Just Give Me Evidence! EVIDENCE EVIDENCE EVIDENCE!

Hi everyone.6a00d8341bf68b53ef01348624d3f9970c-800wi
As usual, yet another blog post is being inspired by twitter conversations. Twitter gives me such great #BlogFodder

If you’ve spent any time discussing the existence of God or the truth of Christianity online, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

This is how it might go:
1. An atheist (or group of atheists) will demand evidence for God.
2. You respond by giving them evidence for God.
3. They just label it a fallacy (or worse, say that ‘arguments are not evidence‘) and repudiate it.
4. They ask for evidence again.
5. You reply with, “I just gave you evidence, you didn’t address it. What do you mean by evidence?”
6. The atheist(s) reply, “STUPID CHRISTIAN! DON’T TRY TO REDEFINE EVIDENCE! GIVE ME EVIDENCE!!!11”

Remember that conversation you had with that one [group of] atheist(s) that sounded just like that? That was incredibly frustrating, wasn’t it?
I know that feel, bro.

This is why I’ve tried starting the conversation with a discussion about the nature of evidence. I can’t give a skeptic evidence if the skeptic doesn’t understand evidence.
As I’ve discussed in an earlier post, “Evidence can be defined as the available body of facts or information which tends to prove or disprove something, usually associated with the justification for beliefs”. This entails that a valid and sound argument is evidence for a particular proposition. So when you hear someone say something silly like, “arguments are not evidence”, they’re just wrong.

And this is why it can so difficult to give evidence for God’s existence to certain atheists; its because no evidence for God’s existence will ever suffice, because this particular type of atheist doesn’t understand evidence.

Now, when it comes to evidence for God’s existence, there are a wide variety of directions we could go with this. Entire libraries of books have been written on the topic. Some of my favorites include:
The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Moreland and Craig)
Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Moreland and Craig)
The Rationality of Theism (Copan and Moser)
The Existence of God (Swineburn)
Warranted Christian Belief (Plantinga)
Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics (Craig, Copan and others)
Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy and Science (Dembski and Licona)

As you can imagine, I could keep going. In addition to these books, there are libraries of books that address and defend specific arguments for God’s existence. These books flesh out the details, explore the evidence, explain why the objections fail, etc. This is a very in-depth topic, and if you find someone who can’t move past demanding evidence and dismissing arguments, odds are that this particular skeptic hasn’t bother to read much of anything on the topic.

To the Christian theist: in order to get the most out of the discussion, it is vital that you and the skeptic are on the same page in the “what is evidence?” department. Without agreeing on what constitutes evidence, the conversation will probably not go anywhere. And it won’t go anywhere, very fast.
To the skeptic: in order to get the most out of the discussion, it is vital that you and the theist are on the same page in the “what is evidence?” department. Without agreeing on what constitutes evidence, the conversation will probably not go anywhere. And it won’t go anywhere, very fast.

Yes.
My advice is the same to both people.

– ElijiahT

Ps. Attempting to come to an agreement about the nature of evidence is not redefining evidence. Clarity is our friend.

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17 thoughts on “Just Give Me Evidence! EVIDENCE EVIDENCE EVIDENCE!

  1. MeesterGibson

    Argumentation is not sufficient for establishing the existence of something. “I think therefore I am” is sufficient to prove the conclusion to yourself but you couldn’t hope to use that argument to prove it to an outside observer. It simply is insufficient for determining the existence of the claimed. The only things we can actually prove to exist are things for which we have some empirical evidence.

    Reply
    1. Tyler V

      Meester, can you empirically prove that is true or just trying convince yourself (since apparently that is all arguments can do)?

      Reply
    2. Anna

      Yet, again, you fail to acknowledge the elephant in the room. You CANNOT, you just cannot, conclude that the universe came form nothing. From nothing, nothing comes. There MUST, there must have been an outside force, apart from space, matter, and time, that created the means to make The Big Bang. You CAN NOT deny this.

      Reply
      1. Ferguson

        Look up special pleading. The same argument applies to your version of a God. If you can’t do better than a logical fallacy, why are you even commenting?

    3. Spinner981

      Reason and logic are more than sufficient. The sheer act of arguing is not what we are claiming proves things.

      Reply
  2. Ron

    Speaking strictly for myself, when I request evidence, I’m referring specifically to empirical evidence, which by its very definition means direct observation or experience rather than appeals to argument alone. In other words, I’m asking to see the object being discussed. If you claim you own a red sports car, then show me the red sports car. If you you say you have a pet alligator, then show me the alligator, If you claim you have a personal relationship with a resurrected messiah, produce your resurrected messiah.

    Reply
    1. ElijiahT Post author

      But I think there’s a problem inherent in that narrow understanding of evidence. Some things certainly do have “empirical evidence”, but many things require an ‘argument’ in order to conclude them rationally.

      In the cases that you presented, showing a car/alligator would be evidence for the existence of the car/alligator. But not everything can (or should) be determined that way.

      Take evolution for example.
      One of the many evidences presented for evolution is homology. We have direct experience (’empirical evidence’) with structures that are similar. However, if we just look at the ‘direct observation or experience’, we don’t actually have evidence for evolution. And this is because similar structures are evidence for similar structures. That’s it.
      In order to say that it is evidence for evolution, there must be a logical flow of thought; something that connects the ‘direct observation’ to evolution.

