In an epic post, Steve Zara argues that we Atheists cannot reasonably say that given the right evidence, we would believe in God's existence.
Zara carefully examines the God category as distinct from mythical beasts and aliens.Then he discusses the logical contradictions and mental gyrations required by current ideas of the Abrahamic deity--all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing, cleans his room, and the like.He talks about all the barriers to evidence for this God being, and finally concludes:
So what do we have? An inconsistent and illogical idea of a being that has self-contradictory attributes, a being that exists in a realm of magic and wishes that come true, where rules are for the breaking, and yet with the magic indistinguishable from some technology that might exist centuries or millions of centuries in the future, and with even the truly miraculous (if such exists) shown to be impossible to verify. We also have the word games of theologians insisting we trust their propositions about the world, propositions that were absurd even before the Enlightenment.We can't get to God by evidence, even if we wanted to. The very idea of God puts him beyond evidence and beyond logic. So no, we will no longer waffle about with vague attempts to express possible conditions that would persuade us to believe. There are no possible conditions.
The inconsistencies and contradictions of theism and supernaturalism seem to have no end. And, with all this, we are supposed to concede that there is some possibility of evidence for the Abrahamic God? Seriously?I agree with Zara that we should no longer make this talk of evidence that could change our minds. Jerry Coyne disagrees a bit, but even his hypothetical scenario, addressed to P.Z. Myers tends to lead me to Zara's position:
To claim that such evidence could exist is to deny Clarke, to deny Hume, to deny the relativity of Einstein and the quantum mechanics of Heisenberg. To concede that there could be acceptable evidence for the supernatural all-powerful all-knowing, all-loving eternal deity is the opposite of reasonable.
Suppose that you, P.Z., were present at the following events, and they were also witnessed by lots of other skeptical eyewitnesses and, importantly, documented on film: A bright light appears in the heavens and, supported by wingéd angels, a being clad in white robe and sandals descends onto the UMM quad from the sky, accompanied by a pack of apostles with the same names given in the Bible. Loud heavenly music is heard everywhere, with the blaring of trumps. The being, who describes himself as Jesus, puts his hand atop your head, P.Z., and suddenly your arms are turned into tentacles.I think no. The evidence doesn't lead to God or connect to God, or whatever, by definition.
As you flail about with your new appendages, Jesus asks, “Now do you believe in me?” Another touch on the head and the tentacles disappear and your arms return. Jesus and his pack then repair to the Mayo clinic and, also on film, heal a bunch of amputees (who remain permanently arméd and leggéd after Jesus’s departure). After a while Jesus and his minions, supported by angels, ascend back into the sky with another chorus of music. The heavens swiftly darken, there is thunder, and a single lightning bolt strikes P.Z.’s front yard. Then, just as suddenly, the heavens clear.
Now you can say that this is just a big magic stunt, but there’s a lot of documentation—all those healed amputees, for instance. Even using Hume’s criterion, isn’t it more parsimonious to say that there’s a God (and a Christian one, given the presence of Jesus!) rather than to assert that it was all an elaborate, hard-to-fathom magic trick or the concatenation of many enigmatic natural forces? And your evidence-based conversion to God need not be permanent, either. Since scientific truth is provisional, why not this “scientific” truth about God as well? Why not say that, until we find evidence that what just happened was a natural phenomenon, or a gigantic ruse, we provisionally accept the presence of a God?
This scenario is jocular, of course, but the point is serious--is there no evidence of any sort or variety that would convince you that God exists?