In this discussion, an atheist (named Jessica Long) asked for evidence for God. Through the conversation, it was made clear that her question was incoherent. What follows is the part of our discussion about what constitutes as evidence for God. Like many of the atheists who spend a good portion of their time debating about God on Facebook, she clearly has a victim complex. This atheist, who is named Jessica Long (this is her Linkedin profile, and this is her fake Facebook profile. I will explain why I revealed her identity after the transcript of our discussion.
What follows is the philosophical portion of the conversation we had:
Atheist: Can you (in your own words, no links to sites right off the bat) give me the most convincing evidence/argument you have for the existence of the God you believe in?
Please do not lead with a “personal experience” story.
Me: Define ‘evidence.’
Atheist: Evidence: “The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.”
Me: What is a ‘fact?
Atheist: Fact: “A piece of information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article.” You could look these up you know…
Me: Does this ‘information’ have to be a fact?
Atheist: You could look these up you know…
Me: You are obviously a novice in philosophy if you think that these questions are not important. Throughout the last 2,000 years of philosophy, numerous definitions for ‘evidence’ and ‘facts’ have been used. If you do not comprehend this, you are not ready to have a sincere discussion, especially with me. I was quite aware that you were just posting definitions you got from Google. It has given me everything I need to know concerning your efforts (or, to be frank with you, lack thereof) to discern whether or not there is a god.
Now, if you wish to attempt to continue, I am leading you somewhere that shows the problem with your approach to the question you are asking. Please answer the following question:
Does this ‘information’ have to be a fact?
Atheist: Okay first of all, I never claimed to be anything in philosophy.
Me: You are here and you are engaging people in philosophical discussion on a regular basis. You clearly are not ready to do so because your method is flawed. It doesn’t matter whether or not you think you are a philosopher, you are engaging in philosophy nonetheless.
Atheist: I’m glad you think I’m not worthy enough to have a discussion with you. Don’t really care that much, however you are welcome to stop at any point.
Me: Do not victimize yourself. You came into a debate group and you should not be surprised that your ideas and competence are being challenged. Are you worthy to have a discussion with? Obviously, I wouldn’t have spoken to you if I didn’t think so. However, ‘worthiness’ and ‘competence’ are two different matters. The former cannot be fixed, but the latter can be fixed.
Atheist: So why don’t you lay down what your definition of evidence is, as well as presenting some of it.
Me: This is one of your problems. I am not the one who asked the question that began this conversation. It is up to you to tell me what you mean by evidence. If I define evidence for you, you may not like my definition and then we would only be arguing semantics. The reasons why I asked you for a definition for evidence are two fold:
1. So I can determine what type of evidence you are looking for.
2. So I can determine whether or not you have a valid approach to discerning truth (which you apparently do not).
Now, I will address your definitions. First, I asked for a definition for evidence. You replied (from Google):
“Evidence: “The available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.”
After you answered that question, I asked you to define ‘fact.’ You replied (again, from Google):
“A piece of information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article.”
I then asked you the following question:
“Does this ‘information’ have to be a fact?”
You have not yet answered this question so I will reveal how I would respond to either possible answer.
If the ‘information’ that constitutes as ‘evidence’ has to be a ‘fact’ in order to validly infer a conclusion, you would have to have ‘evidence’ for the ‘information’ that you are using as ‘evidence.’ You would then have to have ‘evidence’ for that ‘evidence,’ and again, ‘evidence’ for that ‘evidence, ad infinitum. This results in epistemological skepticism, viz., the notion that nothing can be known at all. This means that ‘evidence,’ according to the definitions you gave, is not a valid way to discern a true proposition from a false one because your way of discerning truth necessarily leads to the conclusion that nothing can be known.
On the other hand, if the ‘information’ that constitutes as ‘evidence’ does not have to be true, then ‘evidence’ is unnecessary because propositions cannot be considered sound if they are inferred from false propositions. Furthermore, if the evidence doesn’t have to be true, then any proposition can be argued for, and they can be argued for any reason you wish, and that means that all propositions, including contradictory ones, are true. This results in epistemological skepticism and makes your conditions for believing a proposition to be true meaningless.
