Fact Check: “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence”

by Travis Stockelman

If you have watched any theist vs atheist debate, you have likely heard the claim that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. The idea behind this claim is that, as claims become more extravagant, the evidence required to validate these claims needs to be more extravagant. I have several issues with this statement.

First, we need to know what qualifies as an “extraordinary claim”? When challenging a claim based on how extraordinary it is, we need to ask why this claim is considered extraordinary. What makes a claim “extraordinary”? Where some claims “extraordinary” in the past but not “extraordinary” now? Are some claims “extraordinary” in some cultures, but not so in others? Extraordinary in comparison to what? In my experience, most individuals who make this claim seem to imply that anything that does not line up with the philosophy of naturalism is “extraordinary.” The naturalists who hold to this view apparently do not realize that, if this is a presupposition to any claim they make, they have begged the question and committed a logical fallacy. Yet by this standard, any worldview could claim that anything contrary to its own presuppositions are “extraordinary.” Without a solid definition of what counts as an “extraordinary claim,” this becomes an almost meaningless statement.

Second, in a similar way, we need to know what qualifies as “extraordinary evidence.” There is no category of evidence called “extraordinary.” It doesn’t exist. So, what exactly are those who make this statement asking for? Without understanding the type of evidence that can be considered “extraordinary,” the concept of “extraordinary evidence” becomes meaningless…

Fact Check: “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence”