When It Comes to God’s Existence, Who Has the Burden of Proof

QualiaSoup clearly walks us through who has the burden of proof when it comes to questions about god… and, as he always does, thoroughly demolishes the theists’ arguments in the process.



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • DG

    I suppose it depends on what someone defines as proof in the
    first place. Plus, is it possible that such proof has been made available, but
    that one’s personal belief that God doesn’t exist doesn’t allow him or her to
    accept the proof.  So something happens
    that defies everything we understand about the world, or that suggests
    something miraculous did happen.  I’ve
    seen more than one atheist shrug and say ‘I’m sure we’ll explain it someday’,
    or ‘there’s probably another explanation’, or ‘it was probably just a cosmic
    coincidence.’  Perhaps.  But perhaps, the proof is there, but because
    of preconceived biases, the individual is incapable of seeing the proof that he
    demands.  It’s not as if biases and sympathies
    toward a particular viewpoint haven’t clouded folks’ assessment of the facts in
    other areas throughout the ages. Of course none of this may ‘prove’ God does
    exist.  But maybe, again assuming that
    all reality must be proven as we understand it in our day and age, it boils
    down to what you are or are not willing to accept.  

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EAIHLUU3JSTIB3D2OWHGYN5PHA Ingen

      Sure, it’s POSSIBLE that there’s proof out there that atheists are denying, but again, that’s a claim – a claim that requires evidence, or it’s meaningless. 
      A lot of things are possible – invisble pink unicorns and the like – but unless there’s evidence, there’s not much reason to believe it.

      • DG

        Let me try another way.  My
        point is, the preconceived bias against God could stare the ‘proof’ in the
        face, but then dismiss it.  So the
        atheist says ‘show me a sign!’ and voila! A sign occurs.  But then the atheist says ‘wait, God doesn’t
        exist, therefore it can’t be a miracle’, even if the atheist in question has no
        other, better explanation (or explanations that are, themselves, devoid of any
        evidence or proof).  That’s my point. To
        demand evidence is one thing.  But what
        if the evidence has occurred, but because of an ingrained bias against one
        particular explanation, that explanation is not allowed no matter how thin any
        alternate explanations may be.  It’s a question that hit me between the eyes when I was an agnostic.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EAIHLUU3JSTIB3D2OWHGYN5PHA Ingen

          But saying that evidence COULD be staring the atheist in the face is still meaningless unless you can provide evidence that it DOES.

          I understand what you’re getting at, and speculation is always fun, but it doesn’t actually advance the discussion.

          • DG

            It’s not speculation though.  My point was, evidence can stare people in the face all the time.  Think of some flat earth creationist.  Boy, you’d think wouldn’t you? But they are so deep in their belief that things must be a certain way, that we could float boats loaded with evidence and it wouldn’t make any difference. 

            The point is, was the COULD in that based already on my own biases?.  Maybe, just maybe, it WAS staring in the face, and it was my own biases that interpreted it as so or not as so.  Which got back to the question, am I staring the evidence in the face, or is there more to the simple ‘show me proof’ than I had allowed?

            • Glasofruix

               You have to show a proof and provide the explanatory package about it. Because i could pick up a rock and say that this rock is the proof that pink unicorns prefer blue color if i do not provide any reasonnable explanations i’m probably high as a kite.

              • DG

                But proof based on what?  By what you’re saying, you get to determine the proof that you will accept.  And without question, if the proof doesn’t fit what you demand, even if there is no clearly demonstrable basis for demanding it other than it’s what you demand, then you’ll reject it. 

                By that reasoning, a man could tell his wife that she has to prove she loves him by letting him sleep with other women.  If she doesn’t let him, therefore she doesn’t love him.  It might make him feel good, but I’m not convinced that such a demand is a valid demand because it might not be in the nature of the woman’s love to allow such a thing. 

                • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

                   ” you get to determine the proof that you will accept”

                  That’s not entirely correct. What you do, is get to determine what kind of evidence you reject.

                  For example, take divine claims in ancient texts. If looked at in totality, they offer multiple contradicting claims about reality, which can’t all be right, so some of them must be wrong. Ergo something being recorded in an ancient text does not in of itself constitute proof.

                  Determining valid evidence is not an arbitrary process, as you seem to imply.  It is also a project driven by logic and empiricism.

                • DG

                  Sure it’s not always arbitrary, but it can be.  The fact that some qualifying isn’t arbitrary obviously doesn’t mean none is. 

                • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

                   If your criteria are arbitrary, then you’re doing it wrong.

            • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

              With a flat-earther, we can SHOW evidence, such as standing at the top of a mountain and seeing the curvature of the Earth, or providing the calculations done by ancient Greek mathematicians that demonstrate the Earth is spheroid.

              If I were to simply say, “The evidence for a spheroid Earth may be staring you in the face, and you may simply be letting your personal bias cloud your ability to see it,” that would not be enough. In this case, I can easily show the evidence when that denier asks, “Well, what is the evidence then?”
              What you are doing, in this case, is being needlessly evasive and vague. Show us the evidence, then we can move from there. Otherwise, you’re just playing around and we have no need to listen to you.

              • DG

                Have you ever argued with a flat-earth creationist? 

                • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

                  Oh, trust me, I have. I didn’t say the evidence would convince them. I was merely pointing out that I could indeed provide objective evidence that wouldn’t be a personal experience or a story. It would be measurable, demonstrable to everybody regardless of personal experience, physical, and objective.

        • cipher

          So the atheist says ‘show me a sign!’ and voila! A sign occurs.  But then the atheist says ‘wait, God doesn’t exist, therefore it can’t be a miracle’, even if the atheist in question has no other, better explanation (or explanations that are, themselves, devoid of any evidence or proof).  That’s my point. To demand evidence is one thing.  But what if the evidence has occurred, but because of an ingrained bias against one particular explanation, that explanation is not allowed no matter how thin any alternate explanations may be.

          And what evidence has been staring us in the face all this time? Your mom won at Indian Bingo?

          • DG

            What evidence would you want?

            • cipher

              Others will answer you. I refuse to repsond to theists when they ask that question, because you’ll merely claim that no amount of evidence would ever be enough, when in reality, for you no lack of evidence would ever be enough.

              • DG

                It’s a very fair and rational question: what evidence are you looking for?  There’s a reason our courts don’t just throw the doors open and say whatever you think is evidence is good enough for us!  You asked what evidence has been staring us in the face.  Fine.  I simply ask what evidence are you looking for, and perhaps that might determine what evidence has been staring you in the face. 

                • cipher

                   You asked what evidence has been staring us in the face.  Fine.  I simply ask what evidence are you looking for, and perhaps that might
                  determine what evidence has been staring you in the face.

                  Uh huh. You may want to ask the others here to explain “burden of proof” to you as well.

                • DG

                  Well, I bet burden of proof.  I also get when someone’s argument is basically ‘because I know it’s true, case closed.’ 

                • http://www.facebook.com/anique.vanberne Anique Van Berne

                  you say “what if evidence has occurred” and cipher asked what evidence you are referring to.
                  Your answer  “what do you want me to refer to?” seems very evasive.
                  Either that or you misunderstood the question
                  (or I misunderstood you both)
                  [and I know I'm paraphrasing]

                • DG

                  OK, let’s take people’s experiences.  That’s already been smacked down.  Why?  If you said prove my parents loved me, what could I do but point to my experience with them. If you said prove your parents loved you, but you can’t use any personal experience, that’s sort of cutting me off at the knees.  That’s what I meant.  I was just asking what is it that Cipher’s looking for – so I don’t waste his/her time.

                • http://www.facebook.com/anique.vanberne Anique Van Berne

                  reading this will become a pain in the a$$…One personal experience is anecdotal. Many experiences may be evidence. Beware however of using personal interpretation of events as evidence

                • Piet Puk

                   When people die, what happens to their love?

                • Piet Puk

                   Any real god would know what evidence I would make me believe.

                • DG

                  Define real god.  One based on your definition?  See what I’m sayin?

                • Piet Puk

                  No on the definition of the person asking me the question.

                • amycas

                   One that exists. For fucks sake, stop semantic whoring and answer a goddamn questions.

                • Patterrssonn

                  Any at all? Any? Anything? Any actual evidence? Anything at all? With perhaps the proviso that you first don’t have to have faith In the existence of gods in order to believe that it’s evidence. In other words not working backwards from belief, because belief in a thing is not itself evidence for the thing, which is what theists claim when they say that atheists dont see their “evidence” as evidence.

            • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

              My pass-phrase, for a start.  Very simple.  I have a pass-phrase that I’ve thought, very clearly and distinctly, many times.  I’ve never written it down or told anybody what it is.  It’s obscure and personal enough that the odds of somebody guessing it are extraordinarily unlikely.  Any supposed communication to me from an omniscient god had better start off with that phrase, otherwise it’s just so much blathering from another delusional believer.

