Tuesday, June 15, 2010

there is absolutely no evidence for God?

Richard Dawkins is a well known and influential spokesman for atheism and a harsh critic of religion and belief in God. As a well respected scientist, the facts he presents and the opinions he draws from them are taken notice of. But are his facts always well-based?

Here is a short segment from an interview.

You will have noticed that Richard has made a quite definite and categorical claim: that belief in God is "something for which there is no evidence and never was any evidence"

Is this true?

When I look at my own belief, I find it is not true. I find all sorts of evidence for God - in the universe, within humanity, in human experience, and primarily in Jesus. Richard must be aware of these things, so how can he say there is "no evidence"?

It must be that he is using a rather narrow view of evidence, limiting it to scientific evidence, that is, evidence that can be measured and recorded, and repeated, and in such a form that it can be used to test a hypothesis.

It is probably true that there isn't such scientific evidence for the existence of God. (I say probably, because it may be that some healing miracles may have been documented well enough to pass that test.) But:

  • There are many things that most of us believe that do not pass that test - things like the ethical views we hold about rape or racism, the love of a spouse, the political views we hold, or even the philosophical view that we should only believe those things for which we have empirical evidence. Even some widely accepted science cannot pass all the test - for example, the multiverse (the hypothesis that we inhabit just one of many universes or "domains") or abiogenesis (life arising out of non-life). I assume Richard believes in many of these things even though they don't have full scientific evidence.
  • But there are many other types of evidence, in such disciplines as history, the law, philosophy and everyday life. And it is clear that there is plenty of these sorts of evidence that people believe points to God. Others may of course disagree with the conclusion, but it is still evidence as defined by the dictionary: something "helpful in forming a conclusion or judgment".

So Richard has to use a very narrow definition of evidence to make his point. Even famous scientists don't always give us all the information!

Read more about faith and evidence in is there no evidence for God?. Read more about the evidence for God in ibelieve.

1 comment:

  1. It seems a hackneyed point to pursue, but pointing out the inconsistency of this heavily evidence-based epistemology (what evidence is there that leads us to conclude we should value evidence?) can be a useful (althoug very simple) argument alongside the one you outlined. It is clear there have to be some assumptions.

    What I find most nagging, though, is that some people seem to be convinced that science is more or less the application of common sense; rather denigratory to scientists if you ask me and not true, but immune to your response.


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