What is evidence?


It has not occurred to me that the meaning of evidence was ever in contention until a few days ago. The great antagonizer has asked this question on his blog.  Debilis, who we have already met and Mark Hamilton have also written articles on the same and the two of them ask what do we want as evidence for god.

I know this post will not deal completely and exhaustively with this question but will attempt to answer some of the questions the three bloggers have raised and hopefully help us in moving the conversation forward.

To deal with this problem, I am going to start by giving definitions then proceed to point out where I think they are wrong.

Definition from Merriam Webster

1 a : an outward sign : indication

b : something that furnishes proof : testimony; specifically :something legally submitted to a tribunal to ascertain the truth of a matter

: one who bears witness; especially: one who voluntarily confesses a crime and testifies for the prosecution against his accomplices
From oxforddictionaries.com
the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid
and from dictionary.reference.com

noun

1.that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.
2.something that makes plain or clear; an indication or sign: His flushed look was visible evidence of his fever.
3.Law. data presented to a court or jury in proof of the facts in issue and which may include the testimony of witnesses, records, documents, or objects.

verb (used with object)

4.to make evident or clear; show clearly; manifest: He evidenced his approval by promising his full support.
5.to support by evidence: He evidenced his accusation with incriminating letters.
First, we look at Debilis’ claims
When the statement is made, it would seem to mean that there is no scientific evidence that God exists. Whether or not that is true, the idea that there is no physical evidence for the non-physical is hardly mind-blowing. Rather, it is a simple category error. It has no more weight than saying that there is no mathematical proof that Winston Churchill was the Prime minister of Great Britain, or that there is no grammatical evidence of cosmic expansion.
There are historical records, photographic records and video reels that confirm a Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of Great Britain. These information can be corroborated independently from newspaper articles, magazines and books on British or World History. The same can’t be said of Debilis’ god. No one is asking for physical evidence, that would be a bonus though, all we ask is for any evidence. You must be all aware of a study done a few years back to study the efficacy of intercessory prayer, whether this can be proof for god is for you to decide. What non-physical has the theist offered as proof that their god exist? I think there are many reasons to believe we live in an atheistic universe than a world managed by an all-powerful benevolent master. The presence of any form of natural evil is evidence against the existence of a god that is absolutely benevolent!
He[I hope am correct on this] goes on to say
But, taken more broadly, the claim is simply false. That is, if the claim is taken broadly enough to be relevant to metaphysical issues such as God’s existence, then the metaphysical arguments for God’s existence is such evidence.
This statement makes no sense. The use of metaphysical here is to make the arguments look more than just arguments which they are. The metaphysical arguments, I believe this are the logical arguments for the existence of god, have been refuted and any one keen on apologetics would know this unless they present new arguments and we will be waiting to refute them. The theist has not defined god coherently so that to prove that such a thing can exist is even problematic. The discussion collapses even before it can lift its ass off the ground.
We can debate whether or not the evidence is sufficient, but the bold declaration that there is no evidence for God’s existence is simply out of touch with the facts.
What facts could these be? Is it that atheists have chosen to be blind to these facts. Why then do we still have apologists? In fact, why would we need apologists to defend god, an all-powerful and all-knowing being/non being [I don’t know the one theists prefer]? Don’t any of you think that if this god is what is claimed of it, we would have at least have had an appearance to answer the doubting Thomases once every so often. Any theist claiming this would not be good for us has not read Genesis where god visits with Abe for BBQ and clean up but find nothing wrong with it. If it was fine then, it must be more than urgent now!
Mark on his part starts by asking a question
Can you prove that I have a liver?
Yes, all mammals have been found to have livers so we don’t need to operate on you to confirm this and should you be found to not have one, it would be a serious birth defect and everything will be done to get you one. So this is what the Buddha would call a useless question.
He continues to argue
For many people this is the kind of evidence they want when asking “Is there a God?” They want something they can see and smell and experiment on.
This is simply not true. I can’t experiment on Cicero but I have sufficient reason/evidence to believe he existed. Empirical evidence is just one type of evidence. Looking at the definitions of evidence I gave at the beginning of this post, is there any where the theist has passed the test? Maybe I missed this evidence, whoever has it could be kind enough to share 😀
Mark proceeds to tell us
And it’s true, I do take it on faith that God exists. I don’t have empirical evidence for God. I also don’t have empirical evidence for the existence of my liver.
Then am accused of hypocrisy when I point out that faith requires belief even when one has no evidence. He would be dead if he didn’t have a liver. So to compare the two is to commit a fallacy of false analogy.
From here, our apologist jumps to the cosmological arguments for god and argues as William Lane Craig that an infinite regress of creators is logically impossible and then presents the statement of his argument thus