              The first evangelist to come up to me and say “this makes no sense to me, but god told me to come say this to you…” and then coughs up the phrase, word-for-word, that person I will listen to. 

              • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

                This is brilliant! 

                Sounds like a great application of that Sagan quote that I can’t seem to dig up at the moment, the essence of which was that it was very telling that all revelations from god seemed to be vague, morality-oriented directions about loving, or correcting past mistakes, or feelings of awe. Curiously, it was never scientific, technical, or medical revelations with the potential to save humanity from some sort of distress or pain, and never intelligent and specific enough to be convincing proof.

                Thanks for sharing. :)

        • http://www.facebook.com/anique.vanberne Anique Van Berne

           any occurrence that has more than one possible explanation can not be used as evidence for one of those explanations.
          I have not yet come across  a situation where the existence of a god was the only explanation for an occurrance.
          (And I mean there were other serious explanations, not just somebody thinking up something to be contrary)
          ‘Chance’ is in many cases a serious possible explanation. Only when an occurrance happens more often than can expected of chance, other explanations become more likely.

          • DG

            But isn’t interpreting somehing as chance in itself a faith claim?  That’s what I’m getting at.  The presence of one possible explanation may itself be based on what you are already willing to accept.  So a bunch of people see what they say is a miracle.  The skeptic says could be mass hypnotism, hallucination, or similar.  Yet is there any evidence that it is those things?  Simply chucking out alternative explanations that themselves have no more evidence than the miracle claim at hand may simply show that the individuals in question are approaching it based on their own biases, and therefore demanding proof might simply be a snipe hunt, and nothing more.  Or it could point to the fact that there could be realities in that transcend a single method of verifying their existence.  

            • http://www.facebook.com/anique.vanberne Anique Van Berne

               If I were to say something could be mass hypnotism, hallucination, or similar,  I do not claim it is evidence for those things. The only claim I make, is that the occurrence is not valid evidence for any of those3 things. If you want to use it as evidence for one explanation, you have to show that the other explanations do not apply.
              You are however within your right to ask me how I think my explanations are possibilities for this occurrance. This will help us determine if my other explanations are real options.
              I do not mean that atheists should not be openminded about possible proof. However, the one who brings the proof should be prepared to defend it from other possible explanations. Otherwise, I could claim I am 7 metres tall, and point to a mark I made on the wall of my apartment building, 7 metres from the ground,  as proof. You would be justified in saying that I could have used a big ladder, or perhaps leaned over a balcony, to make that mark. I could even have used a helicopter, but that is less likely. However, the helicopter is still more likely than my being so tall. I could deny I used any of those methods, but it would lie with me to prove that I did not.
              What you ask, is that we accept one explanation and stop thinking of other possibilities. This is unscientific. It asks us to simply choose to believe one option and stop thinking about it.

              • DG

                I understand, of course, that the presence of an alternate explanation could suggest that the evidence itself cannot be used as proof – as long as the alternate explanation is, itself, valid.   My entire point to begin with was pointing out that as non-believers, could it be we put too many walls up?  Too many barriers?  I mean, put enough barriers up and you can show there is no proof for the moon landings.  Without realizing it.  That something could happen that in any other area of our lives we would say ‘yep, show’s that is true’, but suddenly, because we have such strong feelings about the question of the divine, we immediatly, and with no clear reason, begin to dismiss something that might just be a miracle, on the basis of insisting that it can’t be since miracles don’t happen.  It was just an observation.

                • http://www.facebook.com/anique.vanberne Anique Van Berne

                   Well, personally at least, I do not think miracles do not happen. I just think they are very unlikely. So I do allow it as a possible explanation, just not the most likely one.

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

          Again, most of us do not have a preconceived bias against God. If that were true, we would also have to have a preconceived bias against the Hindu gods, Allah, the Greek gods, the Roman gods, the Norse gods, the ancient Egyptian gods, etc., etc.

          What kind of “sign” would constitute valid evidence? If I asked for a sign from a god, and a book fell off my shelf, that would only be evidence that a book fell off my shelf There is nothing linking that common, boring event to the existence of a supernatural being.

          A valid “sign” would be something occurring that is impossible to explain by natural causes, something that could only have been caused by a supernatural creator of existence.

          If there is a god, or gods, that exist and know what I’m thinking, they would know what it would take to convince me of their existence.

          You bring up a lot of “what if”s, and keep referring to this evidence as though it is already present and compelling. Please, point it out to those of us who are apparently too biased to see it.

          • DG

            BTW, no, a book falling off a shelf doesn’t cut it.  Which is why I know of so few people who say
            they didn’t believe in God, but suddenly a book fell off a shelf and that
            clenched it.  However, if a person was to
            say ‘show me a sign now God!’ and a book suddenly and for no other observable
            reason fell off a shelf, would that make a difference?  According to you, no it wouldn’t.  And that’s my point.

            • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

              However, if a person was to say ‘show me a sign now God!’ and a book suddenly and for no other observable reason fell off a shelf, would that make a difference?

              No, and here’s why: unless I could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that that book could not have fallen off of the shelf through purely natural means, then I would have no reason to believe a god did it.

              If, however, I asked the Hindu gods for a sign, and nothing came… then asked the Norse gods for a sign, and nothing happened… then asked the Christian God for a sign, and the book slowly removed itself from the shelf, as though by an invisible hand, slowly approached me, then whacked me right in the face… then that might very well be evidence. Barring an hallucination (I would have a CT scan to make sure all was well), there would be no other possible explanation for that.

              • DG

                Let’s say you’ve exhausted the natural means, then what?

                • Reginald Selkirk

                   Then I point out that exhausting the existing list of natural explanations isn’t enough, you have to rule out every possible natural explanation that could be thought up in the future, or not thought up at all.  This has all been done before; you are trying to use an “argument from ignorance.” You should stop wasting electrons trying to support a fallacious position.

                • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

                  If I truly have exhausted all of the natural means, then it would most likely be something that we would describe as “supernatural”. This would, to me, also include technology that we have not seen yet (as sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic). Even if it were supernatural, it still doesn’t mean it was a brainless mind that created the universe.

    • Muxika

      Preconceived biases in this case can be better described as common sense based on basic sensory knowledge. Someone might see a miracle while another sees a lucky turn of chance, but the miracle has a faith-based supernatural explanation with underwhelming or no evidence.

      I understand the frustration of discussing with naysayers what’s in your heart and what you would define as evidence of supernatural involvement, but there are hundreds if not thousands of outcomes to those claims (currently unexplainable –> supernatural involvement –> God, Zeus, elemental spirit, ghosts, etc.).

      Since everyone shares the same sensory information, though, we can all judge the world better with the evidence we can discover from the tangible world around us.

      • DG

        Exactly my point.  But flipped.  What if the sensory information demands that the simplest explanation is true?  For instance, someone says if God does something to show God is there, then he’ll concede God. Something tangible happens that suggests God showed he is there.  The individual says sorry, there is no God, therefore there must be an alternate explanation, even if I have no other explanation than I simply can’t accept God.  Suddenly even common sense appears to be against him, as some would argue that is asking for evidence, and then dismissing evidence because you refuse to compromise what you believed in the first place.  That’s the dilemma when it comes to demanding proof.  As an agnostic, did I really want proof, or was it just a slick statement hoping to kick the ball to the other side of the court?

        • Glasofruix

          And what kind of tangible evidence that god exists do you have in mind? Rain? Wind? Earthquakes? Tide goes in, tide goes out? Sorry but everything has usually a scientific explanation, if not right now then certainly later.

          • DG

            What kind do you have in mind?  You’ve already demonstrated my point, though I doubt you get why 

            • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

              For the love of Zeus, DG, any evidence you can show us will be acceptable. Now SHOW US already! You keep evading the question, and keep throwing up possibilities and maybes and what-ifs. Stop being vague and show us already.

            • dylan

              I think I see your point DG.  Evidence that might make me consider that a god exists would be an amputated arm completely regrowing within seconds of the amputee praying for this to happen.  But I think what you are suggesting is that even if I did see this I would conclude, “well I just witnessed this happen in the real world so there must be a natural explanation for it.”  I still wouldn’t reach for the conclusion that a god exists.  And this may be true.
              In other words, the only thing I would consider as evidence is something that has never been known to happen ever before(completely break the known laws of physics, medicine etc.)  And if that thing ever was recorded, my instinct wouldn’t be “Aha, a god exists!”  It would be “Aha, we need to adjust this theory to include this new observation!”
              Hope that makes sense

              • amycas

                And that’s how science works. There are a lot of things that have changed human’s understanding of the laws of nature. And you know what? We didn’t throw our hands up, say god did it and take a nap. We went out and figured out why that thing happened, then we adjust the theory to include and explain the new observation. Really, every mystery ever solved has always turned out to be not-magic. The questions: Why should I expect that to change?

