I started typing this a while back, but didn’t post it. Honestly it seems silly when we all have access to the dictionary. Then reading through some comments on Andy’s last OP on faith, and realized holy crap, there really are some serious misconceptions about this fairly simple concept of evidence. This seems to be a surprisingly common thing to say in these god discussions:
“You’ve been given evidence, time after time on here and in the world. Just not any you will accept. I can’t fix that.”
My first thought is probably pretty common – What evidence?
And this is where a lot of disagreement and misunderstanding originates, so I think it’s important to get some definitions clear.
My personal preference.
Is a body of objectifiable facts, that are positively indicative of, or exclusively concordant with a conclusion.
Or more simply from the dictionary.
The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.
There are two key points in this definition.
- Body of facts. Facts being a thing that is known or proved to be true. It is most important to establish whether or not something is factual. I can’t just say that Verisimilitude stole J.P. Bunnys lunch money because that makes sense to me. I mean, that did happen, but where are the facts? I can’t just claim that Andy made someone cry on his last OP… well actually that one might be true also, damn this is more difficult than I thought. We have to establish fact, in order to use that data as evidence. That’s the point.
- Indicative/indicating – it is not enough to simply have facts; they must also indicate the conclusion to constitute evidence. I think the teleological fine-tuning argument is a good example here. It is true that we have some very specific universal constants. This fact is neither for or against the conclusion of a god though. It is god neutral and therefore not evidence for god, though it could be indicative and therefore evidence for another conclusion. Another example that I just read is “nature itself is part of the evidence for God”. We know what evidence means now – What facts about nature are positively indicative of the conclusion that there is a God? It might be convincing to someone, but it is not evidence.
*it should be pointed out that the definition of “information” is: facts learned about someone or something. It’s used differently colloquially, but it is essentially saying the exact same thing as fact. Trying to avoid even more semantic arguments.
Exclusive concordance is difficult to use and usually involves contradiction – x cannot be non-x. Things like that. Oddly enough, most of the pseudo-science or bad philosophy arguments for god, attempt exclusive concordance, and end up with god of the gaps. I’m sure we’ll hear these points in the comments.
And just a few minutes ago I was hit with another gem: “As a “fact finder”, what one believes is true becomes the fact because it is their job to judge.”
What does one even do with that? Under that extremely illogical statement, there would be evidence for literally everything, and the word evidence would become completely meaningless. I could just believe that there is no god, and it magically becomes a fact that is evidence that there is no god… and you can believe the opposite which becomes a fact… and then all of our heads explode.
I get that when we’re talking about truth, this kind of statement could make sense. If you believe something is true, it becomes your truth, you operate as if it were true. A while back another commenter kept differentiating the word “truth”, from “true truth”. At the time I thought that it seemed a bit unnecessary… but here we are. A fact is like a true truth. My dog is a four-legged animal… as long as those words mean what we all know them to mean, this is a true truth and I can prove it to you if you want to come over. It doesn’t matter if some clown judges it false, it is still an objective fact.
Some examples: The resurrection of Jesus is a “true” story to many people on this site, they operate as if it were true, it is true to them. But it isn’t a true truth because we can’t establish it as a fact. Since we can’t establish it as fact, it can’t be used as evidence for God. Now if a believer accepts that it’s true, they may point to their truth as something that convinced them of God. But this is different. It isn’t in any way an established true truth, it isn’t a fact. I am not rejecting this piece of evidence out of some bias, it is literally not evidence by definition of the word.
That’s an example of what evidence isn’t, how about a quick example of what evidence is: On the historicity of Jesus – It is a fact that the author who wrote a bunch of epistles, whom we call Paul, wrote in Galatians “But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.”. It is a fact that this sentence appears in Galatians, and that fact is positively indicative of the conclusion that Jesus was a real human being. Of course, we could argue about the strength of that evidence. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is literally evidence by definition of the word.
Maybe it’s not extremely simple, there’s a lot more to add. But, this is getting long, so that’ll have to do.
First, can we at least come to a consensus and establish what evidence is, and isn’t? It would be very beneficial to dialogues if we could move forward with some kind of understanding.
So, what should I have said better (not just because I ramble and have poor grammar) what did I get wrong?
What evidence? Open ended – what evidence for god? What evidence for the resurrection? What evidence for reincarnation? What evidence for dependent co-arising of non-relative infinitude? What evidence for the 12 links? What evidence for evolution? Pick a poison.