TWIM / RvA Dialog: Introduction

Posted in Blogosphere, Responses, RVA Dialog on  | 7 minutes | 7 Comments →

jim has challenged me to what he offers as a "better way to debate." He's written a rebuttal to last week's post Asteroids, Cathode Rays & Requisite Knowledge, and invited me to write a response to his rebuttal, which he's agreed to post in its original entirety on his blog. 

I accepted the challenge, and my response follows.

Read More →

Asteroids, Cathode Rays & Requisite Knowledge: More Thoughts On Evidence

Posted in Astronomy, Epistemology, Science, Skepticism on  | 8 minutes | 12 Comments →

I’ve written recently on evidence here, here and here, and one can always visit TWIM’s Epistemology category to dig deeper.

Many atheists—dare I say the majority—operate under the assumed premise that “there’s no evidence for God (and/or the supernatural).” Many wave this around as some sort of trump card, but I opine that such is merely biased opinion masquerading as justification for denial. Like DD, I believe “there’s no evidence for God” is one of the worst arguments floating around (a)theism, and I remain puzzled as to the strange, pseudo-intellectual pretense with which I see that argument waged. Today and tomorrow, I’d like to review two examples from science’s history that I think illustrate the weakness of the “there’s no evidence for God” argument. The larger analogy to (a)theism should be apparent.

In actuality, what the person who utters those words really means is that they’ve not been persuaded by anything hitherto offered as evidence, which is an accurate assessment of the matter. From an atheist, this is also a tautology, because if it’s known that the person who says “there’s no evidence for God” is an atheist, that they’ve not yet been persuaded by any evidence is merely redundant. In rigorous discussion, I believe one would be justified in rejecting the “no evidence for God” argument solely on these grounds (subjectivity, tautology), but I think we have other sound reasons to reject it.

Note that “there’s no evidence for X” is really just a generic argument where X always represents some proposition whose theoretical or ontological possibility is being denied. Yet, show me a true theory today that did not have its skeptics and doubters yesterday. Airplanes, telephones and relativity were all vehemently objected to by skeptics and doubters who now ironically enjoy the benefits of each. Before more optimistic minds made these things happen, many skeptics claimed they’d never happen.

This leads to an interesting question: what does it mean to say that we have evidence for a given proposition? With that in mind, let’s go ahead and take a look at asteroids.

Read More →