                • dylan

                  Yeah I should have clarified that in no way do I think someone should ever jump to the “god” conclusion.  Because without ruling out all other possibilities,and without having positive evidence that is was god, you’re basically just filling the gaps with god. 
                  I was just slightly sympathizing with DG’s position.  Because any evidence for a god that currently exists (I’m not necessarily claiming that there is any) we wouldn’t allow. This is because it is part of the natural world so we would insist that there is a natural explanation for it. 
                  And we might claim that there is possible evidence that if observed in the future might change our mind.  But if it ever is observed, we’ll change our minds and insist on looking for a natural explanation. I fully think that this is how it should be. But I can see how DG feels he’s in a sort of a lose lose situation.
                  Which gets me thinking…I think the only evidence that would ever truly make me believe would have to include the actual god.  In other words my amputee example above would have to include a thing claiming to be a god and then saying, “I will now regrow this amputated limb.”  And then it happens.  Course then where would my free will be?

                • amycas

                   yeah, I understood what you meant. I was just pointing out that what you were suggesting was the essence of the scientific method.

        • http://www.facebook.com/anique.vanberne Anique Van Berne

          Quote:
          “What if the sensory information demands that the simplest explanation is true? ”

           for me, the existence of a god would not be a simple explanation.  It may be a simple statement, but it has many implications for what I know of the world.

          • DG

            Perhaps God is not simple, but that doesn’t mean the simplest explanation might not be that God did this or that. 

            • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

              That doesn’t mean it is, either. Now show us the evidence already and stop being evasive. If this were a public debate, you’d have been walked out on by the audience already.

            • http://www.facebook.com/anique.vanberne Anique Van Berne

              Could you explain to me how the existence of a god is simple?

            • Danny

              Fine, define God, and show how he, as part of this equation, is the simplest explanation.

              It seems that your biases are preventing you from understanding that a complex god doing something simple still makes that scenario incredibly unlikely because it involves a complex entity. The simplicity of the act isnt what we’re disputing. You’ve somehow convinced yourself that god is simple, therefore anything god does is simple. But “god” can’t be simple if he created this complex universe. Anything involving god is inherently complex.

          • Danny

            You cannot say that ‘God did it’ could possibly be the simplest answer because you have not defined “God”. If the god you speak of is the Christian god that created the universe in 6 days, then you have to realize the complexity of your claim. Looking at and trying to have some understanding of the complexity of the universe we live in, and then realizing this “simple” entity created it all in 6 days, the entity (God) your using as evidence for simplicity is many magnitudes more complex than the universe we live in. “God did it” could never be the simplest solution, even when discussing the creation of the universe, because the complexity of that creator must be even greater than the complexity of the universe he created.

        • amycas

          You keep accusing us of using a tautology because we don’t accept arguments from ignorance. You’re doing it wrong. If I didn’t know where lightning came from, would I be justified in believing god did it? If I don’t know the answer to something, then my answer is “I don’t know.” Something unexplainable is just unexplainable. 

    • Glasofruix

      The only acceptable proof of a gods existence is for him to descend from his sky throne in a very fancy fashion for every one to see, not to send a fucking bird as a “sign” or appear in somebody’s hallucination.

      • DG

        Can you prove that’s the only acceptable proof?  Or is that your own opinion? 

        • Glasofruix

          It’s the only proof that i will accept as such (and if 7billion people see him descending).
          No natural phenomenon or a statistical probability is a proof of a divine presence and should be dismissed. Now if you have something tangible (ie not a personnal experience, miraculous healing or any other usual bullcrap) i will be glad to examine it, until then, there’s no god.

          • DG

            Then I suppose that’s the only proof that you will accept.  That’s sort of feeding into my point.

            • Len

              If god exists and is omni-everything, then he knows that I won’t accept as proof anything that can have a natural explanation. So no pictures of Mary on my toast or Jesus in my porridge.

              Proof is in the eye of the beholder, so proof of god will be undeniable for me. While it can be denied, it’s not irrefutable proof of god.

              • DG

                Nobody says that one single bit of evidence would be the all explaining irrefutable proof of God.  My initial observation was that as non-believers, we often say we don’t believe in God because there is no evidence, not for some reason like ‘because we just don’t want to believe in God.’  The implication is that if evidence were shown, we would accept it and concede God’s existence.  My observation was, however, that some things could be evidence and our biases are what cause us to reject the evidence we insist on having!  Again, that was a thought I had in my own agnostic days.

                • Fsq

                  you are an idiot. no polite way to say it. I do not respect your views or ideas, and anyone who would hold such childish and disingenuous “opinions” is intellectually dishonest and not worthy of being taken seriously.

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

          The reason why that is the only acceptable form of evidence, is because an hallucination or vague “sign” can be evidence for anything. If I had an hallucination where I was flying, is that evidence that I can therefore fly? If, after having read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I had an hallucination that the Great Green Arkleseizure sneezed on me, does that mean that he therefore sneezed the universe into existence and I must now worship him?

          Vague stories and events like these cannot justify the existence of a supernatural being. They may justify it to you, but since these are personal experiences, they cannot apply to anybody else but you.

          • DG

            If that’s what happened, sure.  But not all experiences are so vague or ephemeral.  Some defy any scientific explanation at all.  Some cannot be explained away but anything but the subjective and equally vague belief claim ‘blind cosmic coincidence.’  But are those valid responses?  Especially if I’m running around insisting that the only reason I don’t believe in the divine is because of no evidence.  I had to ask in my own life while trying to take an open and fair look at my own agnosticism. 

            • Fsq

              No they do not deny any scientific explanation. They operate outside the realm of discover as of yet, with the key word being yet.

              Not knowing does not equal jesus. It means we do not know yet. Yet.

              YET.

              And before you go and try that epistemological shell game of “but if we don’t know, we also don’t know it isn’t god” I say, yes, that is correct. However, it also means we don’t know the answer isn’t five-horned unicorns, Zues, the ghost of John Wayne, Joe Pesci, or perhaps a celestial teapot circling the earth. 

              A quick swipe of Occam’s Razor shows us that those options, including jesus and the judeo-christian god is not the answer.

              Science does not know the metaphorical answer….YET….and neither does religion. You may believe you know, you may think you know, but you do not know.

              If you have some proof of god hanging out and existing, please present it, have it reviewed, defend it and then become world famous for doing what no person has done before…..go ahead…..I’ll wait….What’s that you say? You don’t have any proof?

              Then shut up, and let the grown up scientists continue working toward real answers.

            • amycas

               I’ll say it again for you: if something can’t be (or isn’t) explained, then it’s just not explained. If something isn’t explained, then how can you say you know god did it? That would be an explanation , and you would have to use reason and evidence to justify that explanation.

              • Rwlawoffice

                 Saying that there is no scientific explanation for something and thus there is no explanation is just saying that the only explanation that you would accept is a scientific one. This is the presupposition that DG was referring to.

                • amycas

                   Did I say there was “no explanation”? No, I didn’t. I said it was just currently not explained. There is a difference. If something is not explained, then it’s just not explained. I can’t say something is not explained and then say it must have been magic. If you don’t know how something happened, then just be honest and say you don’t know. Thenmaybe we could investigate the phenomenon and find out what the explanation is (who knows, it could end up being a god).

        • Fsq

          Try applying scientific method to it. Not an opinion, but the acceptable way things are ascertained and arrived at. And that requires no proof, nor is it just my opinion.

          Do you realize what a dumbs you sound like?

    • cipher

      But perhaps, the proof is there, but because of preconceived biases, the individual is incapable of seeing the proof that he demands.

      Right – we could believe if we really wanted to. The next step is to tell us we don’t want to believe b/c we don’t want to be held “accountable”.

      You’re obviously an Arminian. If you were a Calvinist, it would be much easier for you: “God doesn’t allow you to believe because he created you to go to hell!”

      • DG

        Heh.  An Arminian?  Good one.  But yes, that’s what I’m saying.  Not the ‘because we don’t want to be held accountable’ part.  But simply we don’t want to believe because we’ve already concluded we don’t believe, or we don’t want to, or whatever.  For whatever reason we don’t believe, that not believing is the lens through which we interpret things, and therefore, is it possible – just possible mind you – that there could be moments that might change a person’s mind in other circumstances and yet they are dismissed based on no other reasoning than ‘I don’t believe’? 

