Edit: I will not respond to criticism of this article via twitter. Kathy insisted on doing that for the previous article, and repeating myself constantly while limited to 140 characters was not fun. Kathy, just read the article and refute it in a longer form.
Kathy (a twitter theist) has a rather unique approach on the argument for God. She doesn’t usually adopt any of the traditional arguments for God’s existence, instead claiming that there is evidence that God exists.
Though, as you might expect, there’s an enormous caveat: She doesn’t think any of this evidence is such by the scientific definition. Instead she prefers the general (or, she claims, legal) definition of evidence. She has approved two definitions in the past, so for this article, I’ll be using both:
the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.
A thing or set of things helpful in forming a conclusion or judgment.
Since Kathy insists on using the legal definition (often referencing how courts would handle such evidence), I will judge against a common court-room scenario when weighing the supposed evidence. This is necessary since the definitions denote evidence in a completely subjective sense. A court-room may not be objective, but it has some standards of objectivity.
In addition, and importantly: court rooms must decide between YES and NO. There is no space for “I don’t know”, like there is in personal belief. Framing the debate in the court room loads all the logic in Kathy’s favour, but it won’t help her.
What’s more, she seems to base her assessment of the evidence on the odds that her presupposition is true in light of it. Even if all her evidence were valid, she should rationally be an agnostic theist, as she doesn’t claim to be able to prove God, but rather demonstrate that God is more likely to exist than not. (Though I think she claims to be a gnostic theist.)
In this article, I’ll go over every argument I can remember her making, and every supposed evidence I can remember her presenting, and refute all of it.
The ‘evidence’ which Kathy presents
What you should notice immediately is that Kathy does not provide evidence here, but just categories of evidence. You can’t prove the Higgs-Boson exists by saying “we have quantum data”, then never presenting it. That said, she has been willing to provide actual supposed evidence on some of these categories.
All of the categories are either Categorically Not Evidence or Absent. For each category, I will note which apply.
For many of the claims, it is clear what actual supposed evidence is intended, so I will be making some (I think very safe) assumptions about what is being presented.
There were no first-hand witnesses of any miracles (or even of Jesus) who verifiably wrote anything about it.
All Biblical accounts of Jesus are hearsay. Hearsay in a court-room would be sufficient for establishing very mundane claims if there was consistency between several reports. The claims Kathy is trying to prove are extraordinary, and the reports have apparent inconsistencies. (Only “apparent” because apologetics can weave the story in order to resolve any contradiction).
Many claim to be living witnesses of miracles. Such claims would not stand up in court, without some independent verification. Even if several people claimed to have seen the same miracle, mundane explanations would be considered first, including that the witnesses were deceived or are deluded. That, by the way, is far more likely than that a miracle actually occurred, and so the use of this category of evidence falls completely flat there.
There’s also the fact that there are no witnesses of Jesus’s original miracles: it was ~2000 years ago, and they’re all long dead. We don’t actually have witnesses, we have supposed reports of witness testimonies which have been subject to editing, translation, and interpretation for thousands of years.
I know you’re still laughing, take a moment.
Yes, Kathy believes that dying for a belief is evidence that the belief is accurate.
It would not in any way evidence this. What it would evidence is that the martyr in question is confident that the belief is accurate. This describes most theists. Those who die for their belief are either mentally unstable, or significantly politically motivated.
She also has her own personal standard for what a martyr is, which excludes martyrs of other religions. Is this the first recorded instance of the No True Martyr fallacy? Needless to say that her standard is inconsistent with the definition of the word, and martyrs of other religions do match the definition of the word.
There’s little else to say. Until you can explain to me why martyrdom is evidence of God, without just explaining why it’s evidence of delusion, it’s just a claim for which there is no evidence.
Conclusion: Categorically Not Evidence
I have written an article on this.
