Monday, July 2, 2012

Extraordinary Evidence

Recently, I've seem some atheists post this flowchart as an indictment on theists' ability to discuss religion. You need not look far to see where most theists fail in this chart. In fact, it needs not "flow" anywhere. The first statement is: Can you envision anything that will change your mind on this topic?

Religious faith, by definition, makes the answer to this question no. If you have doubt, then you don't have faith. How different are atheists? We hang our worldview on critical thinking and the lack of compelling evidence and leave faith out in the cold. I am very certain that atheism is currently the wisest position. Still, we should ask ourselves what kind of evidence would be needed to change this.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. ~ Marcello Truzzi
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. ~ Carl Sagan
The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness. ~ Pierre-Simon Laplace
In my recent interview series, you may have noticed that I'm consistently asking the question "Is there anything that would convince you that there is a god?" The answers can be paraphrased as "barely." A believer might think that Jesus returning would immediately bring all the infidels into the Christian fold. Not so much. The general consensus is that, atheists would remain skeptical. This new Jesus would be subjected to the scientific questions posed to all supposed evidence. Is he authentic? Are his miracles more than tricks and illusions? Does he provide some wisdom that could only come from God? Some of us go so far to posit he could be the product of other worldly technology
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. ~ Arthur C. Clarke
Nevertheless, I would at least consider a magical Jesus in the real world is authentic, but it wouldn't get me speaking in tongues as fast as some other extremely unlikely scenarios. Below is a chart of events that would make a believer out of me. I used Dawkin's Scale of belief to show what degree of belief I would hold for each event. This is an approximation because each event could be more or less convincing depending on the circumstances. Of course, combining events would also hasten my conversion. For example, a previously dead religious figure performing a large-scale miracle with witnesses might seal the religious deal.


  1. Why does it matter?

    Here are all these people believing weird stuff, as well as others supporting the wrong political party, or sports team. So? Dalai Lama, wise man talking about human reconciliation. Also believes weird stuff. Is he worth listening to? Is anything he says worth taking on board?

    Looking at all the stuff you disagree with and saying why is less profitable than trying to find value in it. If there is none, consider something which has value.

  2. Good post. I think that many of the things you list that might make into a "strong theist" would certainly get me re-thinking some of my positions as well. However, I am not sure if I could ever make the leap to joining an organized religion. One could argue that I am more anti-religion than I am anti-god.

    So much of what I would classify as immoral behavior has been done in the name of religions, I just don't think I could ever sign up for one again.

  3. Good post! I like the sophistication of your model.