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Discussion 1 to Talk Back 21
Response to Talk Back 21 (Matthew Brooks)

by PsiCop

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In his Talk Back, Mr. Brooks asks a fair question. Assume that such evidence [i.e. of God’s existence] existed. What would make it "conclusive"? Does it have to be "scientific" evidence?

Aside from the extraneous qualifier “scientific” evidence (evidence is either evidence, or it isn’t), he asks a fair question. If we say that God’s existence hasn’t been demonstrated, what can we say would be evidence? It’s conceivable that proof is right before our eyes, yet we won’t see it as such, since we refuse to acknowledge that it might be evidence.

Since we’re dealing (in the case of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God) with an infinite being of infinite capability, it stands to reason that any evidence of his existence, would be stark and unmistakable. It could not possibly be construed as anything else.

First of all, even most theists agree, there is nothing we can do to create evidence of God’s existence; the scientific method of experimentation will not work. An infinite, omnipotent being does not respond to things in a way that we could predict. So it is not possible to formulate an experiment which will provide evidence of God’s existence-since God could decide simply not to go along with it.

One can look at nature, and see some wondrous feature (or several), and say, “That must be God’s design.” Yet, we know from biology, geology and astronomy, that there are natural processes which can easily account for those things. So it’s not possible to see God’s hand in the design of nature, and take it as “evidence” of his existence. In fact, there’s no “passive” evidence of God’s existence which is unmistakable.

That leaves direct action by God, to make his presence known. But, if the clouds in the sky were to spell out “I am here, believe in me. -God,” we could say that it was an accident of cloud formations. After all, haven’t we all seen animals, objects, or even letters in the clouds? If a voice were to bellow from the heavens, with the same message delivered aurally, could we also not say that it was a coincidence based on a meteorological event?

Note, we do not have to prove it was any of these things. Merely the possibility that they might be these things, is enough; the point is that they cannot be construed as anything but evidence of God.

No, none of these things is enough. Any evidence of God which is somehow manifest in nature, is not evidence of his existence, since anything natural, could have occurred by other means than divine action!

What, then, could constitute “evidence” of God’s existence? It sure seems as if I have defined away all the possibilities-but I haven’t.

The only “evidence” of God which is beyond question, is direct subjective experience. In other words, God has to make himself known, unmistakably, to each person’s own consciousness. Only by this means can one have irrefutable, undeniable evidence of God’s existence.

The problem with this, of course, is twofold:

It’s impossible for one person to explain this evidence to another person, or describe it in any way. This is because it’s evident and understood only subjectively. External mechanisms such as language cannot explain them. For this reason, I cannot explain in advance what it would be like for someone to have God make himself evident to him or her; it defies description.

Even if one could somehow describe such an experience to someone else, the other person could only take the other person’s word for it. As such, for the second person, it is not unmistakable evidence of God’s existence. For all s/he knows, the first person, who had the subjective experience, is lying or delusional.

What this means is that there cannot be any real “evidence” of God’s existence, outside of an individual consciousness. In turn, this means that no one can provide such “evidence” to another person. Hence, barring having such a personal, subjective experience, it’s not possible to come up with any potential “evidence” for God’s existence.

So while Mr. Brooks asks a fair question (“What might convince you?”) there is no way to describe, in advance, what would constitute such proof. The best that he and other theists could hope for, is for God to make himself unmistakably evident to each and every individual. Nothing else will suffice.