Hey Religious Believers, Where's Your Evidence? By Greta Christina

You'll have to read all that she wrote but here's the final part:
If religious believers had good evidence for their beliefs, they'd be giving it.

When something even vaguely resembling solid evidence for religion appears, believers are all over it. The Shroud of Turin. The Virgin Mary on a cinnamon bun. That ridiculous prayer "study" supposedly showing that sick people who were prayed for did better... until the study was blasted into shrapnel, and the researchers were shown to be dishonest at best and frauds at worst, and subsequent studies that were actually done right showed absolutely no such thing.

More commonly, believers frequently trot out the old standby forms of religious "evidence": personal intuition (translated: our biased and flawed tendency to believe what we already believe or what we want to believe), and religious authorities and texts (translated: someone else's biased and flawed intuition, passed off as fact). Even in the era of evolution, even when we know in great detail how the complexity of life came into being, many believers -- including moderate, non-creationist believers -- often point to the apparent "design" of life as evidence of God. And any number of coincidences, twists of fate, supposedly miraculous medical cures, and other happy and unhappy accidents -- the kind we'd have every reason to expect in a physical, cause-and-effect world -- will be readily chalked up to spiritual forces or the hand of God.

Believers -- many believers, anyway -- are hungry for solid, non-subjective, real-world evidence for their beliefs. But in the absence of that evidence, and in the presence of positive evidence and arguments countering their beliefs, they'll resort to slippery, contorted, elaborately constructed excuses for why the expectation of evidence for religion isn't fair.

And as I look at these excuses, I think I see why.

Religion is like a paper castle that's formidably protected -- with moats and walls, trap doors and vats of boiling oil, attack dogs and armed guards patrolling around the clock.

The armor has to be first-rate.

Because the structure itself can't stand on its own.

Link.

17 comments:

christophermencken said...

They just feel it. And that wouldn't be a problem if they left the rest of us alone.

Ginx said...

I don't think they feel anything. I think they just wish they did.

I expect we won't be left alone any time soon because religion is specifically designed to be intrusive.

christophermencken said...

Who needs evidence? An evangelical pastor friend of mine while commenting on the death of a mutual atheist friend told me that you gain so much if you believe, but lose everything if you don't.

Pascal is still big with this crowd, which surprised me. So for some believers truth is all about the odds of a particular dice throw and cost/benefit calculations.

Houx said...

The demand for evidence is irrational. This has been shown by Alvin Plantinga and others. It's well documented in the philosophical liturature.

christophermencken said...

Is that how you live the rest of your life, Houx? That evidence is irrational?

Mark Plus said...

Pascal is still big with this crowd, which surprised me. So for some believers truth is all about the odds of a particular dice throw and cost/benefit calculations.

Yet these same people tend to object to the idea that things happen through "random chance." They seem conflicted about the role of chance in the universe.

While evolutionary purists dispute the characterization of evolution as "random chance," it nonetheless remains true that we get here through our ancestors' haphazard copulation. How many babies come into existence because some boy forgets to stop by the drugstore on the way to his date at the drive-in? (I know, that reference indicates my age.) What does that say about the belief that everyone starts life on this planet as part of some god's allegedly rational "plan"?

oldfuzz said...

This is the sticking point for the rationalist: Show me the evidence!

There is none for religion. It's about unverifiable belief which changes with evidence. The flat earth becomes a spherical earth; the earth as center of the universe becomes an earth in a solar system; universe and earth created 6,000 years ago becomes a universt of 13.7 billion years and an earth of 4.55 billion years; life created by god one group at a time becomes life evolving.

Some believers do not accept science, but there are non-believers who also don't accept science as well. These refutations are born of ignorance or stupidity, maladies available to all, religious, non-religious and unconcerned alike.

gunterjones said...

Hey Christina, There are tons of evidence for the existence of God..do you have the time go through it all? Unfortunately for you, there is overwhelming evidence for the accuracy of the bible and the existence of God.. There are also several websites available to show that proof, if you would actually care to learn the truth...post your questions on my blog- debunking atheism

Joshua Jung said...

Thanks gunterjones, based on your standard, I now believe in every government conspiracy theory. Ever.

Because there are tons of websites with PROOF. And you are just close minded and self-deceived for not seeing it.

UFO's FTW!

Gomery said...

Why does religious belief require evidence? Do all beliefs (religious and non-religious) require evidence? If so, what sort of evidence does religious belief demand?

Are there not many categories of "evidence" (propositional, forensic, experiential etc.)

If these categories exist, must religious belief meet them all?

Thank you.

DevinWL said...

