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The Proof Delusion

April 29, 2014

Did you know that the royal family are actually alien reptiles? There’s evidence in a taped interview with Princess Diana’s personal confidant1… or not. I think most of us would want something a little more substantial to accept that thesis!

But what about Christian claims that Jesus rose from the dead? That there is a Creator God who we regularly communicate with, even though he can’t be seen or touched? Aren’t those claims just as bizarre and impossible to verify as the royal reptiles? Where’s the evidence?

In my recurring on-line debates with atheists, I’m often asked for “evidence”. When I produce my evidence, it is invariably discarded as not valid, since it doesn’t amount to what they would consider incontrovertible “proof” of God’s existence. Sounds legit – except it’s not.

According to Wikipedia, evidence is “anything presented in support of an assertion”, and as such it can be strong or weak. If you’re not willing to trust Wikipedia, here’s the Oxford Dictionary definition: “The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid”.2 This means that “evidence” is not the same as “proof”; but accumulated evidence can point to an inevitable conclusion about what is true or valid in a specific case.

Interestingly enough, it seems science doesn’t actually operate with “proofs”, only “evidence” – and scientists themselves know this. One of them writes on the (decidedly secular) website Psychology Today:

Proofs exist only in mathematics and logic, not in science. Mathematics and logic are both closed, self-contained systems of propositions, whereas science is empirical and deals with nature as it exists. The primary criterion and standard of evaluation of scientific theory is evidence, not proof. All else equal (such as internal logical consistency and parsimony), scientists prefer theories for which there is more and better evidence to theories for which there is less and worse evidence. Proofs are not the currency of science.3

This means that my atheist friends are actually deceived in their demand for absolute “proof”: it’s not a scientific attitude. As another webpage (again, not related to religion) states: This strident demand for “proof” while ignoring the evidence is abnormal in science4– which is ironic, seeing as atheists insist that they’re the ones that are being scientific about it!

In a court case, eye-witness reports are accepted as evidence. They can be called into question or invalidated if it can be demonstrated that they had a reason for not telling the truth, or they can be corroborated to the point of near-absolute certainty by other eye-witnesses. Many a criminal has been convicted on eye-witness accounts – despite the lack of absolute, irrefutable “proof” of their guilt.

A finger print on a gun might be considered “proof” – but it’s only proof that a particular person handled the weapon, not that they used it to kill anyone. Other factors, such as motive, opportunity and character will therefore still be important when the evidence is evaluated; and in the end, the killer will be convicted on strong evidence, not on scientific “proof”.

Atheists often say that the burden of proof is on us Christians. I agree. But I think we have more than fulfilled our obligation. Elsewhere5 I have listed the main points of the evidence supporting my claim that the God of the Bible exists; they vary from factual (the empty tomb) to personal (my own experience of God in my life), and I would say that anybody who wants to persuade me that I’m wrong needs to interact with that body of evidence.6 Simply saying “there is no evidence” is both disrespectful, disingenuous and dishonest, and will not make me willing to listen to your point of view.

The only way you can discard the evidence for God is by deciding beforehand that nothing supernatural exists, and thus concluding a priori that every single piece of information that suggests otherwise is either fake or misinterpreted. Fair enough; but that’s not a scientific approach. You can’t investigate the claim that God exists if you have already decided beforehand what the outcome is going to be! Or if you do, please don’t pretend to be scientific!

I came across this meme recently: “Prove to you that God doesn’t exist? Prove to me that the invisible pink unicorn doesn’t and I’ll use your method.” However, this isn’t actually relevant. I agree that asking atheists to disprove God is not particularly helpful; but whereas there’s nothing anywhere to suggest that a pink, invisible unicorn exists, I can present stacks of evidence indicating the existence of God. The two simply are not comparable.

So, please don’t keep insisting “there is no evidence”, when what you mean is that you don’t accept the evidence presented to you.  You may choose to interpret the evidence in a different way, or claim that it’s all been faked and manufactured. But you can’t hide forever behind the “no evidence” blinker. We have been presenting the evidence for nearly 2000 years. It has been vilified, ridiculed and ignored; but it has not yet been refuted.







6)      Other sources would be Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, Edgar Andrews Who Made God?, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, John Blanchard Has Science Got Rid of God? etc etc.


From → Christianity, Faith, Jesus

  1. And Mother Teresa is a deranged sociopathic narcisistic anti pasti fanatic I suppose, as well ?

    • I have absolutely no idea what you’re on about – but it sounds fascinating. By the way, Mother Teresa is dead.

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