1. All things that come into existence have a creator.

2. Things exist.

3. Therefore, something must exist that has always existed.

After saying this he proceeds immediately to tell us

Now this does not prove the existence of God. But it does show that somewhere there must be an eternal and uncreated Something that everything else is based on.

Even if this were true, it does not answer whether it was one god, a bazillion gods and whether such gods are still alive today.

Nobody has ever observed, weighed, measured, or tested something that by necessity has always existed. It would be impossible to observe something to have always existed unless the observer has also always existed as well.

I don’t know, but how does this statement support his cause? He claims to have evidence for god, has he [Mark] always existed or how did he come by this evidence?

He ends his piece thus

 However we still can reasonably believe in it’s existence despite the impossibility of ever finding empirical evidence for it. I have faith in God’s existence the same way I have faith in my liver’s existence: confidently and reasonably without need of empirical evidence.

I definitely need help here. What is reasonable here, I must have missed it somewhere so friends please help. No your having faith in having liver is supported by many things, for example that you can take a piss, that you are not dead and more specifically because you have seen that all mammals have liver, you don’t have comparable evidence for god and so again you commit a fallacy.

I apologize for the long length of the post but I hope that I have been able to answer some of the questions concerning evidence, and specifically evidence for god.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

70 thoughts on “What is evidence?

  1. archaeopteryx1 says:

    RE: “Can you prove that I have a liver?” – Sure, come over here and hop up on the table – ‘scuse me while I sharpen my scalpel —

    What he appears to do, in addition to the “first creator” fallacy, is define his terms so nebulously, that whatever you say, he can wiggle out of – you can’t debate a person like that, you can at best, ignore him.

    arch

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  2. “Nobody has ever observed, weighed, measured, or tested something that by necessity has always existed. It would be impossible to observe something to have always existed unless the observer has also always existed as well.”

    This first statement is only true if you claim to know it has always existed.
    Assuming the laws of thermodynamics, everything we measure has always existed in some form or other… the statement is vague 😉

    If any of these gods were real AND omnipotent, the only reason that they do not show themselves is that they don’t want to or can’t. There is that global flood thing, stopping the sun thing, and a couple of other tricks such a god could perform to get everyone on the same page. Arguing semantics over what dribble of paper or anecdote is ‘credible’ is a waste of time if said god has no intentions or ability to show themselves in a way that removes all doubt.

    All such incredible evidence can be dismissed as easily as it is presented. To show that some scrap of writing seems to indicate actual words of Jesus would not be convincing unless the rest of the story and all the holy text were consistent. Even then, it is not proof.

    What we see generally is 3 pieces of a 10,000 piece puzzle and are told that this is proof that the picture is that of a the horned goat of the great one blah blah.

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  3. I’m sorry that my post was confusing to some. The point of the post was not to prove that God exists, but to show that we can reasonably believe in things that we don’t have empirical evidence for. Like my liver, for instance. We have very good reasons to believe that my liver exists, but we don’t have empirical evidence for its existence. As you point out, we have good historical evidence that Winston Churchill existed. However we don’t have any empirical evidence. I believe we are all the same page here. Since that is the case the post was not directed at you, but rather directed at those who will only accept empirical evidence for the existence of God.

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    • john zande says:

      What are you talking about? Metabolism is pretty solid empirical evidence for the liver

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    • makagutu says:

      No, I wasn’t confused by your post. And you can’t run away from saying the post wasn’t an argument for god’s existence because you spend two paragraphs trying just to show that god exists. No one disputes other forms of evidence and I don’t know who are these people you say want empirical evidence. Last I heard, Lawrence Krauss said all he needs is just a sign like his name written in the clouds[I don’t if that is empirical evidence though.]