Gomery,

The short answer to your question is yes but your question is a philosophically loaded question. It is hard to explain belief because in all reality you can believe something without having any evidence to support your claim. I would consider that speculative belief or "faith". You are just speculating at best when you make a claim that has no evidence. It doesn't mean it isn't true because who knows maybe a millenia later your hypothesis gets proven to be correct.

The main reason I reject believing in god is there is no "real" evidence. There is no hard cold facts. Every time I pray nothing happens. Bad things happen to good people for no reason. That is what you would expect if there was no loving god but only a vindictive, egomaniacal, megalomaniacal, sectarian, genocidal, Hitlerian god. If that is the god you want to worship count me out. But enough digression.

So for sake of argument say a god does exist. How could you prove him? You can't get a sample of his DNA by means of saliva, blood, semen, or hair. You could do a series of empirical tests like talk to god to see if he talks back or ask him to manifest himself for every one to see. But these evidence based approaces have yeilded no results--negative results at best.

You see the burden of proof lies in the hands of the person who submits a theory. The burden of proof is fulfilled only with evidence. If no evidence is given to sufficently prove your theory you have the benefit of assumption. So your "theory" or belief is grounded in no evidence but "essentially" it is still a belief none the less. You would have to obtain mountains of data and evidence to prove your belief in god because the burden of proof would be substantial.

Also a side note. Me not being able to supply evidence for the non-existence of god does not prove god exists. That is an appeal to ignorance. I also base my atheism on the fact that god is improbable. Possible, yes; Probable, no.

Science is based off of emirical data so to prove god scientifically is impossible. You as a human being has the right to believe what ever you want but that doesn't mean your belief is reality. That is an appeal to personal belief and conviction.

Hope this helps

DevinWL

Gomery said...

DevinWL,

That was very helpful, thank you.

I have some further questions:

You don't believe in God because of the lack of good forensic evidence (DNA samples, answering prayer tangibly etc.)

But then do all your other beliefs require forensic evidence as well? If one gets in a taxi or a plane and believes, "I'm going to get home safe", are they unjustified before doing a proper forensic investigation (checking the plane, interviewing and testing the pilots etc.)?

Does one need forensic evidence to believe in the existence of numbers?

Of course, perhaps theistic belief is a different sort. But if so, what is the difference and what forensic evidence is there in support?

Finally, do you believe that all rational beliefs require forensic evidence? If so, what forensic evidence is there for that belief - that all rational beliefs require forensic evidence?

I think I would tend to agree; all rational beliefs require good evidence. And yet, it seems that I have no evidence, not to mention forensic evidence, for that fundamental belief.

Thanks very much and Happy New Year

DevinWL said...

Gomery,

Numbers? Thats like believing in names. We assign order to all things. We have names but I don't believe in names. We have numbers but numbers aren't real. We don't find numbers in nature what we find is quantity and we put a value on how many "things" there are. Therefore numbers are a human invention and not natural.

Also I don't believe in "getting home safe" that is just ridiculous. It is all a matter of probability. I know there is a huge chance I will not make it home and every time I get into a car I increase my chances of dying in the future. It is all a matter of time. No one believes they will get home safe they hope they will. Hope and belief are two seperate things.

Here is my point. I don't believe in god because he is just as probable as an invisible unicorn or a flying spaghetti monster. I don't believe in god because there is no physical evidence to support god. Also know this that evidence is only natural or found in nature. To use supernatural evidence as support is counterproductive because then you would have to prove your supernatural with natural evidence. I also don't believe in god because of the empirical evidence.

Hope this helps.

Gomery said...

DevinWL,

Thank you, that was helpful.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that numbers, sets, propositions (perhaps names) are all properties of the abstract world. Just because we identify material objects and label numbers to them doesn't, I don't think, solve the issue. We can number things precisely because such entities exist - although philosophers debate abstract objects. In the very least it's debatable.

I would agree that we don't find them in biological nature precisely because they're not concrete objects and have no causal power - hence, abstract (again, I agree that this is debated in philosophy but many do, in fact, believe immaterial objects exist.)

The point with "getting home safe" was merely to point out, albeit perhaps unsuccessfully, that people do have beliefs, hopes, dreams or whatever that simply ignores evidence altogether. Regardless of whether it's hope of belief is not really the point. Rather, it seems reasonable, at least for now, to assume that people make commitments and decisions and hold beliefs (properly basic ones) without any evidence at all - it's just assumed or taken for granted. Are we irrational for doing so and if yes, why?

To me, this seems like the age old issue of classical foundationalism. Is CF true and if so, what is the evidence for its existence?

To identify God in the same category as a FSM (flying S Monster) is, I think, the same as saying, "I don't believe in abstract objects or something of the sort". But I think that is debatable in philosophy.

