An atheist’s answer to Alex


Atheist here, responding to Alexander Jacobs’ question addressed to atheists: “What specific evidence would make you believe in God?” Allow me to begin by stating that these views are mine and mine alone, and I in no way represent the atheist community.

What if I told you the question was not whether a god or gods exist, but which? Throughout the history of mankind, god hypotheses have been put forth. Your article suggests the miracle of spontaneous limb generation as possible evidence for God, but you never stop and ask, “Which god?”

To many people the answer may be entirely obvious, but interestingly, many of those people would disagree with each other. Some people might say that Dionysus regenerated that person’s arm so that they may continue to revel with wine. Others disagree, stating that it was Ra, because it is easier to worship the sun with two arms.

Ask 10 different people which god it was that caused this spontaneous regeneration, and you’ll get 10 different answers.

The evidence that would convince me of your Gods’ existence may be the same evidence that would convince you of Thor’s existence, or Ra’s existence, or Zoroaster’s or Zeus’. So, my response to your question is in the form of a question: What would convince you of the existence of any other deity?

Depending on your standard of evidence, eventually you may end up a pantheist who believes in all gods, or an atheist believing in no gods. Because so many people invest themselves in many different religions, and your evidence is only philosophical, how do you determine who is correct?

Undoubtedly you can find philosophical evidence that shows how a higher power exhibits many similarities to the god you believe in, but you can also find many just as credible arguments against that.

I realize that my answer to your question may be unsatisfactory. You were looking for a specific action or series of actions that would deftly change my mind and I did not provide that because my standards of evidence would not allow my mind to be swayed by one report. I would need something well researched, documented and peer-reviewed by credible, unbiased people.

When I say that I’m open to the evidence for a god, I’m saying that I’m open to the idea that a god exists, but adequate evidence must be supplied and well vetted by a trusted epistemological source.

As for your question on open-mindedness, I do not immediately dismiss a god claim; instead I actively work to understand the world around us. During all of human civilization, stories have been made up to explain the inexplicable.

In your article, you also point out that we cannot currently explain why the universe exists, and you’re absolutely correct. Currently we cannot adequately explain what, if anything, happened before the universe. In 1835, philosopher Auguste Comte predicted that science will never understand what stars might be made of, and at the time they had reason to believe he was correct.

Not too long after, we were analyzing stars spectroscopically and determining their structure and composition, and spectroscopy has since blossomed into an entire field of chemistry and physics. Now we do spectroscopy of all shapes and sizes to investigate things about the world around us.

Imagine if we had taken Comte at his word and decided not to pursue the composition of stars. We’d know significantly less about the universe.

As a scientist, I’m always looking for why I might be wrong about something instead of only looking for reasons why I am right. Why should I stop looking for new and interesting things around us just because someone says that nothing more can be learned? Countless times in history people have claimed that something wouldn’t work or could never be understood, and then we figured it out.

If you would like to continue this dialogue further, feel free to send me an email; this invitation is also extended to any reader who is looking for an honest and respectful dialogue.