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      • I’d say God writing his name in the clouds is definitely empirical evidence, because it is evidence that can be directly observed. In that case my post would be directed to someone like him, pointing out that there are many things that it is reasonable to believe in without having empirical evidence. My explanation of the cosmological argument was not meant to directly prove God’s existence. As I pointed out in the post all this argument proves is that there must be something that has always existed on it’s own. That something could be God, or it could be Nature, or the Multiverse.

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        • archaeopteryx1 says:

          I suspect, Mark, that infinity is such a difficult concept for we still-struggling apes to wrap our minds around, that we are uncomfortable with anything that has no beginning – all of our experiences indicate that everything has a beginning, a duration, and an end, and to imagine something entirely beyond the realm of that experience is difficult to grasp, when part of our minds are still thinking about our next banana.

          We may eventually evolve to the point where we can say, “Of COURSE! Why didn’t I see it all along?!” much like those 3-D pictures you have to stare deeply into, before they cease to be nothing more than a jumble of patterns and finally take form. But I still see no need to personify anything infinite and label it “god.”

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  4. john zande says:

    I hope Debilis answers now…. I’m going to copy this post!

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  5. Tabitha Cunningham says:

    “But, taken more broadly, the claim is simply false. That is, if the claim is taken broadly enough to be relevant to metaphysical issues such as God’s existence, then the metaphysical arguments for God’s existence is such evidence.”
    Is Mark saying that arguments for god’s existence is proof of god’s existence? And things with actual proof – like his fucking liver – he has his doubts about. Crazy stuff, man. This is what happens when you only read one book, or books about that one book.
    Great arguments from you, “Socrates” – hope you are doing well!

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    • Tabitha Cunningham says:

      Excuse me – that was a Debilis quote, and not Mark H.
      Still, these arguments hurt my brain.

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    • makagutu says:

      Socrates is well my friend.
      I agree with you, it is a bad thing to read one book or many books on one book, you don’t get to see what the world has to offer. A story is told of a person who has not eaten any other food other than cooked by his mother and so in his mind there is no better cook. One day he ventures out eats some other lady’s food and learns he has been eating crap, our friends should try and venture out just a little, don’t you think?
      How far have you gone with the translations, I saw the post yesterday where you said google translator isn’t so good maybe it is time to learn a new language if you have the time 😀

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      • Tabitha Cunningham says:

        I agree, our poor friends have been eating crap and don’t know it!
        As for translating, I was sick for quite a while, so these last couple weeks I’ve been working hard to catch up, and get some things published. Google translate isn’t perfect, but I’m getting better and faster at re-translating what has been translated (if that makes sense). If only I had more time to learn 3 new languages properly!:)
        Curious, how many languages do you speak?

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        • archaeopteryx1 says:

          I would suspect at least Luo, Swahili and English —

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          • makagutu says:

            I need not say more. I wanted to learn Spanish then I got lazy maybe I could learn Greek.

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            • archaeopteryx1 says:

              I realize this is off-topic, but I’m curious, Mak – I told you I once I had another friend who was Luo, and I heard him on the phone more than once, speaking to others of his countrymen in your language. I lived several years in Mexico, where, combined with the Latin and Spanish I had learned in school, I became fluent in Spanish, and in listening to this Luo, I could swear that I heard some words that sounded distinctly Spanish.

              Did the Spanish at any time have an influence in Kenya, that might have prompted Kenyans to incorporate any Spanish phrases into their language?

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              • makagutu says:

                Not that I know of. We had the Portuguese at the Coast and am not sure they got to the hinterland in a way to affect the language of the Luos. I have also looked at the migratory route followed by the Luo to their present location in Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda and I don’t think there was any interaction with the Spaniards unless I try and find out more and get back to you on it.

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                • archaeopteryx1 says:

                  It’s not that important, Mak, unless you want to do it for your own satisfaction. I could have been hearing what I wanted to hear, or it could also be that the words I thought I heard had totally different meanings than they would have had in Spanish, sharing nothing but the sound.