Further, doesn't the whole argument from the existence of the FSM depend on the epistemic situation of the person and the context they're in? For example: If I say to you there is an elephant in the room and you say there isn't. I ask you to prove it and you tell me that, if there was, we would expect to see evidence of its existence and we don't - therefore... But what about a fly in the room? The epistemic situation changes. All of the sudden we have to do more searching before we can just dismiss the existence of the fly.

If God exists, how much evidence must there be of his existence before we rationally conclude he does or doesn't exist?

Essentially, the question I'm asking is are there "things" in the universe that cannot be tested by the scientific method or through forensic evidence? In cosmology there seem to be several presuppositions without any evidence (Hawking Hartle? Inflationary Era Big Bang Model) yet are considered scientific fact or at least reasonable to believe (have to double check that).

But more importantly, what about beliefs or "facts" about values, morals, love, evil, logical and mathematical truths, beauty etc.?

Can science itself be tested by evidence or does it assume all sorts of truths to get started? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the special theory of relativity first based on unprovable assumptions?

For me, and I could very well be wrong, there seem to be many things in this universe that are either presupposed or are not even within the realm of science or evidence to answer. And it seems that many people function this way. When we go into the grocery story we don't all hope that the food we buy will not be poisonous - we just assume it's healthy from out experiential evidence in the past (and perhaps not even that). Hope only seems to come into play when one actually experiences the "close call". But even that is beside the point.

There does seem to be good evidence in our day to day lives that we don't live and believe things based on forensic evidence alone. And the question is, if that is actually true, why then does belief in God need the same evidence. Indeed, perhaps it does, but why?

Forgive me for the length


Thanks very much.

Harlan Quinn said...

HI Gomery,
its clear that one persons evidence is not evidence to another person. It, ultimately, is subjective to a degree. Its based on values.

However, there is the consideration of interdependencies between components.

What I mean is that interaction of components create an outcome. Where the subjectivity comes in is, "How much do we value the outcome".

Humans need a baseline collection of knowledge. Something we all agree on. This not possible using faith based reasoning. It has to be based on data and outcomes.

For example, Hindus and Muslims justify animal sacrifice and Child Brides on religious grounds but to some cultures, animal sacrifice and Child Brides is horrible.

On what grounds is it horrible?
On what grounds is it permissible?
When its a mandate from god, who has the authority to overturn it?
Who's God or scripture do you consider authoritative?

However, if we use something like game theory, we have a model that occurs in nature therefore is based in the underlying logic or 'rule sets' that naturally occur in nature.

If we say that from now on we are going to agree as a baseline to try to achieve the greatest good for the largest amount of people, and we are going to say that our model will be the logic underlying nature described by something like the interaction of self-interested parties within a group and their iterative interactions with other groups, then we have a baseline to get rid of Child Brides, witch hunts in Africa and animal sacrifice in parts of Asia.

without a baseline for knowledge, anything goes.
But not everything should be allowed because it is not in the interest of the greater good of the iterative interaction of groups.

something similar is happening with smoking. When one groups rights are harmful to another, then there has to be a baseline criteria to justify mitigation of harm.

the question becomes, how accurate do you want your authoritative source to be? How much do you want it to model the processes and objects of the real world?

My Blog QuIRP was set up to answer your question
"why does a god need evidence" and "how much evidence" and "what constitutes evidence".

The problem is in Normalization. There's a lot of evidence but it hasn't been normalized for comparison.

Gomery said...

Harlan Quinn,

Thanks very much. After my holiday I will for sure dialogue further with you and check out your blog.

Thanks very much for responding

Gomery

Gomery said...

Harlan Quinn,

My apologies for the delay.

You've introduced some concepts I'm a bit unfamiliar with so you'll have to be patient with me.

Before I respond too much, I want to be sure I understand you correctly and so I have a couple of clarifying questions:

Do you believe evidence for God is demanded because of religious violence and atrocity?

When you talk about game theory, are you referring to the theory that is usually in support of ethical utilitarianism?

Bear with me, but I'm a bit confused on how your explanation of game theory answers the question of evidence and whether or not science can accommodate, evidentially, its own theories?

What is it about religious belief - particularly belief in God/s - that demands evidence? From what you've said, it seems you're suggesting because religious belief is the root cause of violence and persecution (in certain situations), those people ought to have sufficient evidence before they go and commit such heinous crimes. And, since faith based reasoning can't accommodate for a foundation of knowledge, they will inevitably not have sufficient evidence for their violent actions. Is that what you mean?

I will touch on some of your other points but first need to be sure I understand you correctly.

Thanks very much.