Fundamentalist Atheism and the Refusal to Answer Simple Questions

by guest blogger Chris Bolt

The following exchange is from a public atheist group on Facebook. Toward the end of the exchange I imply that I am an atheist; I have been told on numerous occasions that as a Christian I am an atheist because there are all sorts of gods I do not believe in, hence my wording.

Chris Bolt: Hi Suzane,

I am not completely sure how I was able to see this conversation, and I certainly do not have the time to join in and continue a discussion, but I did notice upon skimming the thread that you continue to make a claim to the effect of E: “you have to provide evidence to back up your claims.”

But I find claim E odd, and I wonder, what evidence have you provided in support of E?

Suzane Watkinson: ‎@Chris: What claim did I make? I think you are confused about what you are reading.

Chris Bolt: ‎”Suzane Watkinson @Chris: What claim did I make? I think you are confused about what you are reading.”

Hi Suzane, thank you for your response. I am not confused about what I am reading. You ask what claim you made. I quoted you as making the following claim, which I am calling claim E.

E: “you have to provide evidence to back up your claims.”

You have stated something similar more than once in this thread.

But I find claim E odd, and I wonder, what evidence have you provided in support of E?

Thanks!

Suzane Watkinson: ‎@Chris: Do you contend that evidence was provided?

Chris Bolt: Suzane,

You asked, “@Chris: Do you contend that evidence was provided?”

No. I am asking you what evidence you have provided for your claim E: “you have to provide evidence to back up your claims.”

What evidence have you provided in support of E? That is my question. I am not contending that you have offered evidence in support of E, and I am not assuming that you have not, though I did not see any offered. So, what evidence do you provide in support of your claim E?

Suzane Watkinson: ‎@Chris: Perhaps you are confused about the concept of a proof.

Laura Grow: ‎@Chris, you have to provide evidence to back up a claim because, without it, anything and everything can be true. Hey, my cat can talk, I don’t need evidence, but it is true because I say it is. Can you see where that becomes problematic?

Laura Grow: ‎@Suzane, you know you aren’t going to get very far in a conversation when someone says, “provide evidence that I have to provide evidence to back up what I say”. I can’t even believe that the statement sounds reasonable to anyone on any level.

Chris Bolt: Suzane,

Thank you again for the response. I am not confused about the concept of a proof. Rather, I am asking you for the evidence which supports your following claim:

Claim E: “you have to provide evidence to back up your claims.”

Perhaps I have been unclear. If I am to accept the truth of E, then I must have evidence upon which to accept the truth of E. Could you provide your evidence for E? Thanks.

Laura,

You wrote, “you have to provide evidence to back up a claim.” This is a restatement of E. I am asking for the basis upon which E should be accepted.

You wrote, “because, without it, anything and everything can be true.” However, this does not follow. Truth is not contingent upon evidence. For example, the truth or falsehood of my owning a pet dragon does not depend upon whether or not you, or anyone else, has evidence for said truth. Or, suppose I claim to have seen a jaguar in the woods near my house, and suppose this claim is true. The fact that you lack evidence for believing that claim does not mean that I did not actually see a jaguar, or that there was not actually a jaguar there. You are confusing our reason for believing some claim with the claim actually being true. I think I understand what you are trying to say, but I do not want to misrepresent you.

To restate the question for Laura, consider claim L: “you have to provide evidence to back up a claim.” What is the evidence you provide to back up this claim (L)? It is not that “without it, anything and everything can be true,” for the reasons explained above. Further, even without the reasons given above, the aforementioned response would constitute an argument from consequences and as such is fallacious.

Thanks!

Chris Bolt: Laura,

I just noticed your comment to Suzane:

“@Suzane, you know you aren’t going to get very far in a conversation when someone says, ‘provide evidence that I have to provide evidence to back up what I say’. I can’t even believe that the statement sounds reasonable to anyone on any level.”

It is odd that you find the question unreasonable, as it is in accord with claim E. In other words, it was Suzane who is demanding evidence for every claim, hence I am asking for the evidence whereby we are to accept that claim, E.

I hope this clarifies things. It is perfectly reasonable, given your own contention.

Thanks!

Suzane Watkinson: ‎@Chris: its a side track, start a new thread.

Chris Bolt: Hi Suzane,

Please note that the asterisks below are for clarification; they are not intended to change the tone of my response. I have enjoyed the discussion and its rather civil tone.

Unfortunately, I strongly disagree with you that this is a “side track.” First, it looks suspicious that you are only now stating that my question is a “side track.” Second, I quoted *your words* (claim E) from *this thread* in my question, so my question is either *on track* (along with your words) or *you* introduced the “side track.” Third, my question pertains to a topic that is *logically prior* to your demand for evidence (E), since my question pertains to the evidence one needs to accept E by virtue of E.

Laura was perhaps on the right track with her defense of L, however she needed to state her claims in terms of beliefs as opposed to the actual truth of a matter. Still, her argument would need to be either further modified or rejected as it does not follow from not having evidence *for* the acceptance of a belief that anything could be believed. First, this would still be fallacious as explained above (argumentum ad consequentiam). Second, there are still good reasons and evidence for *not* believing particular claims, hence it does not follow from the rejection of L that anything and everything might then be believed. So the attempt at supporting L through the modified argument above does not get us any closer to satisfying the burden of evidence that E and L produce.

That having been said, this is your group and I respect your authority to run it as you please, hence this is my last comment at this time. As I mentioned when I jumped in, I do not have the time right now to continue, and so will not be starting another thread. I thank you for your brief interaction and hope that you will consider my question further in the future. As atheists, we should remain every bit as critical of our own beliefs and ideas as we are of those who disagree
with us. It makes atheists look unreasonable and even foolish when we are unable to answer, or refuse to answer, a very straightforward and simple question concerning our own demands for evidence and the like.

Chris Bolt blogs at Choosing Hats, an educational site dedicated to bringing glory to God through the explanation and demonstration of Presuppositional/Covenantal apologetics. Visitors are encouraged to examine the articles, and to consider their own belief system and how well it accounts for their experiences.

The Poached Egg Apologetics


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