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!

To be, or not to be, a Dick

I thought I’d take a break from my autobiographical posts and put down some thoughts on the current big topic in the Atheistic and Sceptical arena. That is, how to behave towards those who believe in the unbelievable. That’s not just religion, though the topic does appear to centre mainly around those with religious beliefs, but any superstition and what sceptics love to call ‘woo’.

Reading some blog posts and opinion on the subject you’d be forgiven for thinking that there are only two choices; lambast anyone who dares to hold an unprovable belief with as much ridicule as possible or embrace anyone and everyone so long as you can find some common ground with them, no matter how tenuous.

Save us from the Accomodationists!

What I find most frustrating when reading various comments are the highly vocal people in the anti-accomodationist camp. These are the easiest to identify on the imaginary grey line I mentioned above, they would be clustered very close to the lambasting extreme.

To the anti-accomodationist there is nothing more pure than the utter sanctity of science proven conclusion. If you can’t back it up with the science method, then it does not belong and don’t you dare go mixing with those folks who believe without proof, or you’ll taint the purity of reason. Usually these are the same people using the label ‘Gnu Atheists’ as though they are some gnarly badge wearing, skateboard riding, baggy jeaned cool new kid. They probably have their own special handshake as well.

Accomodationist and Proud.

Yes I would be classed as an accomodationist. Yes I am proud of that. When I first saw the extremeophiles calling others accomodationists, it was as though they spat the word out, like it left a bad taste to even think the word, let along utter it. It was most definitely not meant as a compliment to the recipient.

The term ‘accomodationst’, seems to be drawn out and thrown at anyone who dares suggest anything other than utter contempt should be shown towards those who choose to believe in anything unscientific.

This is a sad thing to see and it seems that more effort is being channelled into creating a rift in the sceptical community than is being put into more productive use educating and evangelising the good news.

Ridicule never Changed Anyone’s Mind

Of course there are some people who will never abandon their belief. Even worse, there are some people who know they are wrong, but continue to promote it because it provides them with a considerable income. Of course I hope the latter are a minority.

With these people, reasoned debate will probably never be possible, but is publicly mocking really going to achieve anything other than self satisfied smugness?

But what about the casual observer?

I have seen it suggested on more than one occasion that the act of ridicule will help show a casual observer how much of a fool your target is.

This has to be the most pathetic cop out of an argument I have ever heard. Unless the casual observer is already of the same mind as you, the most likely reaction of the casual observer is to think that you are a dick and then respond accordingly.

If you want the world to share your conclusion that belief is silly and only science can lead someone to reason; then you had better prove it by acting like a reasonable person.

Be Passionate about Science

Instead of being a crabby insulting human, how about being a passionate scient advocate instead, enthuse people by being passionate about truth. Truth is tangible, truth can be handled and touched, truth is proven time and time again to be reliable. Truth is beautiful. When you talk about science speak with passion about how can you not be riveted and encouraged by the wonder of what is true and by knowing so utterly that it is true because it can be demonstrated to audiences.

This is what makes great ambassadors for scientific reasoning, don’t ruin it all by yelling at and insulting those who deny reality.

Look at how the Christians do it.

One final thought, Christians have known for many years that the most effective way of converting people to Christianity is to go to them and meet them on their terms. Find out what a person needs most and attend to that need. Christians convert other people by making the effort to get to know other people and letting them see that Christian are not some do-gooder perfect human, but they do care and they do want to try as hard as possible to make life better.

If sceptics really want to show that science leads to reason and truth and that truth has something genuine to offer, then they should show it by doing things other than ridiculing the ridiculous.

 


 

* My thoughts on this matter are still evolving, so its possible (probable even) that I will revisit this subject in the future. It will be interesting to see if my stance changes between now and then.