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            • Tabitha Cunningham says:

              I should know as many languages as you – and Greek would be a perfect addition to your list.
              Well, I do have to learn French, and some German, before I go back to Geneva next fall, but French will be my primary focus. It’s not like I’m unhappy about this, I wanted to learn new languages anyway. Slovak looks difficult, tho.

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  6. Joe 'Blondie' Manco says:

    No empirical evidence for his liver! My goodness! Or, for Winston Churchill! Tell me it isn’t so!

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  7. Debilis says:

    The first thing I’d say to this is that none of the definitions referenced specified empirical evidence. So, one’s experience of free will (for instance) would be evidence for free will, under this definition.

    By extension, that would also be evidence that there is more to reality that the physical.

    Similarly, things such as moral experience, rational thought, and the origin and fine tuning of the universe would be evidence of the same idea.

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    • makagutu says:

      Here is definition of empirical evidence

      Empirical evidence is information that is acquired by observation or experimentation. This data is recorded and analyzed by scientists and is a central process as part of the scientific method.

      Under which definition would one’s experience of free will be evidence for free will?

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      • archaeopteryx1 says:

        “one’s experience of free will ” is anecdotal evidence at best, and purely subjective.

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        • Debilis says:

          It is subjective in the sense that it can’t be shared with other people. But anyone who has that experience has that evidence.

          But it is not anecdotal. It is a consistent pattern that can be observed over time.

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          • archaeopteryx1 says:

            RE: “anyone who has that experience has that evidence.” – other than, “because the Bible says so,” I believe that is the weakest argument I have ever heard.

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            • Debilis says:

              You’re entirely free to reject the argument. But, unless you’re willing to say why, you aren’t actually giving a rational reason for your position–but simply mocking.

              All evidence is based on experience. This is less an argument than a simple fact.

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              • archaeopteryx1 says:

                All evidence is based on observation, experimentation, reproducibility and confirmation by peer groups. But then. Biblical “evidence” may fall under under a different set of standards.

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      • Debilis says:

        1.that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.
        2.something that makes plain or clear; an indication or sign: His flushed look was visible evidence of his fever.
        4.to make evident or clear; show clearly; manifest: He evidenced his approval by promising his full support.

        One’s personal experience of free will would fit any of these definitions.

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        • archaeopteryx1 says:

          RE: “His flushed look was visible evidence of his fever.” – a flushed look might be an indicator of a possible fever, but it is hardly evidence for one, as there are many possible causes for a flushed look in humans. If that’s your idea of “evidence,” obviously you have the power to leap to tall conclusions in a single bound.

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          • Debilis says:

            I’m directly quoting Makagutu’s referenced definition (which he himself quoted from the dictionary), not endorsing the examples that he used.

            Though it is interesting that you believe anything with multiple explanations can’t be considered evidence for any of them. You may run into some problems if you apply that consistently. Is it possible that you are confusing “evidence” with “conclusive evidence”?

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            • archaeopteryx1 says:

              @Debilis – For me, there IS no other kind of evidence – do you know anyone who would accept “INconclusive evidence”?

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              • Debilis says:

                Courts.
                Is finding the accused’s blood at the scene of the crime evidence that he committed it? Yes.
                Does that establish, all by itself that he did? No.

                Evidence is not the same as proof.

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                • archaeopteryx1 says:

                  Why indeed does not everyone you know, throw up their hands at your approach, and run in the opposite direction? Or do they?

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                  • Debilis says:

                    If you mean to imply that this is some sort of “trick”, that is simply not the case. It is the way that myself and everyone with whom I’ve discussed the issue understands evidence.

                    But, if you wish to argue for a different view, is there any reason at all to think that evidence is not to be considered evidence until it is conclusive?

                    How can you determine if there is enough evidence in favor of a claim to reach a conclusion until you know which facts are evidence, and which are not? Given this, wouldn’t something need to be deemed evidence before we know whether it is conclusive?

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            • archaeopteryx1 says:

              Seriously, do you actually think before you speak?

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  8. “1. All things that come into existence have a creator.

