Hey all, Sorry about the absence. Family obligations, a career change, and the holidays occupied most of the time I had over the last two months.
What I want to talk about today, is if there is evidence for a god. The reason I want to talk about this, is because of the dynamic and drastically different answers that you get depending on whom is asked. The typical atheist usually (overconfidently and very loudly) says no. The typical theist usually (overconfidently, and loudly) say yes. Yes, I have also been guilty of the former as well. This is why I want to take an honest look at this.
The answer is contextual and predicated on what one’s definition of evidence is. If you are speaking about evidence in the strict scientific sense, that something can be independently verified, tested, and repeatable, the answer is no. There is none. This in and of itself would not be a knock against theology, as it is well understood in almost all schools of theological ideology that you “can’t put god in a test-tube”. As such, this is something that is non-controversial as its widely accepted by theologians. However, this completely ignores the nuance of the conversation, and disregards subsets of scientific evidence. One such subset is observational evidence. While I do not find any that I have seen convincing, that are some videos that purport to show things that cannot be naturally explained. There are also audio recordings of supposed demonic possession which would be direct evidence of the Abrahamic god if they could be verified. In short, in a strict sense, there indeed IS NO SCIENTIFIC EIVIDENCE FOR A GOD. There could be observational evidence dependent on what one is willing to believe without hard verification. Note, this is just surface level, as there are many scientific disciplines with different subsets of evidence and is contextual by nature. However, THERE IS SOME OBSERVATIONAL EVIDENCE for the existence of god.
On the flip side of that, there is evidence against many different theological claims. Geology for example, tells us a that a global flood never happened which is a claim made by the scriptures of all three Abrahamic theologies (claimed in the Torah, which is taking as scripture by both the Qur’an and Bible). We simply know for a fact this did not happen. Outside of Young Earth Creationists, it is generally accepted as being allegory, metaphorical or narrative by most Abrahamic theologians. We also know certain things from physics that are literally impossible to have happened. Such as the earth is not flat, nor is the earth the center of the universe (hell, its not even the center of it’s own galaxy). We know the moon was never split in half, that the sun never did tricks in the sky, or stay still in the sky for three days. The evidence in this regard heavily favors the hypothesis that there are no gods, and that is without getting into all the minutia of a multitude of different claims, and hypothesis out there.
What about the bedrock foundations of science, mathematics? While there is a new argument about the applicability of mathematics as evidence of (the Abrahamic) god still being refined by Dr. William Lane Craig, and parroted by his ultra-fans like Capturing Christianity, I have not read Dr. Craig’s work on this, so I am ill-inclined to addresses that as of yet. However, there are some old hat mathematical arguments that claim to be evidence for a god, like the finitude of the past that can be addressed. An excerpt from the book Shadow of the Dead God:
“One reason that apologists also assert that the universe has a cause, is because of the metaphysical issues with infinity. This is back to the notions of infinite regress, where something cannot go back to infinity past. The reason for that, is because of the contradictions you get if you try to apply basic arithmetic to infinite sets, and that everything must be finite. However, when philosophers assert those basic notions of mathematics, they show either naivety, or purposeful deception. I say this because infinity cannot be so trivially broken down to basic arithmetic. For instance, the Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory, is the most common foundation of mathematical set theory today. One of its principal axioms, is the axiom of infinity, which guarantees that at least one infinite set exists. There are a couple of other things to notate here as well. The first is that there are multitudes of calculations that express the infinite, these are the previously mentioned axioms of infinity, and the Cardinality of the continuum, and infinite dimensional Hilbert space, among others.
The next is potential to actual infinite. For instance, Pi is a potential infinite, in the sense that because it is an irrational number, its digits do not end, or repeat any anyway known by mathematics. Other potential infinites include singularities, where the density and temperature are potentially infinite. Singularities, like what is thought to be at the center of black holes, and the beginning of the known universe…seem to infinitely push down into the fabric of space-time. Of course, we do not know if that is the case, there is no way to know. However, the mathematics coupled with models and projections show that they are infinite things. The fact that not even light escapes from black holes, also seems to show that the gravitational pull of black holes is near infinite. However, Hawking radiation does seem to suggest that black holes themselves will evaporate after an unimaginably long amount of time. I would suggest reading the multitude of work by Stephen Hawking to learn more about black holes, and singularities.
