Not Enough Evidence – A Response

The second of the Saints and Sceptics short series addressing what it calls popular atheist arguments is Not Enough Evidence (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/three-popular-atheist-arguments-part-2/)

My response to the first post is here: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/the-presumption-of-atheism-a-response/ . There is a third post in the series but I’m unlikely to make a response to that one.

This second post makes reference to Bertrand Russell and his apparent refrain of ‘Not enough evidence God! Not enough evidence!’ The source of this attribution would appear to be in this article, http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1974feb23-00025, where in response to the question of what he’d say if faced with God, Mr Russell replied “I probably would ask, ‘Sir, why did you not give me better evidence?’ ”

Personally, I prefer Stephen Fry’s response, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-suvkwNYSQo.

That’s not the point of this post though, the question at hand is on the evidence while we’re alive, not the hypothetical.

The Saints and Sceptics item opens by setting the scene that the atheist case is that in the absence of evidence the default position is non-acceptance, in other words, no evidence for god means atheism is the starting point and the case must be made for a god in order for that position to become considered. Okay so far. Saints and Sceptics calls this the presumption of atheism. Reference is made to the first item in the series with the conclusion that:

So, even if the insufficient evidence objection is accepted, it doesn’t provide a good reason to accept atheism

And if you read my response to the first item you’ll see that there is a mismatch in the understanding of atheism. Atheism is the non adherence of theism. That is no belief in god. Like in the first item, Saints and Sceptics has gone for the far end of atheism and used that to define all atheism. I won’t repeat my response to that.

Moving on, we get to:

For example, if the only kind of evidence that can be considered for the existence of an entity is direct detection with the five senses, then there would be no evidence for God.

Good, this is why I have no belief in any god.

However, this is completely inadequate as an account of evidence, even within science.

Uh oh!

If evidence is understood more plausibly in terms of facts that are better explained by one hypothesis than its rivals, then there could well be evidence for God.

Bet you didn’t see that coming!

Hypotheses need testing before they get accepted.

A reference is made to a previous post called The Evidence For God (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/the-evidence-for-god/), oddly, it contains no evidence, only assertions. Ho hum.

Even if it is granted that there might be some evidence for God, it might still be objected that it is insufficient, but how are we to decide? How much evidence is needed and how convincing does it need to be?

Two very good questions.

In answer we get an index link titled Evidence Of God (http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/articles/existence-of-god/) featuring links to a few arguments that are very familiar, Fine Tuning, Maths, Big Bang; you know, the usual fair. The links are all well known reasons, or arguments, that Christians will use to justify their belief. However, arguments are not evidence so the title is misleading. Arguments should have supporting evidence, which these ones are lacking. There’s a theme emerging here.

We wouldn’t claim that the evidence logically proves God’s existence

Thank goodness for that! Odd use of the word logically though. No one says that gravity is logically proven.

Interestingly, since Russell’s death in 1970, powerful new scientific evidence concerning the fine-tuning of a range of physical constants that are necessary for intelligent life has provided an interesting twist on the design argument. Is this evidence sufficient? If not, why not? And perhaps more importantly, what kind of evidence would be needed?

Suddenly it’s the penultimate paragraph and no actuall evidence has been discussed, what is this post about then?

Is this evidence sufficient? The author asks. What evidence? I wonder.

If not, why not? The Author asks. Because there isn’t any is the best I can muster.

And perhaps more importantly, what kind of evidence would be needed?

A great question, and pertinent too. I’ll answer it.

Evidence that can be used to create a testable hypothesis. That way a set of repeatable and reliable tests for god can be performed and the case for god properly examined. That is the standard and if the theist wants their god idea to be taken seriously, that is what they must submit to.

Regrettably, for some atheists it has become little more than a slogan, a way of avoiding the need to consider the evidence seriously. And it would be an unfortunate irony if a statement which at face value emphasizes the importance of evidence is actually used as a strategy for avoiding it.

Great pithy ending, such a shame that in their decrying of the atheist’s frustratingly consistent demand for evidence, Saints and Sceptics has forgotten to include any. Now that’s irony!

Creationism is just denialism

Its easy to say this now that I have stepped away from my creationist beliefs, but that doesn’t stop it being true. All that creationism does is look for things in science that are not clearly defined and try to punch holes in them in an effort to create doubt and therefore, by association, add credence to creationism.

I acknowledge that I’ve just been very negative about creationism and so now sound like every other sceptic or atheist on the internet. The thing is, I’ve been there and I know its true.

When I think about the things convinced me that the world was created in 7 days, its things like the falsehood known as Piltdown Man that had me believing that evolutionary science was misguided at best and fraudulent at worst.

The trouble with creationism is that it starts with an assumption; that the world (and therefore the universe) was created in 7 days and then looks for the evidence to support that. This active searching for supporting evidence means that there is an already agenda, this is very bad science and its cynical religion.

When you are that person, as I was for many years, you just don’t see it. People brought up in church hear time and time again of the changeless God, the same, yesterday, today and forever. For me, this unchanging mindset was a problem because it created in me an assumption that the world was created as described in Genesis and had not changed since.

This made it very easy to be critical of the scientific method.

Science revels in change, science loves the hard to explain, science even likes to be wrong. Without any of these things, scientific knowledge would never advance. In science, assumptions are only made when there is a conclusion to be drawn from the gathered evidence.

Creationism never has and never will do that.

As a creationist I scoffed at what I described as the mind changing that scientists did in trying to explain our existence. As if arrogant little me knew any better. When I peruse creationist posts I see in them the same attitude I had, the looking for the small thing that could make the scientific description even slightly questionable and then exclaim ‘Aha! See, its all wrong’.

The thing is, when all you do is look for the tiny imperfections, you miss the much bigger picture. Just because science can’t absolutely explain how the Hippo and the Whale descended from the same ancestor, doesn’t mean its not true. It is true because DNA profiling shows the relationship and anatomical similarities help with the evidence. We know the end result with certainty, even if we don’t know exactly how.

Yet as a creationist I would not and could not accept that. The dynamic world of science with new discoveries and evolving theories did not fit with my creationist worldview of a static and unchanging world where we already knew how it happened because the good book said so.

When I look back on those days I genuinely shudder with embarrassment; yet I also empathise with those who still hold that view, because I understand why they do. If only they too would open their eyes and realise that their hole picking will get harder and harder as the scientific community discovers more and more about the wonderful world in which we live.