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

          As an atheist, I have been in search of evidence for any of these “god” claims for years now. I have yet to see any besides (1) flawed logical arguments (such as the cosmological argument); (2) flawed refutations of evolution, abiogenesis, the Big Bang or some weird amalgamation of the three; and (3) personal anecdotes, such as dreams, hallucinations, visions, or “signs”.

          It’s certainly not the case that I refuse to believe. That would assume that the evidence is already there, and is compelling, and I am refusing to examine it.If you have some compelling evidence that we should examine, please, by all means, show us.

          • DG

            Well, my explanation and example would require much background about me at the time, what was going on around me, and what happened.  This is not my blog, and I don’t want to chew up endless pages in a ‘you were there’ moment.  Suffice to say (CliffsNotes version), when I was examining my own lack of belief back in the day, it came about that I chucked up a pretty common response: if I saw some evidence that God was there, I would accept at least the existence of some God somewhere. 

            And then something happened.  Something that had never happened in my life, literally within the same week (second week of exams, my last fall quarter of undergraduate studies).  Don’t worry, I didn’t fall on my knees and convert or anything.  In fact, it had already been a long, arduous journey to that point, and it would be a long time before even stepping inside a place of worship.  But what hit me was that there was no reason in the world that such an event proved anything.  And yet, if taken in context with the assumption of an actual divine being, it fit perfectly well and logically.  In fact, I had to admit the only reason to dismiss it was with the arguement that it could have been mere cosmic coincidence.  A fair argument to be sure.  But an argument without an iota of evidence itself, except that I simply didn’t believe in God, therefore there had to be a different explanation.  And that’s not a very grounded argument. 

            Again, I didn’t convert on the spot.  But I realized after insisting that I needed to see evidence, that an event that more than surpassed cosmic coincidence could only be dismssed as such when,  if in any other circumstance the same thing happened, I would easily accept the simplest explanation: the divine had broken into my life with an event that I couldn’t deny except with the vague and subjective ‘cuz God doesn’t exist, that’s why.’ 

            • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

              I’m assuming there’s a Part 2 to this. What was the event that changed your mind?

              • DG

                That’s the hard part, because you would have to get my entire life from about the age of 5 – a long read. Let’s just say I always wanted to see a widget, and that day walking home from exams to my place on 4th street when I somewhat flippantly said ‘you know God, some proof would help’, suddenly a widget appeared that night for the first time with a sign that said ‘check out God’ on it.  Again, cosmic coincidence?  Perhaps. But that would rest on my accepted model of reality in the first place.  Sure if I assume God exists, it’s easy to say it was God.  If I assume God doesn’t, I can dismiss it as coincidence.  But I found, oddly enough, that despite the fact that I accepted a model of reality that didn’t include anything supernatural, it was easier to accept that it could have been God, and the only thing keeping me from seeing it that way was a bias every bit as subjective about the non-existence of the divine as believing in the divine.  And that eventually got me to thinking…. 

                • roz

                  Seriously? Unless this “widget” is something unphysical or supernatual, this is nothing more than something rare occurring.

                • DG

                  It’s not just rare, but it was the timing.  For my whole life, I had been looking for this, er, widget.  Suddenly, the very moment I finally say ‘OK, I’m not saying there’s no God, but I am saying some proof would be nice ya know’, suddenly that little widget that had eluded me appears.  Again, my point isn’t, and wasn’t, that this proves God.  My point was that there was nothing at all that could explain it except that which I was already prepared to accept.  And if I didn’t accept it as a divine occurrence based on ‘God doesn’t exist, therefore it was just a coincidence’, what more was that than a belief claim, and one shutting me off from the evidence I may have asked for?

                • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

                  “My point was that there was nothing at all that could explain it except that which I was already prepared to accept.”
                  Really?

                  ” And if I didn’t accept it as a divine occurrence based on ‘God doesn’t exist, therefore it was just a coincidence’,”

                  Ah, so there was something else that could explain it, a coincidence. What you meant was, there was nothing else that could explain it once you removed all the explanations you’re unwilling to accept.

                  You can’t claim that “God” and “coincidence” are two equally arbitrary possibilities that you choose by presupposing their truth. Coincidences happen all the time.

                  “what more was that than a belief claim, and one shutting me off from the evidence I may have asked for?”

                  Depends on whether the widget was a good thing to base belief  in the supernatural on in the first place, which is why this discussion is meaningless in the abstract. If you said that the widget was, say a winning lottery ticket, then I’d say your initial premises were faulty to begin with.

                   
                   

                • alconnolly

                   It seems pretty clear that you are embarrassed to tell us what this widget was, the simplest explanation, is that it would not seem reasonable upon learning what this widget is, to consider this story supernatural. However in all honesty can you really say after thinking carefully (I know the story has been repeated in your mind so many times that as a matter of human psychology parsing the true answer to this question can be difficult) that you never before even once thought “God if you are real some evidence would be nice”. Because if you had previously thought this, the chance this was coincidence just shot through the roof. The other thing to consider is how many people in history have sincerely thought the same thing and never got this “response”. Would that mean God couldn’t be bothered to respond to them? Was your thought/prayer more important than the kid in Africa praying for food so he would not starve, which was not answered?

                • Jason Loveless

                  You don’t say how old you are, but you’ve built a  statistical back-door into your scenario anyway. If you’ve spent your whole life looking for X (where X is an unlikely event), the likelihood that you’ll encounter X naturally increases steadily as time passes. If you’re 30 years old, and X requires 10 seconds to occur, that’s… roughly 95 million opportunities X to occur such that you notice it. Even if we wish to eliminate time spent sleeping or time spent as an infant, and even if we stipulate that only 10% of the time is actually available for X, that’s still nearly 10 million opportunities.

            • roz

              Right, and if taken in context with the assumption of an actual divine being, it makes perfect sense that I got an A on my project the other week, because I really, really, really wanted to.

              If you’re going to come on here and tell us all about how we’re close minded and can’t see the evidence in front of us, then proceed to tell us that you saw something, don’t tell us that there isn’t enough space to write it all.

              • DG

                See my response below.

            • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

               ” And yet, if taken in context with the assumption of an actual divine being, it fit perfectly well and logically.”

              Here’s the problem with that. If you posit an omnipotent, omniscient entity, there is nothing that doesn’t fit with that context. As such, it is a useless explanation. It’s like saying “if there was an entity that could do anything and everything, then that would explain any event I might consider unexplainable.” This is superstition at its basest.

              • DG

                True.  And that was my point.  That is true, but it’s no less true about rejecting the existence of a divine being.  If that’s my point of departure, how do I know I’m not swiping away evidence simply based on my own biases already established?

                • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

                  “but it’s no less true about rejecting the existence of a divine being. ” Sorry, no. Rejecting a useless answer is not the same as accepting a useless answer.

                  If you begin by assuming an all-powerful entity exists and is in control of everything, what WOULDN’T be evidence of its existence?

                  There may be a divine entity that has an effect on reality, but appealing to ignorance is not a valid way to arrive at that conclusion.

                  That coincidences happen is not a matter of bias. That the human senses are fallible is not a matter of bias. That supernatural claims through history have made mutually contradicting assertions is not a matter of bias. That many definitions of supernatural entities are logically inconsistent is not a matter of bias. 

                  I don’t need to dismiss the supernatural a priori to accept these facts, but accepting them makes any supernatural claim too implausible to consider.

                  Now, I may be shooting myself in the foot here. One might say that I’m admitting that even if a god presented himself to me, I would reject it and therefore proving your point true.

                  This is true in a sense. I don’t think humans are capable of determining the existence of the omnimax definitions of gods, precisely because of the fallibility of these senses. If normal people in Africa, Alabama or Arabia can convince people to their contradicting claims to an absolute certainty, then any natural entity with the ability to influence human minds could pass itself off as a god and we’d be likely powerless to discern it.

                  Here’s the thing. An existing god could do several things to make his existence more plausible. If whenever someone prayed to god an audible voice was heard, if everyone in the planet had the same concept of a god embedded in their minds the same way everywhere. If Jesus had presented himself to the Chinese or the Incas instead of churches needing to send missionary troops.

                  But that’s not where we’re at, is it? We’re still dealing with superstitious allusions to ignorance and personal revelation. We still have mutually contradicting claims of divine opinion.

                  We could have been living in a world where a god was standing tall before us, like the Jesus statue in Rio de Janeiro and we could still make the points about our epistemological limits. But that would be a different world than this one, and in that would the existence of a god WOULD be a more plausible scenario within our understanding.