One other important thing of note is directional infinites. Infinities can have a beginning point, and still be an infinite. Let me explain, we lend ourselves to being part of an infinite, just by living in this universe. Even if the eventual heat death of the universe is the fate of the universe, the universe from its beginning point at the big bang, will be infinite into the future. Even once the universe has expanded to the point where it is cold, and dark because stars and such can no longer form, it will still exist. The matter, the energy, both luminescent and dark will not just disappear. Space-time will not simply cease to exist. Even though the universe has a finite past, and always will, it will exist for an infinite amount of time. A trillion years from now, the universe will look like it has always existed. Trillions of years after that the beginning of the universe will be impossible to find. A few trillion years after that, and the universe will axiomatically be infinite. That many years into the future, and the universe itself no matter how dark, cold, and infinitely spread out will still exist for an uncountable number of trillions of years into the future. In short, the universe will exist for an infinite amount of time into the future. It is a one directional infinite, and one that not only exists, but is inescapable.”
What about testimonial evidence? Someone that almost died or died without permadeath claims they have been to the afterlife or seen god. Is that evidence? Well, yes, it is. However, it is weak evidence! Personal testimony is inherently first-person, and cannot be verified in any sense, except by the word of the person who gave the testimony. There can be corroborative evidence that personal testimony can support or be supported by. However, own its own personal testimony holds little weight. In short, if you tell me that you died and went to hell, but have no supportive evidence for it, I’m sorry but I do not care. You claiming (regardless of how much you believe it or not) that you saw hell during a near death experience simple is not evidence of hell being real. This goes for NDEs, hearing voices, dreams etc.
What about scriptural evidence? Well, that is pretty nuanced itself. The various different scriptures among a multitude of theologies make many claims, and sometimes they offer things that can be evidence. However, something being written in a holy book is not evidence on it’s own simply because it is in a holy book. Each claim made would need to be looked at on it’s own, and the claim itself is not evidence of the claim itself. The only thing that works like that are mathematical axioms, non-doxastic (properly basic) beliefs, and logical proofs. This is why each claim needs to be examined on its own. For example, The Bible saying that Jesus turned water into wine is a claim, but not evidence of jesus turning water into wine. To those that do not hold that a piece of scripture is the word of god(S), the scripture saying something does not inherently make it so.
Let’s get into the last part of all of this, philosophical evidence. Listen, I love philosophy, I write a philosophy blog, and wrote a philosophy book. I have read hundreds of other philosophical books. However, a philosophical argument is not evidence. There are a ton of philosophical arguments for god! Whether or not they are good or bad arguments is subjective to the individual. Even logical syllogisms need to have premises that are true and supportive, then the conclusion must follow. If someone could present a logical proof of a god (any god, it does not matter) that is insurmountable, and cannot be refuted, I would convert like that. That is the rub though, as I have not seen any compelling philosophical argument for god, and to my knowledge there exists no irrefutable logical proof of one either. I am willing to be proven wrong, but I do not think it is possible to have an irrefutable argument for a god. Philosophy is fun, studying it, working out philosophical problems, making thought experiments and so on is something I greatly enjoy. However, regardless of how well crafted a philosophical argument is, it is still just an argument. Irrefutable Logical proofs, if one could be made would be evidence (and damn good evidence at that) but philosophical arguments on their own are not evidence. The nature of philosophy is to exchange ideas in the hopes of expanding knowledge and trying to make sense of many different things, as philosophy is the love of knowledge. I think it is a disservice to philosophical inquiry to hold to the pretense that philosophical arguments are evidence for anything on their own. They need the proper logical chains, and supportive evidence to be able to “prove” anything. Something that needs evidence, is not itself evidence.
The best answer I am able to give to the question of if there is evidence of a god, is yes. I do not think that any that I have seen is good evidence, however. Some of my fellow atheists will say that there being no good evidence equates to there being no evidence. If someone feels that why, that is there prerogative. Everything I have studied, and pondered on compels me to admit there is evidence of god, its just not good (in my opinion) evidence, and certainly not convincing (otherwise I would not still be an atheist).
Final thoughts on this, there is a lot of nuance to this conversation. I think it is wrong for one to proclaim there is no evidence for god. However, this is also contextual, and depends on the frame of reference. I think we would need to establish what reference point (theology) is being used, before committing to an answer. If the question is about a certain or specific god, then they become easier to answer. Is there evidence of Zeus? no. However, the Greek mythos is well defined, and not continually being added to. Abrahamic theology, and most modern day theologies are ill-defined, constantly shift, and are being added to...that makes the conversation much more...eh, tricky? If they ever join their mythological brethren from the past, we might be able to definitively say there is absolutely no evidence for them as well.