Reasons to believe: one person’s meat is another’s poisson!


Victor Reppert is a philosopher. His book, CS Lewis’s Dangerous Idea discusses the theistic argument from reason. His blog, Dangerous Idea has long been a source of information and ideas for me, and many others.

Recently he responded to the argument that there is no evidence for God, and summarised his reasons for believing in God. They are worth looking at.

What is “evidence”?

For Victor, “X is evidence for Y just in case X is more likely to exist given Y than given not-Y”.

For example, police find Pete’s wallet at the scene of the crime, but Pete says his wallet was stolen. If the police believe it is more likely that the wallet would be found there if Pete committed the crime, than if his wallet was stolen, then the wallet becomes evidence for his involvement.

Victor’s evidence

He explains: “There is a whole boatload of stuff that look to me to be a LOT more likely to exist if God exists than if God does not exist. Some of it’s in the Bible, most of it isn’t.

Here’s a short list:

1) The fact that we can reason about the world. The fact that it is even possible to go from evidence to a conclusion. If this isn’t possible, then science isn’t even possible. But that implies that our acts of reasoning are governed by the laws of logic, as opposed to the laws of physics. But naturalism says the laws of physics govern everything, and the laws of logic are superfluous as an explanation for any event in the universe.

2) That there are stable laws of nature, so that the distant past resembles the recent past. It’s easy to imagine an atheistic world with no stability at all, where the laws keep changing for no reason. Why is that not the actual world?

3) The we have just the right cosmic constants for life to emerge.

4) That DNA allows for gradual change, as opposed to being completely static or so radically changeable that it is completely unpredictable.

5) That monotheism arose against all odds in a polytheistic world in a country that hardly qualifies as a world superpower, and that it persisted in spite of the efforts of the superpowers like Assyria, Babylon, the Seleucids, and the Romans, to get it to assimilate into a polytheistic culture.

6) That the disciples of Jesus got in the faces of those responsible for Jesus’s crucifixion and told them that the Jesus they crucified was Lord and God, and lived to tell the tale and found Christianity. (If they killed Jesus, they can kill you too).

7) That archaeology has discovered that if Luke was writing a story about the founding of Christianity, it wrote it in such a way that the “research” for his “fictional” story was corroborated centuries later by archaeology, “research” that would have required him to know all sorts of detail from Jerusalem to Malta at just the right time in the first century.

8) That Christianity became the dominant religion of an empire in spite of getting no help, and intermittent persecution, from the political leaders of that empire, for nearly three centuries.”

How the argument goes

In a related post, Victor explains how his argument follows a similar form to Bayes Theorem.

“We all start from different places, and have different initial dispositions with respect to the world as we experience it. Then, we acquire further information. Historically people have tried to pull their model of the world apart and start only from certain basics, and believe only what can be built up from there, but I don’t think that’s necessary, especially when the people who say we have to do it disagree about what has to be in the base. I think it makes more sense to adjust the beliefs we have as we go along and move incrementally toward consensus as evidence comes in.”

He concludes: “I believe in God, but there is plenty of disconfirming evidence. It is just that the confirming evidence, all told, outweighs it, as I see it.”

What Vic said

Plenty of people define evidence differently, or don’t think think Victor’s evidence is very persuasive.

But I think I see things much the same as he does, even though I’m not a philosopher. And I would add a few more arguments to the list. But that’s for another day.

Photo Credit: thinkingdigital via Compfight cc. This picture has nothing to do with Victor Reppert, but is just meant to illustrate two people with different opinions discussing.