Here is my suggestion. You are not doing yourself very much good by trying to argue with people on Facebook groups. You should go study so that you can develop a methodology that allows you to answer the question, “How can anything be known at all?” I suggest with starting by studying epistemology and the philosophy of language. One author I really like is Gordon H. Clark (he is a Christian though. I am not a Christian, I adhere to Messianic Judaism, but I still like Clark’s work). If you prefer to read atheist philosophers who are competent. I’d start with David Hume, Ayn Rand, and Bertrand Russell. You could also read Karl Popper, who was an agnostic. Granted, all of these authors disagree with each other on many things, but it will give you a fairly diverse view of central topics to philosophical dialogue. You can also reach out to me if you have questions (so long as you are sincere).
Atheist: You clearly think very highly of yourself and aren’t afraid to throw that in people’s faces. Jason L. Petersen
Me: You are clearly deflecting when it has been clearly shown that you have a big problem with the way you are approaching this discussion. That is your choice, but if this is how you deal with correction, you will always have trouble with engaging in productive dialogue. In such instances, you only have yourself to blame.
Atheist: I like how you are asking me to define “evidence” while you clearly already have defined for yourself
Me: Oh really? And where did I give this definition? If you look back at the discussion, I have only used your definition and I showed you how the definition you gave causes problems for how you discern truth.
Atheist: and are going to argue from that point eventually since we are attempting to discuss your belief, not mine.
Me: You are the one who asked for evidence, I only asked what you meant so I could provide you with evidence. Unfortunately, the definitions you gave were problematic for your position.
Atheist: So, why am I being asked to define my “definition of evidence”?
Me: Because you are the one who asked for ‘evidence.’ You are the only one who knows what you mean when you say, ‘evidence.’ As for me, I don’t do fortune telling for a reason. Come on, Jessica. This isn’t complicated.
Atheist: Do you have any evidence for your now held beliefs?
Me: We do not yet have a common definition for ‘evidence.’ If I were try to argue with you in the way you wish me to, we would only talk past each other. It would be a waste of both of our time. I define ‘evidence’ as a proposition (or set of propositions) that are inductively inferred to support belief in a different proposition. Under that definition, I have a lot of evidence to support my claims such as the notion that the universe had a beginning and the best explanation for that beginning is God. The cosmic fine tuning of the universe, the historical evidence surrounding the resurrection of Messiah Yeshua, the history of Israel, in particular, the history of its interactions with God, planetary magnetic fields can be predicted based on the Genesis 1 account of creation, etc. It is an embarrassment of riches.
Atheist: Finally, we got there. The few you have laid out are no different than ones I’ve heard thousands of times before (and here I thought you might have something more since you were dragging this out so long).
Me: I assure you, I have heard of all attempts to rebut these claims, and they are unsatisfactory.
Atheist: But before we get into those…
Me: Not so fast. We do not have a common definition for ‘evidence.’ I gave you examples that fit into my definition, and now you are going to try to say that what I presented doesn’t count as evidence. This is because you are using a different definition for evidence. I have already shown why your definition is flawed. Are you going to address my criticism or are you going to use a different definition for evidence? Unless this question is answered, there is no point in me going forward with you.
Atheist: Is this definition of evidence the only definition you use?
Me: In this conversation, yes.
Atheist: For everything? Or just for supporting your arguments for the existence of God?
Me: In general, this is the definition I use. In case you haven’t noticed, this definition is broad in scope and it would imply that there is evidence for atheism because inductive inferences are arbitrary and can be used to support any position. This is why I do not base my beliefs on evidence (unless I consider those beliefs to only be matters of opinion).
Atheist: For instance, evidence can be used to support the theory of evolution, or the theory of gravity… and so on. Does you definition apply to those as well? Or do you use a different definition when addressing those things?
Me: Yes, my definition applies to those. And under that definition, there is evidence for both creation and evolution. This is why the accumulation of evidence is not an adequate methodology for discerning truth.
Atheist: I see, basically any definition I could give is incorrect until I agree to your definition.
Me: Not necessarily. I just took issue with the definitions you gave. There are other definitions I have seen that I don’t take issue with such as “a proposition that supports another proposition.” A definition such as that would be fine if the issue in question were only considered a matter of opinion.
Atheist: If I told you my definition of evidence was: “whatever I think is correct” would that be valid or invalid?
Me: You can’t really have a valid or invalid (if we are using the definition for these terms that are typically used in formal logic) definition because definitions are not syllogistic. Technically, any ‘evidence’ would be thought to be correct by the person who was giving it so long as the person is not trying to be deceptive. The question is, would ‘evidence,’ under this definition result in any conclusion drawn from it to be necessarily correct? The answer is no.
Atheist: People make their own definitions for evidence yes. Some people believe there is evidence for aliens, some believe there is evidence for ghosts, some believe there is evidence that the earth is flat. Does that make them correct, absolutely not.
