Saturday, February 06, 2021

So Ms. Atheist, "where is your evidence for the non-existence of god"

 This post comes out of a discussion on OGaP, a whatsapp discussion group, where, fairly regularly, the Theists on the group whom I think are exclusively Christians throw out the challenge to "present the evidence for the non-existence of god".  I think that this is a fairly understandable riposte to the oft repeated challenge of "where is the evidence for the existence of god" from the Atheist position to the theistic position.  It does make sense to me that if one advertises that that one bases one's justified beliefs on evidence and reason then one should not draw a conclusion in the absence of evidence and reason.

I have a few comments on the discussion that unfolded but I think that, in the end, it comes down to what a 'lack of evidence' can say about 'something's' existence. My contention and what I hope to show is that to establish existence one requires evidence but that it does not follow that a lack of evidence leads to a conclusion that 'something' does not exist nor that it does exist.  A lack of evidence actually say nothing about whether 'something' does or does not exist.

  • Example 1 : If 'something' is only the product of one's imagination i.e. it really doesn't exist; the lack of evidence of 'something's existence is due to it really not existing.
  • Exampel 2 : If 'something' is not the product of one's imagination i.e. it really does exist but no evidence of it's existence is available/accessible; the lack of evidence of 'something's existence is not due to it not existing but due to the unavailability/accessibility of any evidence of it's existence.

If one is trying to work out if something really does exist without any evidence there is no way to work out whether, as in example 1, it doesn't exist or, as in example 2, it does exist based on what one has which is a lack of evidence.  See Roland's Razor for reference. 

I am of the opinion that evidence and existence are one and the same thing like two sides of a coin.  One can only have evidence of existence if something really does exist and if something really does exist, there will be evidence. It may not be accessible or available but it does exist. So having evidence one can conclude existence but having a lack of evidence one can't conclude anything.  Seeing evidence and existence as equivalent turns the question "present the evidence for the non-existence of god" into a logical contradiction whereas it does not do the same for "where is the evidence for the existence of god".

My second point is that I don't understand how anyone, Theist or Atheist alike, can draw a conclusion of non-existence of supernatural beings based on the lack of evidence for their existence.  I can see how the Atheist position is more consistent in that all supernatural beings are treated the same way whereas the Theist position is to treat all supernatural beings the same way with the exception of their chosen set in which case the lack of evidence now draws a different conclusion i.e that the supernatural entity does exist.

If I was a Theist, I would counter the above by asserting that my chosen set of spiritual beings do exist because I can see the evidence of their existence.  However, arguing as an Atheist, I would say that if that same set of evidence is used by other people to support different sets of spiritual beings that, at least for me, brings into question whether that evidence really is evidence capable of supporting the existence of any spiritual being. Is that evidence, actually evidence at all?

Some Atheists attempt to show evidence of the non-existence of god(s) but it seems to me that what they are showing, or trying to show, is that a "good god(s)" or a "just god(s)" or, pick another attribute that god(s) are supposed to have, doesn't exist by showing that the attribute or combination of attributes are inconsistent with there being god(s).  This may show that god(s) with those particular attribute or set of attributes don't exist but not that god(s) without those attributes don't exist.  The evidence presented relates to the attributes and not to the god(s) themselves.

So to conclude, all the above is not to say that Theists shouldn't believe in their chosen set of spiritual beings nor that Atheists shouldn't lack belief in their chosen set of spiritual beings which is generally all of them. What I am saying is that when 'belief ' is confused with 'justified belief' or is  taken to mean 'justified belief' then the onus is on the one making the assertion to back the assertion up with evidence, logic and reason.

For an entertaining list of supernatural entities, see 


No comments: