If an atheist/naturalist sets up their epistemology such that in order for something to be believed it must be evidenced AND by “evidence” they mean something like “what can be demonstrated empirically/scientifically” then do you see how they have begged the question?
- I’m open to something non-natural existing.
- To reasonably believe in a non-natural entity though, I would need (sic. empirical) evidence.
- (Enthymeme) Only natural things provide empirical evidence.
- We have no (sic. empirical) evidence for anything non-natural.
- Therefore it is not reasonable to believe in a non-natural entity.
Does that help you see the problem?
The other problem is that I am fairly suspicious about how open and honest atheists actually are who say that they would believe based on the evidence precisely because, as they often say, one could always fall back on “I don’t know” as the most virtuous and honest answer. That just seems like an appeal to ignorance and a support for a kind of naturalism of the gaps.
So imagine I asked an atheist what would convince them that God exists. No matter what “evidence” they gave we would have a major problem. Imagine they said, like many do, that they would believe on the evidence of the stars re-arranging to spell “God did this” in the night sky.
Well on naturalism, that is empirical evidence right? Actually no it is not. The problem is that “evidence” is really just interpreted data – bits of data that have gone through an interpretive grid and come out the other side being not-theory neutral. So the stars rearranging is just natural DATA. You could say “God did that” as one interpretation of the data but you could also say:
- A super powerful race of alien pranksters did that.
- Mass hallucinations led us to believe that we saw that.
- Mass delusion led us to believe that we saw that.
- Mass hypnosis led us to believe that we saw that.
- Our minds are pattern forming machines so we just think that’s what the stars say – but it’s really like seeing Orion in the stars or a dragon in the clouds.
- I don’t know what caused it… but science has never shown God as the cause and so we shouldn’t assume some invisible sky daddy but we should just wait and allow science to discover the cause.
In any of those cases the naturalist would say that the natural explanation is INTRINSICALLY more plausible and probable than “God diddit.” And if they don’t, then there are other problems they will run into. For example, Lee Smolin (If I remember correctly) figured the odds of and entire galaxy spontaneous reorganizing itself in an instant to be something in the ballpark of 1x10^115. So why would the atheist think that in that case God was the best explanation? Is it because it is a hyper improbable event apart such that we shouldn’t expect a natural cause and can infer the intentionality of a mind? Well how is that different than saying God is the best explanation for the fine tuning of the universe when the odds of all of the initial conditions and forces and ratios to be what they are for life is astronomically infinitely more remote than the whole galaxy rearranging?
And what is it about the “God did this” in the stars TELLS us that it was God? It’s hard to make that case for the atheist who wants to pretend that this would be evidence for them WITHOUT appeal to some kind of concept analogous to the notion of the specified complexity of information. But once they allow that concept in, then they can no longer protest in principle to that concept being used to argue God as the best explanation for abiogenesis and the complexity of the genetic information which is also drastically more numerically improbable than the re-arranging of the galaxy.
So then what recourse do they have to be consistent at least? Well really all they can do is just bite the bullet and beg the question that ANY possible natural explanation is inherently more plausible than any supernatural or non-natural one. Yet in that case they are just accepting the employment of a Naturalism of the Gaps and fallacious question begging reasoning as the most “reasonable” which is obviously absurd..
This graphic is an easy parody of the same problem happening among naturalists as did among previous generations of anti-scientific theists who did make such arguments. The problem is when atheists seem to think that arguments for God as the best explanations (abductive arguments) are the same kind of arguments as God of the gaps arguments from ignorance. They simply are diametrically opposed.