                • alconnolly

                   Because you already admitted it wasn’t evidence. You accepted Cafeeine’s contention that any data one ever encounters can be considered consistent with a hypothesis that some being with unlimited powers can does in some unpredictable and unknowable way interfere with the laws of physics, but only in a way that is utterly consistent with the laws of probability and the measurable laws of physics. If that is true then there is no evidence. Please remember that I can create any imaginary hypothesis and then when an objection arises so refine the hypothesis to clear that objection, until I have defined away all possible objections, but that does not make my “invisible, unmeasurable, pink garage dwelling dragon, of pure love, who tortures those who do not believe in him and answers prayers but only in a manner consistent with probability, and unpredictability” true now does it? Except the evidence for my dragon is all around you, but you just won’t process it. You woke up on time today? proof of my dragon. You overslept today? Proof of my dragon. Something wonderful happened? Proof of my dragon. Something terrible happened? Proof of my dragon. You don’t see the evidence? Proof that your “there is no dragon” mindset closes you off to the evidence.

            • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

              I think you missed this:”
              (3) personal anecdotes, such as dreams, hallucinations, visions, or “signs”.”  Feelings and substitution of supernatural explanations for some “event” means you don’t understand skepticism, and surely you realize that you having some ‘feeling’ that you later chalked up to God means nothing to me.  You could say you communed with the dead, hear voices, or felt the hand of the lord guiding you to kill babies; doesn’t mean anything.

              Also, how did you (eventually) bridge the gap between some supernatural force (which is, by my estimation, completely illogical) to the God of your choice? Why not go towards a deistic God, or why choose a specific God to worship, or Gods? 

              Could it have been Zeus or Thor intervening in your life? Why or why not? Could it have merely been the spirit of the mountain affecting change?

              Why the leap?

        • Rwlawoffice

           Your thoughts are in good company.  Dawkins himself has said that even if all the scientific evidence pointed to God, he would reject it and not believe.  I will get the exact quote if need be.

          • Fsq

            Go get it.

            • Rwlawoffice

              In acknowledging his bias against intelligent causes, he wrote in an email to Philip Johnson, where he said “Our philosophical commitment to materialism and reductionism is true” 

              What he is saying is that even if the evidence points to a designer, he is philosophically opposed to it and thus would reject it. This is the bias the DG was referring to and prompted my comment. 

              • Fsq

                That is not what he said, and you said you were going to cough up a quote that was an alleged smoking gun. This isn’t it Hoss.

                I feel so sorry for your clients….

                Here is what I imagine a court room scene with you to be:

                You: Judge, my client is not guilty because I have a witness and sworn testimony to prove it.

                Judge: Go get it.

                You: Well, I found an old email, between tow now relevant people, that says carrots influence tidal waves, therefore two things: Jesus and not guilty.

                Client: *face plan* Threat issued from he to you.

                Judge: Guilty. 50 years.

                You: Judge, it was only a speeding ticket.

                Judge: Doesn’t matter. You are a dumbass and just pissed off the court.

                • Rwlawoffice

                  I’m sorry that you cannot accept that your hero is not as objective as you want him to be and that his presupposition prevents him from doing so.  But I really did not hold out much hope that you would be able to understand such a concept.

                • amycas

                   I think you’re deliberately lying. Go look up the conversation between Richard Dawkins and PZ Meyers. They specifically talk about this topic, because Meyers does say that there is no conceivable evidence that would prove a god exists, and Dawkins disagreed with him.

                • Rwlawoffice

                   I quoted him directly so i did not lie .  He may have said something different in his conversation with P Z Meyers.  If you have that conversation i would like to see it.

                • amycas

                   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umNeukocpVI&

                  I’m pretty sure that’s it, but i don’t have time to listend to the whole series to make sure.  I should be getting ready for work right now.feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PL2333DAB27760B6C4

          • Pureone

            “If all the evidence in the universe turned in favour of creationism, I would be the first to admit it, and I would immediately change my mind. As things stand, however, all available evidence (and there is a vast amount of it) favours evolution.” 
            Of course, evolution does not equal atheism. 

            The same “evidence” people use for one god can be used for 5 or 7 or 12 or the flying spaghetti monster. 

    • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

       

      “I suppose it depends on what someone defines as proof in the
      first place.”

      And this is exactly why I cringe when I see atheists try to debate someone who waves about this get-out-of-jail-free card whenever they are intellectually cornered.
      Why not simply state that you don’t require evidence in order to hold to your beliefs and leave it at that?
      A rhetorical question, because I already know the answer AND I am fairly certain of your response…and they are not the same.

      • DG

        Who’s saying that?  I’m saying that one could demand evidence, then stare the evidence in the face, and because of beliefs already held, ignore the simplest explanation simply because it doesn’t fit with what I already believe to be, or not to be, the truth. 

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

          Hello, I’m an atheist without any preconceived bias. Please, show me the evidence and there’s the possibility I will believe you. Let us examine the evidence together.

          tl;dr: Put up or “shut up”.

          • DG

            See my response above.

            • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

              Yes, and? I see no evidence presented. What is the evidence that is staring me in the face? If you can’t point it out to me, then I’ll have to question if the evidence really is there, and you’re not just making it up.

            • Glasofruix

              Have you ever heard of statistics and probabilities?

              • Rwlawoffice

                 Do you believe in things that are beyond mathematical probability?

                • Glasofruix

                   Such as?

                • Rwlawoffice

                   I asked that in response to your question regarding statistics and probability.  Maybe he i should asked it differently and asked- does something have to be mathematically probable for you to believe it?

                • amycas

                   No, mathematical improbabilities happen all the time, and I suspect that’s what xe meant. Something does have to have reason and evidence for me to believe it though.

            • Nude0007

              we do not have to read your entire life story to “get it”.  That’s just a cop out to avoid presenting this evidence you speak of. Tell us what the widget is/was, and why you accepted it as proof, or you are just jerking us around asking us to take your word for it.
              So far  all I’ve heard is that you have to pre-suppose god exists (a serious flaw in the scientific process) so we can then catch all the “evidence” that is plentiful around us. This is, as many have stated here, merely attributing things you see to the deity. That’s a fallacy.  You attribute it to your god, and others attribute it to theirs with the result it doesn’t prove either if it can prove both equally.  
              Most non-believers I know became such because they really did want to verify proof of their god. They want it. They would welcome it. Upon not finding it, their only option left is that there is no proof of a god. To presume that we are set against seeing any proof is ludicrous.  I want more than anything for there to be an all-powerful being interested in taking care of me, I just hope it’s not any of the Abrahamic gods. I cannot imagine a more complete hell than having them as a god.

              So what is this widget and why did it resonate with you so strongly. If you cannot present it for an unbiased review, then it is meaningless, even to you.

            • Geekus Villagius

              All answers are replies. Not all replies are answers.

        • Glasofruix

          Religious people do that, despite the massive pile of material evidence that exists. The thing is, no (material, plausible, tangible) evidence was ever provided for us to stare at. Yet you claim you have something, please share it with us.

    • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

      To begin with, I take it you’re not disagreeing with the content of the video, am I right? You agree that the person making a claim is the one with the burden of proof. Your issue is the form of the proof or evidence presented.

      Making the point “is it possible that such proof has been made available, but
      that one’s personal belief that God doesn’t exist doesn’t allow him or her to
      accept the proof.” is an attempt to shift that burden of proof, but in doing so presents a new claim that also has a burden of proof.

      It is possible that the skeptic is so entrenched in her ideas that she is unwilling to accurately gauge the evidence presented to her. This doesn’t change the burden of proof, it only shows a failure of critical thought. The theist claim maker however must do more than assert this failure, he must show evidence of it, if not for the offending skeptic herself, for everyone else.

      That people ignore evidence at times is not in dispute. One cannot use that general claim to assert that a particular person is ignoring specific evidence, without discussing the actual presented evidence.

       

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      If you have evidence, we’re all ears (or eyes).

    • http://wading-in.net/walkabout Al Denelsbeck

      Plus, is it possible that such proof has been made available, but
      that one’s personal belief that God doesn’t exist doesn’t allow him or her to
      accept the proof.

      It’s possible. But then again, it also goes both ways, and those who find something to constitute proof of any god could simply be wishing to find it as well. You’re not offering any way of differentiating, nor even forwarding the proof yourself (yeah, some of us noticed that.)

      Since no small number of us actually grew up religious and did believe at one time, you also have to explain why our desire not to believe somehow explains the conversion. Not to mention, if you want to make a statement of pathological denial among large groups of people, there’s that whole thing where you are required to support your statement.

      It’s not as if biases and sympathies toward a particular viewpoint haven’t clouded folks’ assessment of the facts in other areas throughout the ages.

      You’ve never invested in an irony meter, have you?

      I’ve seen more than one atheist shrug and say ‘I’m sure we’ll explain it someday’, or ‘there’s probably another explanation’, or ‘it was probably just a cosmic coincidence.’
      and

      But maybe, again assuming that all reality must be proven as we understand it in our day and age, it boils down to what you are or are not willing to accept.