    2. Things exist.

    3. Therefore, something must exist that has always existed.”

    Maybe it’s just nitpicking, but doesn’t this seem like a jump to a conclusion? Shouldn’t the conclusion (assuming the premises are correct — and I don’t think premise one is correct) be “Therefore there is a creator”?

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    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      Statement #1 – “1. All things that come into existence have a creator” – is a fallacy, therefore, all conclusions based on that statement are equally fallacious.

      Unless of course, you’re of the Bill O’Reilly, “tides come in, tides go out, you can’t explain that” camp —

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      • Ya,I agree with that. That’s why you can “create” a creator with the logical conclusion that I posed. That was a given.

        I was just trying to show how the person who wrote that logic doesn’t actually know how to go from premise to conclusion.

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    • makagutu says:

      Well you are right. The conclusion do not follow from the premises.

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  9. Arkenaten says:

    ”We can debate whether or not the evidence is sufficient, but the bold declaration that there is no evidence for God’s existence is simply out of touch with the facts.”

    Arguments like this hurt my head and people like Debilis give me migraine with their utterly ridiculous clap trap.
    You cannot have a reasonable well thought out discussion when the topic is bullshit.
    Proponents of such philosophical diatribe should be brought down to earth and not allowed the time of day to waffle like this.
    They should also be forced to wear a T shirt with a government health warning emblazoned on the front.

    ”I may be an effin danger to you and your family’s mental health. Engage at your own risk.”

    Bear in mind:
    There is no procedure available to us that could possibly establish the existence or non existence of such an unscientific entity.

    Also…and this is crucial in any debate with a Christian…
    A Christian’s notion of a creator, their god, God, Yahweh, Yashua Jesus, or however they wish to address him comes from the Bible.
    It is as simple as that. And this god, they claim, is perfect. And this god, according to their book, demands worship.
    No perfect being requires worship. Thus rendering the bible moot and its contents bullshit.
    It is a crock and the authors were men who made it all up. End of story. Finito. Now…eff off. and of you have the dire urge to proselytize, go and try to convert a donkey or something. Christians are idiots.
    Silly Person.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      I like the idea of the T-shirts, can you recommend a design 😀
      I will try my neighbors cat am told they are more intelligent than humans.

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      • Arkenaten says:

        Blogland is replete with christian philosophers who will try any angle to ‘prove’ their point.
        Sorry for the long comment.
        I allow idiots like this to wind me up on occasion, when I should merely laugh at them…but then I remind myself that some of these people breed.
        Shudders….and the thought of them being allowed in the gene pool…even in the shallow end, is quite disturbing.

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  10. […] What is evidence? (maasaiboys.wordpress.com) […]

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  11. Vknight says:

    I find some of your responses to his post to be very confusing. Sometimes it appears that you are agreeing with the people you are arguing with, and then claiming that they are wrong. I’m wondering whether or not you are writing out everything that is going on in your thought process. It’s hard for me to understand how you got from point A to point B. I would value that knowledge greatly. Another thing I would like to say is that, from a psychological standpoint, my assessment of you is that you may be a rational emotionalist. I believe that you are allowing your emotions and possibly your past story to interfere with your analysis of what these people are saying. You may be blocking out some of the words that they use. For example, Mark Hamilton, on several occasions, said that he acknowledges that his logic deduces the possibility of God, Multiple Gods, Nature, and the Multiverse, or Parallel Universes. Also, whenever he is shown that he has made a mistake in some way he seems to have gone back and corrected it; however I’ve noticed that when he goes back and corrects it a lot of people commenting on this post don’t acknowledge his clarification or his acknowledgement of mistake.

    Like

    • Vknight says:

      Oh, for clarification, I’m referring to your response to Mark Hamilton’s post in the first sentence.

      Like

    • makagutu says:

      I must say I don’t know where I confuse you. I respond to Mark only once and the second time he comments I don’t respond so what statement are you referring to.
      Who am I arguing with and I happen to agree with and is it wrong top agree with a person you are arguing with? Is that ruled out, must you always disagree in a debate. I seem not to understand you.
      And thanks for the psychological analysis, I have every reason to see a shrink, maybe I have a problem and am not aware of it.
      Thanks for commenting.

      Like

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