googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: What is the Evidence for Atheism?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What is the Evidence for Atheism?

Evolutionists are supposed to be all about the evidence.  They claim they refuse to believe anything without evidence.  They ridicule Christians and creationists with claims that we believe in a God for whom there is no evidence.  The fact of the matter, though, is that evolutionists are very confused people.  When I ask them for the scientific evidence that supports the philosophical underpinning of their brand of science (methodological naturalism), they reply with blank stares and bad logic.  I'm still waiting for evidence.  Yet as confused as evolutionists are, atheists have to be worse.

If atheism is the default belief of intellectuals (or so I've been told) and if “reasonable” people demand evidence before believing anything (or so I've been told), then I have a very simple question for atheists: What is the evidence for atheism?  I mean, if atheists don't believe things without evidence then they must have evidence that there is no God, right?  Well what is it?  Please show it to me.  I'm very curious how you came to your belief if you only followed the evidence.  I've asked this question many times over the years and the answers I've received only serve to highlight how irrational and arbitrary atheism actually is.  

Let me qualify something; I've said before that I would never claim to be a philosopher or scholar but I have studied logic a little.  I know enough to understand that it is impossible to prove a universal negative.  To say, “No where in the universe does X exist” is not a defensible position.  No one can know something doesn't exist anywhere in the universe unless he's actually been everywhere in the universe and seen that it's not there.  What's worse, he'd have to have been everywhere in the universe in a single moment in time lest the thing he is looking for should move around and always be in a different place than the observer.  

I've blogged before how worldviews like empiricism are contradictory and self defeating.  There is no evidence, for example, that proves knowledge is only gained by evidence.  To put it kindly, holding a self-contradictory worldview is irrational.  Atheists, on the the other hand, have a zealot-like faith in a position they cannot ever possibly know to be true.  That's just nuts.

Knowing that a universal negative is impossible to prove, a clever atheist will usually put the burden back onto the Christian to prove that God does exist.  This is a red herring and intellectual dishonesty on the part of the atheist.  It is the atheist who is saying that there is no God, thus claiming a universal negative to be true.  If he were honest and rational, he should, at the very least, claim he has not seen convincing evidence that there is a God.  That is not what is happening.  The atheist asserts that nowhere in the universe does God exist.  If he makes that claim, he must prove it.  He cannot make the bald assertion that there is no God and then throw the burden onto the Christian to prove him wrong!

In the face of impossible logic, many atheists will usually retreat to the more easily defended position of saying, “I have never seen evidence for God.”  This is an amazing concession because they are virtually admitting to agnosticism instead of atheism.  When they assume this attitude, I've found they usually claim to still be atheists.  That's rather odd because they have already admitted they cannot know with certainty that what they claim is true.  To still have a resolute belief there is no God is simply that zealot-like faith shining through again.

The more subdued position agnosticism and saying there isn't evidence (or convincing evidence) for God sounds reasonable at first hearing.  However, it is simply another way of shifting the burden of proof away from the atheist.  Remember, these are usually the same ones who claim to not believe anything without evidence.  If they refuse to acknowledge the possible existence of God, then they are not holding to agnosticism but to atheism.  If they sincerely believe there is no God, then their own arguments demand they have evidence for it.

Furthermore, this idea of not having evidence for God is not a positive argument for the atheist's position.  I want to hear the evidence that there is no God – not criticisms of arguments for the existence of God.  To invoke a lack of evidence for God is essentially an argument from silence.  The atheist-pretending-to-be-agnostic is saying, “I have not seen evidence for God therefore there is no God.”

OK all you atheists out there:  You talk about evidence?  You talk about proof?  Then educate me.  Don't tell me I don't have evidence for my belief.  Tell the the evidence for yours.  What is the evidence for atheism?   


Steven J. said...

A few points:

Evolutionists are also supposed to be about common descent with modification through natural selection of random variations. If this does not refute the existence of God (and quite a few evolutionists will concede, indeed insist, it does not), then evolution is not atheism.

And yes, it's remarkably difficult to come up with evidence that evidence is a proper reason for believing things, and that lack of evidence is not a proper reason for believing them.

Many things, of course, might be true despite lack of evidence to support them. If we'd been having this argument back in the middle ages, you'd have been able to offer no evidence whatsoever for radio waves, atoms, mitochondria, etc. yet their reality would not have been lessened by this lack of evidence.

Of course, in the event, you'd more likely have been arguing for werewolves or elves; it's not that propositions cannot be true without empirical evidence to support them, but that it's a lot easier to come up with false unevidenced assertions than with true ones.

Atheists are about disbelief in God. More generally, it is about disbelief in supernatural forces generally. This may or may not be accompanied by a claim to be "all about the evidence." Atheism is claim, or statement, about belief, not about the evidence for that belief.

Note, in passing, that while the only way to be sure that an entity that might be hiding under the sofa cushions in the Sombrero Galaxy is to go 28 million light years and look, an entity that is supposed to be present and active right here on Earth should not require such extreme measures. Lack of evidence for something that should have abundant local evidence is, in fact, evidence of absence.

There are also, of course, atheist arguments that the attributes traditionally ascribed to God are logically impossible. For my own part, I feel about such arguments as Darwin did: we are talking confidently about subjects we are about as qualified to discuss as a dog is to discuss Newtonian physics.