      These two statements contradict one another. Pick a side: you either find it acceptable to allow something to be unknown to us, or you don’t and claim it’s god.

      Or, you can stop dealing with gross caricatures and actually start arguing real cases. I’m sure it works very well for you to arbitrarily claim something as proof, and demean anyone else who hasn’t even had the opportunity to address anything specific, but some of us see that as a cheap ploy.

      For instance, I have yet to see anyone make any claim, or even display an attitude implying assumption, that all reality can be ‘proven.’ The best I’ve seen is people actually looking for evidence of how things work – this implies nothing but interest (and, if we stick to that whole ‘honesty’ thing, works pretty damn well.) I’ve never heard the phrase “cosmic coincidence” and wonder what it’s supposed to mean.

      But most importantly, what I consider useful knowledge is something that actually provides some specific value, usage, prediction, et cetera. We figured out lightning wasn’t directed by gods simply because it was undirected, unless gods really had it in for trees; even not knowing what caused it didn’t let “goddidit” lead anywhere useful. It was those that eschewed mystical thinking to investigate in search of useful answers that led to coping with the power spikes.

      • DG

        Well the fact that
        people reject the faith of their families means nothing at all. I mean, let’s
        face it, for over 50 years the overwhelming commission of society has been
        question authority, reject tradition, and rebel against your parents. Heck,
        there are kids who go to churches and are rebelling against atheist parents.
        That doesn’t mean anything.

        But you’ve more or less said what I said (though I’ve tried,
        without going into a Call me Ishmael level account of how this moment in my
        life got me to thinking about the subjective nature of my expectations when it
        came to asking for evidence). The door obviously swings back at people of
        religious faith. My point is it swings the other way as well. And how sure are
        we that we aren’t, even subconsciously, putting up an impossible standard for
        evidence, or saying ‘I say God has to do thus and such or else he doesn’t
        exist.’ If you think about it, that’s not the most mature approach. That’s like
        the creationist who says unless a scientist has observed evolution actually
        happen he can’t prove it. Really?

        Not to mention other things that pass as reasons but are, in
        fact, belief claims. For instance, someone said the presence of a scientific
        explanation can disprove the divine explanation. Since when? The idea that science
        explaining gravity means God doesn’t exist or nothing supernatural or divine occurred
        is, itself, a completely metaphysical claim. That’s what I was getting at.

        As an agnostic, I was quick to say ‘I don’t reject God. If
        someone could show me proof, of course I would accept it.’ But in the course of
        reflecting on my own views of the subject, I suddenly wondered how open I really
        was, or was this just pushing the line back based on ideas I had that were
        already as subjective as any Bible waving fundamentalist preacher.

        • Xeon2000

          Evolution has a well explained scientific model behind it that makes sense and many components of it are observable.

          God is an infinite, nonmaterial being beyond space and time that knows all, can do all, and can be everywhere at once. He requires no creator because he’s eternal. There is no explanation provided, just assertions.

          So when a creationist says “unless you can directly observe the entirety of evolution, then you can’t prove it”… that’s not quite fair to compare the two. In fact, direct observation don’t happen a lot in science. We can’t directly observe dinosaurs and their appearance and habits, but we can put together an educated guess based on fossils and other information. We can’t directly observe sub-atomic particles, but we know they’re there based in certain detection methods.

          Why then I ask is a theory like evolution only true via direct observation? That seems rather bias, and I know what you’re going to say… You want to know then, “why does the existance of god require direct observation?”.

          Well, I’m not sure it does, but if you read the description of what “god existing” asserts than you know that the immensity of your claim must be comparable to the breadth of your evidence. If your evidence for a spectacular claim is shaky, then it’s hard to believe. Is an infinite being beyond space and time with no discernible natural explanation a spectacular claim? You’re darn right it is.

          If evolution explains how the model works within our scientific model, then it’s easy to run tests to demonstrate its truth. How do you run a test to demonstrate “god” when no model is provided and the breadth of the claim spans the infinite? I’d contend that it’s not provable, which in the end isn’t an amazing conclusion. Most atheists probably contend that god is a claim that is impossible to prove due to the nature of the claim.

        • http://wading-in.net/walkabout Al Denelsbeck

          Turn off word wrap before you copy, the formatting won’t go so wonky ;-)

          I mean, let’s face it, for over 50 years the overwhelming commission of society has been question authority, reject tradition, and rebel against your parents.

          Unless, of course, you consider that for all of recorded human history we’ve been influenced by what others think, “going with the crowd” kind of thing. That’s even one of the more common arguments for any given religion in the first place: “[This number] of people can’t be wrong!”

          For every anecdotal influence, there’s at least one in another direction. The question is, which one of them is most supported by real research?

          And how sure are we that we aren’t, even subconsciously, putting up an impossible standard for evidence, or saying ‘I say God has to do thus and such or else he doesn’t exist.’ If you think about it, that’s not the most mature approach.

          Considering the numerous claims for any god’s extraordinary nature and ability, it’s really hard to imagine that any standard of evidence that we set could actually be high enough. We’re not talking about what causes the wind, here, but a being that supposedly created the entirety of human experience. Seriously, what are you proposing is “good enough”?

          And more importantly, what reasoning are you giving as to why I should accept your standards?

          Once again, you’re coming at it backwards – did you miss the point of this whole post? Anything that anyone can imagine might be possible, but that only addresses our mortal knowledge – it does not mean that physically nothing is impossible. Quite a few things might be, like cold fusion and zero point energy. What can you provide to change from ‘not definitively ruled out’ to ‘probable,’ or even simply ‘useful’?

          This might help: http://tinyurl.com/6netbor

          For instance, someone said the presence of a scientific explanation can disprove the divine explanation. Since when? The idea that science explaining gravity means God doesn’t exist or nothing supernatural or divine occurred is, itself, a completely metaphysical claim.

          No, the claim that needs support is that metaphysics is not an imaginary field. Arbitrarily proclaiming something mystical means absolutely nothing to me – I said in another post, that’s a “What if?” excuse for a valid argument. What if it’s all our imagination? Who gives a damn? Produce something that has some use, effect, or prediction.

          As an agnostic, I was quick to say ‘I don’t reject God. If someone could show me proof, of course I would accept it.’ But in the course of reflecting on my own views of the subject, I suddenly wondered how open I really was, or was this just pushing the line back based on ideas I had that were already as subjective as any Bible waving fundamentalist preacher.

          I don’t reject faster than light travel. I just don’t see it happening. The word “reject” is a trap, whether yours or someone else’s – it’s an attempt to make the issue emotional, rather than objective.

          You seem to think that entertaining any random concept is being open-minded, which is fine for you I suppose, but I see no purpose in it. I don’t put any weight behind ideas themselves; I’m more interested in if they have value, and can stand up against others better. Most cultures the world over have/had some kind of creation concept, but few have any agreement, and none have predicted such basic facts as planetary motion, bacteria, or evolution, and none seem to be doing any good at all at improving interpersonal relations. So I should consider them… why?

    • Patterrssonn

      So youre saying that anything goes, believe in what you want because who knows maybe there really is a juggling walrus under he skin of Pluto paying homage at a shrine of Margaret Rutherford, we just haven’t found the proof yet.

    • alconnolly

       You said: “So something happens
      that defies everything we understand about the world, or that suggests
      something miraculous did happen.  I’ve
      seen more than one atheist shrug and say ‘I’m sure we’ll explain it someday’,”
      Example please. I would like to hear of genuine proof that the laws of physics were broken, and a reasonable inference that the event constitutes a strong support for the God hypothesis. If you can give an example of this anecdote, I would be much obliged, if not it would imply you just made it up.

      • DG

        You insist that the divine presence revealing itself must involve breaking the laws of physics.  Why do you insist that?

        • Glasofruix

          Because if it “reveals” it self by making a night at the end of the day it does not make it divine…

        • alconnolly

           What kind of response is that dg. I quoted you saying “So something happens
          that defies everything we understand about the world, or that suggests
          something miraculous did happen.  I’ve seen more than one atheist shrug and say ‘I’m sure we’ll explain it someday’,” ‘I’m sure we’ll explain it someday’,” I reiterated your claim and that fact it included breaking the laws of physics because you said it defies everything we understand about the world or suggest something miraculous happened. If it was standard functioning of the everyday laws that govern our existence thaen in what way would it defy everything we know about the world? You defined the term claim you had multiple specific anecdotes, and then when asked to share just one, asked why it has to conform to the very terms you said you had multiple anecdotes to support. Your response shows a very disingenuous behavior. You do not seem sincere at all in your questions, and it makes it seem that you are lying when you say many atheist have done something specific and when asked for an example you say why does it have to be specific? Ether be truthful or don’t speak. Please look in the mirror and decide if you want to be a lier or sincere seeker of truth.

