Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Use of Evidence

On my post concerning the Creation Museum, an anonymous commenter said:

"Notice atheism really has no evidence at all."
This person said it as if I was trying to hide the fact that atheism has no evidence. That couldn't be farther than the truth. In reality, the absence of evidence is the strongest case atheists can make against the existence of a god. Allow me to explain.

I consider myself a scientific atheist. Therefore, I feel science is the best tool we have for understanding the workings of the universe. Now, science is driven by evidence. Evidence is necessary to support or falsify any hypothesis or theory. Without evidence, no conclusions can be drawn either way. It simply is not considered.

Additionally, something that does not exist will, by definition, be incapable of leaving any evidence. This fact should be self-evident, but many seem unable to grasp this concept.

Anyway, this lack of evidence for a god has two implications. First, science can only work with evidence, and, since there is no evidence of a god, science must remain grounded in naturalistic explanations of the world. It cannot consider supernatural events for which there is no evidence. However, if evidence of a god did arise, then it would no longer be supernatural and would fall into the realm of the the natural world. At that point, science could then consider it. Nevertheless, that evidence has yet to appear.

Second, as a scientific atheist, I base my worldview on evidence and the conventions of science. No, I cannot prove that God does not exist. However, a lack of evidence is as close as science can come to proving the nonexistence of something, as I explained above.

In conclusion, atheism does not have any evidence. But that is the strongest scientific case atheists can make against the existence of a god. The burden of proof remains with the theists because they need to produce the testable, verifiable evidence that would establish God's existence. Until then, I see no reason to spend my time worrying about something that is not powerful enough to leave even the tiniest shred of evidence.


Rusko said...

I believe it was Carl Sagan that said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence..."

Theists are in fact making an extrordinary claim that some invisible, omnipotent being exists. That claim is very extraordinary, however the only proof or evidence they offer is based on testimony (heresay) which isn't even considered in a court of law, and certainly does not qualify as extroardinary.

Nice website! Good job!

rmacapobre said...

these kinds of establishments which promote ignorance should be boycotted ..

rmacapobre said...

esp those bizarre liberty university founded by faliwell and now this .. the creationist musuem ..

Lord J-Bar said...

Thanks Rusko. And, Rmacapobre, I won't go if you won't.

Jesse V. said...

"if any evidence came to light, then that would change"

What kind of evidence would you consider? I assume that you are looking for physical, observable, measurable, repeatable evidence of God. As you have posed, this is problematic since the popular concept of god does not allow for such measurements to be taken.

Consider for a moment that there is a god. What kind of evidence would you look for? If we know something to exist and the scientific method can not prove its existence, then that method is insufficient.

For example, can you prove what word I said yesterday at 12:52pm? No, not by the scientific method. The best you can do is ask those who were around me, IF there was anyone around me. At that point you are relying on the testimony of witnesses, which is not perfect, since someone may have forgotten what I said, or misheard me, or perhaps no one heard what I said. This doesn't mean it didn't happen. Much of written history that we accept would be thrown out the window on the basis of not having enough scientific evidence.

You and I agree that "science is the best tool we have for understanding the workings of the universe." However, it is limited and not universal for proving truth as I have just demonstrated by way of example. When this happens, the wise among us would at least consider the testimony of witnesses and any other alternate methods for discerning truth from fiction. If one solely relied on the inadequate scientific method, then one would potentially be dismissing the vast majority of reality and truth.

I would suggest, and I think you would agree, that nobody bases ALL of their decisions solely on the facts proven by the scientific method. Even the scientific among us must move forward with unproven assumptions. We most often do not know all of the facts, but we must consider all information presented to us to make decisions.

In the case of the existence of a god, there may or may not be physical evidence. Perhaps there is but we don’t recognize it. In the mean time, one should consider the reliable corroborating (based on my research) testimonies of witnesses collected primarily in the Bible and elsewhere. In the end, it will not be scientific, but it remains that one must either reject, ignore, or believe the testimonies. In researching, one should be careful to read both sides of the argument. Just like anything else, it can be easy to misinterpret and abuse something that was written to a specific audience 2000 years ago in a different culture. Just because it can be misinterpreted, doesn’t make it false. It would be wise to read many different experts commentaries on the interpretations.

I wish you a fruitful journey as we all hopefully continue to seek out the truth of all things.

Tommy said...

We are actually dealing with two separate arguments.

One is, is there sufficient evidence that the "God" described in the Bible actually exists and is in fact the Creator of the universe?

The second argument is, is there sufficient evidence to demonstrate that some higher intelligence created the universe?

There is really no evidence to support that the God worshipped by the Israelites existed. All that can be demonstrated is that they believed that there was one true god that created the universe and that they were this god's chosen people.

As for there being a higher power that created our universe, whether it be a single entity or a collection of intelligent entities, that is not entirely outside the realm of the plausible. But if there is a creator entity, all that we can deduce from the existence of our vast universe is that the creator is an entity of tremendous power and intelligence. What the existence of the universe does not tell us is whether a creator entity really cares about what we believe or what we do.