The Evidence for God
by David Glass
When asked what he would say if he met God in an afterlife Bertrand Russell responded, ‘I should reproach him for not giving us enough evidence.’ Some atheists will make the stronger claim that there is no evidence for God’s existence. By contrast, on this website we claim in various articles that there is evidence for God’s existence, and pretty good evidence into the bargain. Given such a disparity, it is worth asking what we mean by ‘evidence’?
Some people might think of evidence in terms of the five senses, but this is much too restrictive. Scientists, for example, don’t limit themselves to the five senses, but use various instruments to weigh objects, measure charge, detect particles, etc. Of course, the senses are important since, for example, we see the dial pointing to a certain value, but we don’t see the weight of the object or see the particle in question. Obviously though, we can’t use instruments in this way to detect God, so if this is how evidence is to be understood the evidence for God seems to be non-existent.
But this is still much too restrictive because it suggests that the only way we can know if something exists is to detect it directly using either our senses or suitable measuring devices. The problem is that things in science aren’t so simple. How do we know that particles such as electrons or protons exist? We certainly can’t see them with the naked eye. Scientists have developed various particles detectors, but how do they know they are really detecting the particles as claimed? It’s not as if they can take a look to check that the devices are getting it right. The story of how scientists came to believe in the existence of such particles is not straightforward, but very roughly the idea is that postulating their existence made much more sense of a range of phenomena that otherwise would have seemed very puzzling.
When we consider historical claims in science, things are even less straightforward…
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