    • Fsq

      Yes, proof is this god, or A god showing up and making itself quite clear to us without the use of parlor tricks or cryptic nonsense that apologists claim as proof.

      Sorry, an burnt outline of jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich is not proof, it’s a parlor trick.

    • chicago dyke, mediocre of lime

      sweetie, “proof” is one of those words like “reality” and “evidence.” despite what you people tell yourselves, you don’t get to make up your own definitions and apply them to the reality-based community and the people who live there. proof is conclusive evidence that is verifiable and transparent to all. who will see it. like so many believers and conservatives, you project your own flaws onto those with whom you choose to disagree. 

    • amycas

       If something unexplained happens, then it’s just unexplained. It’s not proof of any god or supernatural beings. Arguments from ignorance hold no water here.

  • Mike Higginbottom

    I think he’s missing a fundamental point. We atheists see claims for the existence of gods as being ‘extraordinary claims’, thus placing the burden of proof on the claimant. From the theist’s perspective, however, it is OUR claim of non-existence which is the extraordinary claim, thus apportioning the burden of proof four-square on OUR shoulders. QualiaSoup doesn’t see the statement ‘Gods don’t exist’ as a claim at all, let alone an extraordinary one. It’s his blinkered view of the world that prevents him from seeing this. Of course, his blinkered view of the world is correct, but that doesn’t absolve us from our burden of proof.

    Of course, proving the non-existence of gods is trivially easy; at least proving it beyond reasonable doubt. One merely has to demonstrate that there is no evidence of gods having ever interacted with the natural world. Prayer doesn’t work, miracles don’t occur, earthquakes are caused by convection, and so on. Absence of evidence is most assuredly evidence of absence.

    • Ørjan Hoem

       It’s not that he doesn’t see “Gods don’t exist” as a claim, it’s that he’s not CLAIMING that. He’s not claiming anything at all.

      There’s actually very few atheists that claim gods don’t exist – even Dawkins doesn’t.

      • http://www.facebook.com/anique.vanberne Anique Van Berne

         The reason for that is that to prove that something does not exist is impossible. We can make a case that the existence of a god is very unlikely, but beyond that it is impossible.

        Most atheists know this, and therefore claim that the existence of a god is extremely unlikely.

      • Mike Higginbottom

        Yes he does. We all do. I reject this pandering to the minutiae of formal logic and philosophy. We need to start living in the real world here. I claim gods don’t exist in the same sense that I claim the sun will rise tomorrow. I’ll put $1000 on it right here and right now. That’s a claim. Dawkins makes equal claims. Are either of us 100% certain that our claims are true? Of course not. And we acknowledge that. But we make the claims nonetheless.

        We all understand these subtle distinctions. We understand that they’re important. We get it. Let’s move on now. The fact is, the rest of the world doesn’t give a shit. We need to stand up loud and proud and say what we mean. It’s easy, this is what we say: “Gods don’t exist. Can we prove it? No, of course we can’t. Now fuck off with your stupid, weasly demands little man.”

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

          You apparently don’t know the difference between “I don’t believe in gods” and “I believe no gods exist”. Learn the difference, then get back to us.

          • Rwlawoffice

             Actually these are exactly the same thing once you have looked at the evidence and rejected it.  Atheists make the claim that they want to see evidence, then when the evidence for the existence of God is presented you take a position on the evidence. That position is either you believe the evidence or you don’t believe the evidence. You can say that as either – “I do not believe in the evidence of God” or “Based upon the evidence presented I don’t believe in God”. It reached the same conclusion, which is a belief that God does not exist. 

            Of course there is a third way to respond and that is- that is to say that the  evidence presented is not evidence.  This is an affirmative claim regarding the only type of evidence that would be credible for the proof of God.  That is a claim upon which you would bear the burden of proof.

            • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

              “You can say that as either – “I do not believe in the evidence of God”
              or “Based upon the evidence presented I don’t believe in God”. It
              reached the same conclusion, which is a belief that God does not exist. 

              How do you get from statements about presented evidence to a belief in the non-existence of god?

              Saying you failed to meet your burden of proof of the existence of god maintains the the god concept to the ‘unproven things’ pile.  What moves it to the ‘non-existent things’ pile is when theists define god in a logically inconsistent manner or if an atheist offers a positive argument against its existence.

               “Of course there is a third way to respond and that is- that is to say
              that the  evidence presented is not evidence.  This is an affirmative
              claim regarding the only type of evidence that would be credible for the
              proof of God.  That is a claim upon which you would bear the burden of
              proof”

              I agree. And in general atheists do try to meet that burden of proof. I did so in an earlier comment with the example of old texts.

              • Rwlawoffice

                 No, it stays in your unproven pile, not in the unproven pile for all people. It is a personal belief that the evidence does not meet the burden of proof.  Therefore it is the same as saying i do not belief that you met the burden of proof and thus I do not believe in God.

        • Patterrssonn

          I think you’re flat out wrong. A few deconversions that I’ve read have explicitly stated that they were taught that creationism, belief in god etc. were based on logic and science and it was discovering otherwise that led them to atheism. Also if logical arguments were ineffective theists wouldnt spend so much time trying to argue against them.

    • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

       You’re repeating a common misconception. Correctly understood, atheism makes no claims as to the existence of the supernatural other than to state that there is no evidence to believe in the supernatural.
      Theists make a claim of existence.
      Stating that there is not enough evidence to prove or demonstrate existence is not a claim of non-existence.
      It’s a fine distinction, but an important one.
      For example, theists often claim that atheism is a belief system in that we “believe” there are no gods. This is, of course, incorrect as it is not possible to “prove” a negative.
      It’s not that I believe there are no gods, but that I do not believe in gods. Again, an important distinction and one that is surprisingly misunderstood even by a few of those who claim to be atheist/agnostic.

      • Mike Higginbottom

        I understand the distinction but my point would be that the distinction has no bearing on reality. Sure, no atheist I know of would flat out state that there is zero possibility of the existence of gods, myself included. But that acknowledgement is still entirely compatible (outside a philosophy class) with the statement ‘I believe there are no gods’. For all practical purposes the two are one and the same.

        I can certainly hold a belief without it being proven. Almost all my, and your, beliefs are subjective in exactly this fashion. This falsifiability is exactly what makes a rationalist’s beliefs more powerful and meaningful than those of a theist. 100% unbreakable faith does absolutely nothing to nail down reality because no matter how reality might change the belief cannot. It therefore has zero value.

        Regardless, my original point still stands, from the theist’s perspective, it is OUR claim which is extraordinary. He lives in a world unencumbered by evidence, reason or rationality. God exists, end of story. How could it be any other way? And make no mistake, the atheist IS making a claim, even if it’s only ‘Gods ALMOST CERTAINLY don’t exist’. It’s a claim about the nature of reality just as much as the theist’s claim ‘God DEFINITELY exists’ is a claim about the nature of reality.

        Determining which of the two claims is the most extraordinary requires a value judgement based on the context of the judge as well as the certitude of the claim. For the theist who KNOWS gods do exist, even the claim that they MIGHT not is utterly extraordinary. For the atheist who’s only PRETTY SURE they don’t, the claim that they definitely DO is, in some ways far less extraordinary; we do at least already acknowledge the possibility that they might.

        Fundamentally, there’s no way to determine which of the two contexts is valid other than the obvious; one is based in faith, one is based in reason. But the theist and the atheist both disagree about which of the two axioms, faith or reason, is the correct one to use. At the end of the day, you can’t reason a person out of a situation which they didn’t reason themselves into.

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

          Sorry, not all atheists believe there are no gods. Many simply lack a belief in any of the gods. There is a difference.

          • Mike Higginbottom

            Sorry, but this is just playing word games on the meaning of ‘belief’. Always has been, always will be. There’s simply no need for it. Let’s make it clear and unambiguous.

            The probability of gods existing ranges between 0 and 1. My understanding of your position is that you are an agnostic atheist in that you are not sure that probability is zero. I’m with you. In fact I don’t know any atheists who attach a probability of zero to that question. In other words I don’t know of any gnostic atheists.

            Seems a little silly to claim that’s not a belief that ‘there are no gods’ though. That’s like refusing to agree that you believe the sun will rise tomorrow. Cos… you know… it might not.

            • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

              No, it’s not “playing word games”. It would be like if you claimed that 9/11 was a conspiracy that everybody was in on. Until you showed me evidence that this was true, I would hold off belief. That is comparable to all atheists. What happens a step further is different for many atheists. I could say that your claim is false (strong atheism), or that I cannot say whether your claim is true or false, but that I have no reason to believe it until I see compelling evidence (weak atheism).