      So, my recommendation is this.
      Don’t just assert that you need direct, physical evidence for something. Examine the reasons for believing something, and do your best to consider the evidence presented. Often times, expecting a specific type of evidence will probably force you into being remarkably inconsistent in examining evidence for different things.

      Ps.
      I don’t know of anyone suggesting that “argument alone” is evidence. The entire process of making a case for a particular thing (whether it is God’s existence, the reality of the big bang, etc) is a combination of evidence and a logical flow of thought.
      For this reason, I think a logically valid and sound argument should be evidence for a particular proposition.
      https://hashtagapologetics.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/arguments-and-evidence-should-an-argument-be-considered-evidence/

      Reply
      1. Ron

        To clarify, I’m not arguing to the existence of gods, but to a very specific tenet of Christianity: the assertion that a man rose from the dead in bodily form following a brief interment—an event, that if true, would run counter to all known human experience. For me, the only possible evidence that could ever satisfy such a claim is to have direct access to the resurrected man himself. And by that, I mean meeting him in the same manner that he’s purported to have presented himself to his followers.

        Nor do I consider this an unrealistic request. The same standards of evidence would apply to someone who claimed they were harboring extraterrestrials, or taking guitar lessons with Jimi Hendrix, or in possession of a rock that remains suspended in mid-air, etc.

        As such, I cannot accept your proposition that an argument can be used to justify such claims in lieu of direct evidence.

      2. Spinner981

        @Ron
        There’s a book for that mate. To write off the resurrection of Christ just because he didn’t appear to every single person who ever existed is silly. He appeared to his followers, who then wrote the Bible, and we have no reason to doubt the Bible, none at all. In fact, the gospels are corroborated with history quite well and line up with exactly how we would expect them to be written. If you want to read a book on that topic exactly, I recommend Cold Case Christianity. It makes a rock solid case for the legitimacy of the four gospel accounts recording the life of Jesus.

        Of course, there is no such thing as empirical evidence for something that happened in the past, in terms of direct observation of the event itself. But we have the Bible as well as other non-biblical sources that speak of the death and resurrection (usually alleged resurrection in non-biblical sources) of Christ.

        This evidence is legitimate evidence because it strengthens the case that Christ really did rise from the dead rather than weakening it, and you cannot make a legitimate claim against it just because you personally have a bias against the supernatural.

        Why believe in what all other history books tells us but not the resurrection of Christ? Why do we require such a larger amount of corroboration and ’empirical evidence’ to support the Bible but not apply those same standards to other historical documents? It is a bias against the supernatural, and bias has no place in logical argumentation.

        Other than a bias against the supernatural, there is no contrary evidence to the resurrection and in fact all things point towards a resurrection or a common belief at the time that Christ resurrected. Once again, if you want to really be convinced go read Cold Case Christianity.

    2. thethirdhelix

      “You believe in black holes, show me a black hole.”

      “You believe the Big Bang Theory; show me an infinitely dense singularity expand into a universe.”

      “You believe in evolution– show me one species evolving into another.”

      “You believe the moon landing happened; SHOW ME a manned spaceship landing on the moon– not just some actors and props you filmed on a soundstage.”

      “You believe the Holocaust happened; SHOW me Nazis herding Jews into gas chambers.”

      Need I continue…? You see what I’m getting at here, right Ron?

      Reply
      1. Ferguson

        None of those has anything to do with your claims about god. THere is photographic and video evidence of the holocaust, so that part of your post was poorly thought out. Same with the moon landing. I would also add that no one is telling us that those events have an affect on our immortal souls.

      2. thethirdhelix

        There is photographic evidence of the starship Enterprise.

        Photographs — even video — are only “evidence” insofar as they can be used to support a narrative provided by the testimony of people. Ultimately, it comes down to the credibility and trustworthiness of the people providing the testimony. And if other people can offer a competing narrative, what those photographs and video are evidence FOR becomes a matter of debate and interpretation.

        If the apostolic testimony about the resurrection of Jesus Christ is credible and trustworthy, then the New Testament is as valid evidence for God as the photographic and video evidence we have are for the moon landings and the Holocaust.

  3. Pingback: Arguments & Evidence – Remix’d | HashtagApologetics

  4. Workmx

    Don’t theist claim that goids exist. All known (to be known something it must be knowable) exist in time and space. They have a physical presence. If gods exist they must have a physical presence. Since there is no physical evidence of gods interacting with the world, it is reasonable to assume for all practical purposes that they do not exist.

    Reply
    1. ElijiahT Post author

      This is what I like to call the presumption of naturalism. It sorta like the atheistic version of presuppositional apologetics, but in this case… the atheist just asserts his position without feeling compelled to give reasons for it.

      “If gods exist they must have a physical presence.”
      I have a question for you. Does truth have a physical presence? Logic? History? Morality? Because if not, then using your own methods of reasoning, “… it is reasonable to assume for all practical purposes that they do not exist.”

      Reply
      1. Ferguson

        You do understand that you claim your god has a physical presence, affecting outcomes, parting the sea, healing people, etc. That’s entirely different than a concept, like freedom, which is an idea and does not manifest in physical reality. You surely know this.

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