Agnosticism acknowledges that there might be a God. Weak agnosticism is the claim that the agnostic doesn't know whether there is a God, or, if there is, whether your version or someone else's is the right One. Strong agnosticism denies that, in principle, anyone could know whether there was a God. Even a direct miraculous revelation could not settle the question: as a finite being, nothing you are capable of perceiving would logically justify the inference of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-benevolent Supreme Being; a finitely powerful, finitely knowledgeable, finitely benevolent being could account for any effect a finite being could perceive.

God couldn't reveal Himself to you fully without making you an all-knowing Being -- and then how would you share that knowledge with anyone else? There might, of course, be a God Whose existence could not be strictly supported by possible evidence. Perhaps I should take shahada and join the jihad, since I certainly cannot prove with certainty that Allah doesn't want me to.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

I'm going to try responding to your points without quoting you. It takes up too much space.

Evolution is not the equivalent of atheism but there is no discernible difference between theistic and atheistic evolution. Theistic evolutionists interpret the “evidence” the same way as atheists except the theistic folks add the qualifier, “God did it.” I've said before that the God of theistic evolution is indistinguishable from dumb luck.

Just to be clear, I've never said we can't learn things from evidence. I have said (among many things) that there is no scientific reason to exclude miracles and revelation from helping us learn the truth about origins (or any subject).

You're right that many things could be true even if we do not have evidence for them. However, try telling that to a typical atheist (you're atypical, btw). They are the ones who claim to not believe in God due to a lack of evidence. I believe there is evidence for God but the real point of my post was to hopefully open the atheist's eyes to the hypocrisy of his position. Atheists chide Christians for (allegedly) having faith without evidence yet atheists absolutely have no evidence to support their beliefs.

The picture that I included in my post was downloaded from a pro-atheist site. It fit well with my point but let me paraphrase the caption: “I'm an atheist. I am asking that you show me evidence.” Atheists seem pretty proud of their skeptical attitude so I'm trying to get them to examine the reasons they hold their worldview. By asking them for the evidence for their beliefs, I'm hoping they will realize there isn't any. Theirs is a faith proposition on a scale much larger than most Christians. From the points you've raised in your comment, I'm going to assume that you too have no evidence forthcoming.

As I said in my post, raising criticisms against the existence of God is not the same as evidence there is no God. One reason I mentioned this because I also hear this criticism used against creationists. The usual claim is that we sometimes criticize the evidence for evolution instead of presenting evidence for creation.

Maybe soon I'll write a post with some positive evidence for the existence of God. I've discussed a few before at various times. Atheists are seldom persuaded but ANY evidence presented for the existence of God eclipses the evidence presented to prove there is no God. In mathematical terms, one is infinitely greater than zero. :)

Finally, you do not give the Infinite Being enough credit. Perhaps we cannot fully understand God but that's not the same as saying God isn't able to make Himself known to finite creatures. The Incarnation was a fairly effective example of God doing just that.

Oh, and let me explain why I called you “atypical.” You are my most frequent “commenter” right now. Over the years, I've talked with many atheists. Usually the conversation breaks down after one or two comments. It digresses quickly from, “I disagree with you on this point” to “RKBentley, you're a lying $#)$%!” You can see some examples of this in comments left by others but I mostly hear it in debate forums I visit. Keep in mind that I do not publish comments that include swearing. I believe their inability to carry on a conversation is a symptom of their irrational worldview. You, on the other hand, have managed to make interesting comments in a civil tone far longer than I would have thought possible. I encourage you to keep visiting and commenting.

God bless!!


Steven J. said...

There is, you say, no difference between atheistic and theistic evolution. It seems to me that there is as little difference between theistic and atheistic meteorology. The Bible speaks of God sending the rain on the just and the unjust (sometimes by opening the "windows of heaven"); modern meteorology explains precipitation in terms of purely material causes like temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind speed, etc. It's not at all clear how a Christian meteorologist would work his faith into the weather report -- yet I assume most Christians hold that both the meteorological and theological accounts are somehow true and compatible.

Reports of miracles are reports of empirical phenomena. They are not so much a different category from evidence, as a category of evidence -- the difference being, of course, the difficulty in repeating and confirming them. Any given observation report might be in error, or even outright fraudulent, so non-repeatable observations are problematic.

There is also the problem, first pointed out by Hume as a sort of afterthought, that if we reliably observe something that can't be explained in terms of known physical laws, that just means we can't explain it yet; it doesn't mean that the true explanation is supernatural. But appeals to miracles are still appeals to evidence, and to "best inference from consilience of evidence," as philosophers of science have been known to put it.

Note, in passing, that I have not asserted that an all-powerful Being could not reveal Himself to us. I have, instead, noted that we could not reliably tell whether we were witnessing the revelation of an all-powerful Being or a merely finitely-powerful one. In the limiting case, I'm not convinced we could tell the difference between the effects on our thoughts and perceptions of an all-powerful external Being and our own unconscious mind.

My own impression is that most atheists will concede the impossibility of proving that no God exists (Dawkins, for example, on a scale where 1 equals absolute certainty that God exists and 7 indicates equal certainty that He does not, rates himself a six; Madelyn O'Hair noted that of course she couldn't prove no God existed).

Of course, myriad critiques of Pascal's Wager have noted that there are an immense number of possible things that might be true of God (Allah and Jehovah are not described as wanting or doing the same things), so even if one must concede the possible existence of God one is left with the question of what, if anything, to do about that possible existence.