              The hosts of The Atheist Experience do a better job at explaining this than I can. But to say that the god claim is “false” is to assert a claim. To refuse to accept the truth is not asserting a claim, and is simply expressing skepticism.

              • Mike Higginbottom

                Sure, but surely you would agree that you have to take a more nuanced approach than true/false/undecided. That’s just not the way the world works. True and false are exceedingly rare as correct answers. Almost all answers are ‘undecided’. Does that mean you think ‘gods exist’ and ‘gods don’t exist’ are equally likely? Of course not. I’m guessing you’d say it’s far more likely that gods don’t exist than that they do. Why would you throw away that information just so you can live in a true/false/undecided world? The purpose of evidence is to allow us to slide our answer along the continuous scale between the two extremes of true and false. If you’re only going to take a position on a question when you’re 100% sure of the answer then you’re never going to get much done are you?

        • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

          Sure, no atheist I know of would flat out state that there is zero
          possibility of the existence of gods, myself included. But
          that acknowledgement is still entirely compatible (outside a philosophy
          class) with the statement ‘I believe there are no gods’. For all
          practical purposes the two are one and the same.

          Christian apologists would be in complete agreement with you.

        • Patterrssonn

          So being blinded by ideology makes you blinded by ideology. Not sure how that’s relevant.

    • jdm8

      “Absence of evidence is most assuredly evidence of absence.”
      I see what you mean, but I don’t think it works that way.  Here is one reference:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_of_absence
      One can start by looking at the falsifiability, a topic covered somewhat tangentially in the video, and not stated by that name that I remember.  Someone saying a god exists – there’s no way to disprove that.  If someone says no gods exist, then it’s easy to disprove if you can find good evidence of one.

      Also, I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but the phrase I quoted might be a distortion of a commonly used phrase.  Neil de Grasse Tyson uses this on occasion:
      “Absence of evidence is most assuredly evidence of absence.”

      His example is extraterrestrial aliens.  Just because we don’t have proof of them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  But he’s not going to state an affirmative without proof of it.

      • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

         

        “Absence of evidence is most assuredly evidence of absence.”

        You meant:
        “Absence of evidence is most assuredly NOT evidence of absence.”…correct?

        • jdm8

          Oops!  The second quote by NdGT is incorrect.

        • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

          I don’t know what he meant, but I agree that absence of evidence is evidence of absence.  What people usually do is confuse it with the claim that “absence of evidence is proof of absence.” which is wrong.

      • Mike Higginbottom

        Sure, you have to make sure your experiments have been done correctly and that they would have found evidence were it there to be found. But I’m sure you would agree that every person on the planet does enough experiments every day to determine that the evidence just isn’t there.

    • Andrew B.

       A better phrasing is “Absence of EXPECTED evidence is most assuredly evidence of absence.”

  • MegaZeusThor

    QualiaSoup makes some great videos, this one included. Thanks for posting about it Hemant.

  • Gpklemann

    On a slightly different note this excellent video applies to more than just gods. Unfortunately in the northwest US there are a lot of people who believe naturiopathic quackery or “quackiopathy” as I like to call it. Amusingly the most common defense is “your western medicine science doesn’t apply to quackiopathy.” They miss both the fact that science can be applied rationally to any claim and that they must bear the burden of proof. Even better is the fact that the majority of claims fail when held up to scrutiny. Look at the example where airborne had to get rid of their ridiculous claim on the box when science showed the multivitamin “created” by a school teacher had no bearing on disease. But quackiopathy has become like a religion and as such people hold unjustified beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. What’s worse is people will pay ridiculous amounts of money for some “all natural” concoction yet complain about a $20 copay. They will outright refuse science based medicine for some unfounded claim by a quackiopath and legally the FDA cannot audit them. That’s why there is always the *This product is not intended for the diagnosis or treatment of any specific illness* at the bottom of all the quackiopathic commercials on TV (Enzyte, etc.). So please, the next time you look at some quackiopathic nonsense when you have a cold, look for the burden of proof and be a skeptic.

  • http://twitter.com/fengardice Fabio García

    “I lack belief in the non-existence of gods” SERIOUSLY?! That argument is so amazingly stupid, it’s no wonder I hadn’t heard about it before.

  • http://godlessandsouthern.wordpress.com/ MattyP

    That was fantastic, I might use that in my own blog.

  • SimonPure

    Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat.
    The onus of proof lies on the proposition, not on the opposition.

  • Jason Goertzen

    Theists insisting that atheists have ‘the burden of proof’ sound like lawyers insisting that the *defense* needs to prove the defendant is innocent.  

    If there’s no evidence someone is guilty, we don’t throw them in prison anyway with the justification “well, who do *YOU* think did it?”

    • Fsq

      Uhhhhh…..in a perfect USA that would be true…..but digressing here, innocent people who haven’t even been accused get thrown into jails now. And not just those that the US claims are terrorists…..check the records for Alabama and a former politician and see how that utopian idea still works….

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    To DG,

    It would be amusing to watch a debate between you and another person with a different notion of God both trying to convince the other that your notion of God is true because of the signs that each of you have seen. 

    DG has preconceived notion that God is like X.  DG sees some sign that reinforces DG’s believe that the X-like God exists. 

    “Other person” has preconceived notion that God is like Y.  “Other person” sees some sign that reinforces Other Person’s believe that the Y-like God exists.

    Then DG and Other Person unsuccessfully try to convince the other that they are right.

  • Sapphire

    Two things seem to have happened in the course of this discussion.
    The first is that some people are mixing up evidence with proof.  Few things in science (outside of mathematics) are subject to proof .  Gravity postulates that two bodies that have mass experience a mutual force of attraction.  Experiments have shown this to be true and can measure that force.  The experimental results are evidence but science does not say they proof that gravity exists because after a billion experiments the billion and first might give a contrary result, But gravity is accepted because so far all the experimental evidence supports it.
    Most trials (criminal and civil) are decided on a balance of probabilities rather than proof.   
    The second concerns the nature of evidence itself.  For evidence to support a proposition it needs to be relevant and relate directly to the claim.  It also needs to be available to anyone who cares to enquire.  DG claims to have evidence which he won’t specify but appears to be in the nature of a personal revelation.  In science, philosophy, history or law that would not be classed as evidence.  It is just one more unsupported assertion.
    Suppose you came across a dead body with a bloody wound to the chest and a person standing over it holding a smoking gun?  What does the evidence so far tell you? – only that a person has died and has a wound and another person has recently discharged a pistol.
    If death resulted from a bullet wound at about the right time we have made a step further but the evidence still does not link the person with person holding the pistol with the death.  Someone else could have fired the fatal shot.
    Match the bullet to the pistol and show by tests that the person had recently fired a pistol and the case is getting there.
    But it collapses again when the gun holder brings evidence to show that he had fired a pistol at a shooting range only moments before finding the body with the pistol lying beside it.  The accused has introduced reasonable doubt as to his guilt.  Can the prosecution bring further evidence?
    All of which misses the real point of the video which was that a person making a claim bears the burden of supporting with evidence.  The second point in the video was that religious people have enjoyed exemption from providing evidence for their claims for so long that being asked to do so seems like a personal attack.  
    One person who does seek to provide evidence is John Polkinghorne who is a particle physicist and ordained minister.  His evidence for a god is necessarily philosophical but he admits this and says the same of much of the evidence in quantum theory.

  • Phiterflight

    LOL! This is hilarious!!!

  • MyHope

    He gave a 12 minute dissertation regarding the burden of proof. For me it is my “hope” that there is a GOD. I base my beliefs on a couple of things but I am not trying to convince anyone. So I have no burden of proof. And as far as Science is concerned I believe that it is a nothing more than man trying to explain what God has created. And for an Atheist to ridicule what I believe is fool hearty because it presumes that the Atheist knows absolutely that there is no God. I would hope that when I die that I don’t just vanish forever. If that is the case then living life is meaningless.

    • Cafeeine

      You can hope for a lot of things, you’re entitled to hope. You don’t need to convince anyone else, except yourself. I disagree with you on the meaninglessness of a finite life (in fact. the opposite is true, in an eternal life, everything ceases to have meaning) but that can be discussed.

      A few problems: 1) A lot of believers are not like you. They not only claim a hope, they claim knowledge, and as such, they do have a burden to prove their claims. 2) Depending on what the god you hope for is like, it can be shown if it is irrational to even hope it exists. Most of the abrahamic gods are at some point logically inconsistent. Holding onto hope for the irrational makes for dangerous decision making that can hurt you or the ones you care about.
      3) If someone you care about believed they will become intangible at road crossings and therefore no cars can hit them, I doubt you would allow them to continue doing so unopposed just because you can’t know absolutely that it will never happen. Taking a position of “we don’t know everything, therefore anything might be possible” is incredibly silly and worth ridiculing, because it is dangerous.


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