there is no evidence without telling us what such evidence would look like. This is their Hide The Goalposts tactic.
However, if pressed, some New Atheists will spell it out, especially when they are trying to make themselves look open-minded about the issue. One example is atheist activist Jerry Coyne who, in a blog post entitled, “What evidence would convince you that a god exists?, wrote:
There are so many phenomena that would raise the specter of God or other supernatural forces: faith healers could restore lost vision, the cancers of only good people could go into remission, the dead could return to life, we could find meaningful DNA sequences that could have been placed in our genome only by an intelligent agent, angels could appear in the sky. The fact that no such things have ever been scientifically documented gives us added confidence that we are right to stick with natural explanations for nature. And it explains why so many scientists, who have learned to disregard God as an explanation, have also discarded him as a possibility.
So we have a list. But what we don’t have is a reason for thinking anything on the list should count as scientific evidence for the existence of God. Coyne makes no effort to explain WHY such phenomena would constitute such evidence. He merely asserts it and then moves on. Do other atheists agree such things would amount to evidence for God? No. For example, PZ Myers would not consider any of those events to be evidence of God. So Coyne’s laundry list is simply a list of things that Coyne would personally count as evidence for God (or so he says). That’s not how science works, people.
So why would Coyne personally count these five things as evidence for the existence of God? In fact, what is it that all five things have in common? The answer is the same for both questions – these are gaps that could not be explained by science. Coyne is advocating God-of-the-Gaps atheism. He is basically arguing “I am an atheist because there are no Gaps,” which is a position that embraces the validity of the God-of-the-Gaps approach.
In fact, this God-of-the-Gaps atheism was clearly championed in an essay by Victor Stenger some time ago (and the essay was endorsed by Coyne):
Many of the attributes associated with the Judaic-Christian-Islamic God have specific consequences that can be tested empirically. Such a God is supposed to play a central role in the operation of the universe and the lives of humans. As a result, evidence for him should be readily detectable by scientific means. If a properly controlled experiment were to come up with an observation that cannot be explained by natural means, then science would have to take seriously the possibility of a world beyond matter.
So if God exists, His existence would be detected by an observation that cannot be explained by natural means. A Gap. Like Coyne, Stenger needed a Gap. The Gap = evidence for God. All evidence for God must be a Gap.
Of course, if some theist were to insist that some aspect of our reality was not explained by science and thus evidence for God, the New Atheist would declare this invalid because it was relying on……..faulty God-of-the-Gaps reasoning.
Huh? The very reasoning used to prop up atheism suddenly becomes faulty?
Sneaky. The New Atheists insist there is no evdience for God because there are no Gaps and thus demand someone provide them a Gap. When someone tries to provide then a Gap, the New Atheists scorn them for relying on Gaps and trying to provide gaps.
If there was real intellectual substance to New Atheism, why do they have to build and maintain their position on such a contradictory and deceptive approach? I think it is time for New Atheists to start being honest and admit they embrace the logic of God-of-the-gaps reasoning.
I don’t. But they do.