Kathy has both refused to accept the article and refused to refute it formally. She insisted on death by a thousand cuts by discussing every aspect of the 5000+ word article in 140-character segments. After a long time of nitpicking, and my refutation of all of it, she dismissed the entire article on the grounds that I did not judge the odds of God’s existence the same way she does. Theist logic.
I believe the article stands as an excellent refutation of the use of this category of supposed evidence as useful evidence.
Would a court-room accept a fulfilled prophecy as evidence? No. If it didn’t meet certain standards, the chance that it was written by a non-divinely-inspired person would be near-infinitely higher than that it was divinely inspired. All prophecies I’ve ever come across are one or many of too vague to be falsifiable, likely to have been deliberately fulfilled, ambiguous, predicting a very predictable event, or just plain inaccurate. Any one of these faults renders a prophecy useless as evidence of divine intervention.
As I said earlier, apologetics can resolve any apparent contradiction in a text, because the apologist has all the creative power; they hold all the bullshit cards. That said, there are several contradictions (496 on that list), and many of them are literal contradictions, even if the apologist can claim the passage is metaphorical.
However, most importantly, a book can be consistent without being true. Like, oh I don’t know… almost every fiction book ever written. I’m sure Kathy would claim that the Bible claims to be talking about reality, but I could write a book which does the same. She would also mention the fact that the Bible was written over many thousands of years by many authors, and somehow remained consistent. I would direct her back to the list of contradictions, but even without those, that still isn’t evidence, a book of lies could be written under the same circumstances, and probably has been many times. That would be far more likely than that divinity was involved.
Would a consistent book hold up in court as evidence of its own claims? Not on your life. The Lord of the Rings does not prove Sauron, the Quran does not prove Allah, and the Bible does not prove God. They are all claims (although the Lord of the Rings isn’t intentionally one, just literally one). Claims need to be supported by evidence, no matter how eloquently and consistently the claims are made.
Conclusion: Categorically Not Evidence
Archaeological evidence for ancient Israel exists. This proves that ancient Israel existed. This is a mundane claim.
Archaeological evidence for miracles does not exist. This fails to prove that miracles happened. This is an extraordinary claim.
Are we starting to see the problem?
A claim of something never before seen is harder to believe than one which is seen often. There is archaeological substantiation for many claims the Bible makes, but none for any of the supernatural claims that I have ever come across.
I believe that donkeys exist. I do not believe that they speak words. The Bible claims both, only one can be verified.
Kathy has used two different reasoning arguments for her claim that God exists that I can remember. They were:
- The Cosmological Argument
- An argument from the high probability that God exists
She only used the Cosmological Argument once, and it was while she was losing badly. I retorted with the following image, and she has not yet responded:
The Cosmological Argument
As for the argument from the high probability that God exists, it was based on the ‘evidence’ that she presented, and it’s good to end on, as without it, the evidence itself is pointless. She argues that because the evidence she presents is so compelling (though not to the point of proof), the chance of God existing becomes higher than him not existing.
And that is actually all that needs to be said. Probability can be judged in innumerable scopes and is also at least somewhat subjective.
Let’s take for example, the odds of rolling a 6-sided die and coming up with 5. One could say it’s 1 in 6, but that would be using a certain scope. That assessment assumes that the roll is happening in theory such that the die is perfectly fair and balanced between the six sides. In reality, the die is likely to have microscopic imbalances in every direction. If the scope is the level of fundamental physics, one could assert that the chance is 1 in any number: what were the chances that each atom would do exactly what it did? And yet, we could also assert that the chance is 1 in 1, if the universe is deterministic, and the die actually does come up as 5.
All that is just for a simple dice-roll. When it gets to the extremely more complex situation we’re talking about now, probability becomes impossible to predict with any degree of objectivity. What we’re left with is an almost completely subjective assessment, which is based on existing knowledge, emotions, and *gasp* presuppositions.
The chances of anything unevidenced existing is ~0. For practical purposes, it is actually 0.
God’s a fairy tale, and everything you think he did to you was you, and everything you think he did to the universe was the universe.