Me: Exactly. This is why I think your approach to this discussion is flawed. ‘Evidence’ doesn’t prove anything. I favor a systematic approach that is deductive.
Atheist: If you actually have evidence it should be able to be tested and peer reviewed, just like any other evidence.
Me: And of what benefit would that be if ‘evidence’ doesn’t truly prove anything? Such inferences would only be a matter of opinion, and peer-reviewed theories have indeed been superseded by other theories (such as general relativity superseding the idea that the universe is filled with aether).
Why I Chose to Reveal this Atheist’s Identity
Jessica Long works for the City of Lafayette in Arkansas and her work background is in media. Because of this, I thought people should know that this particular individual likes to troll and harass people of religious persuasion in her spare time.
When I first spoke to her, my intention was to show her that she didn’t really understand the question she was asking, nor the implications of the definitions she was using in her question. During our discussion, a couple of other atheists made disrespectful comments and Jessica voiced her support for those comments. After the second atheist interrupted, Jessica started changing the subject to why I blocked other people who were chiming in (the reason was that I didn’t want Jessica and I’s conversation to be interrupted). She stated that blocking other people was against the discussion group’s rules (it was not; only blocking admins was against the rules).
When she mentioned telling an admin that I was blocking people, I mentioned that someone could see her place of work and it could get her in trouble with her employer. I made it clear that if she wanted to start derailing the discussion by tattletaling, I can play that game too, and I could play it better than she can. She took this to mean that I was going to call her employer. Now, I wouldn’t call her employer because I do not wish to possibly derail her career (and really, that would be a bunch of drama that I am not willing to insert myself into. I have more important things to do.) At the same time, I felt that people should know about her behavior because she is working in the media industry and for a local government. I took the middle road and decided to just reveal the identity of the atheist in this transcript. Now, this is not unusual behavior for me. When I started Answers for Hope in 2013, I regularly told people who the individuals I was discussing things with were. Over time, however, I had some atheists that asked me to remove their names and the link to their profile from the transcripts. Their requests were respectful so I obliged. Furthermore, the atheists in question were not harassing religious people; rather, they were disagreeing with religious people–there is a difference. I understand disagreement, but harassment is unacceptable. If the atheist routinely harassed religious people, I did not oblige their request.
This person, however, is a person who doesn’t just disagree with religious people; she harasses them. She has been nothing but unkind to me since I have met her. After I posted the transcript with her identity, an admin of the group that we had the discussion in (I ended up leaving it because I repeatedly encountered drama in the group and I do not identify as a Christian (though I have a lot of agreement with Christians, in particular, that Yeshua, aka Jesus, is the Messiah) messaged me and kindly asked me to keep her identity anonymous. He left me with the impression that Jessica was distressed over the situation so I obliged and took her name off the transcript. I gave her a benefit of a doubt because I had not heard from her since the discussion, and perhaps for a second I thought that I was being too harsh. After all, it was only the first time I had an exchange with her, and maybe the other instances of her being unkind to religious people was just her having a bad day.
Not too long after I did so, Jessica started ‘reacting’ to posts on my author pages and on other Facebook pages in a disrespectful manner. I messaged her privately and warned her that I had cut her some slack, but if she is going to behave this way, her information would be back on the transcript. I asked her to not contact me, but she contacted me again on a separate account that was clearly fake. She responded by mocking me and she suggested that I removed her information because I was afraid of getting in trouble (Au contraire, Jessica). I warned her again one more time and she began making posts on my other pages (at this point, her behavior fits the legal definition of harassment). As a result, I added her information back onto the transcript. After that, an atheist posted on one of my business Facebook page asking if people would do business with someone who posted someone else’s information online (the answer is, “Yes,” by the way). At one time, she said she wasn’t making threats to me because she was a “decent person.” Well, Jessica, “decent people” do not harass other people. I also explained to her that the information I shared is public information. She had this information public on Facebook and her Linkedin profile. Indeed, people have shared my information before, and I have been criticized on the internet by a multitude of people. If you decide to publicly voice your ideas, it is something you have to get used to.
Jessica harassed me after I had removed her information; she even encouraged me to contact her employer to tell them about her antics (this could possibly get her fired, by the way, despite what she may think, EEOC laws would not protect her if the employers found her behavior outside of work to be potentially damaging to their brand, Arkansas is an at-will state, after all). So, it is clear to me that either she thought she was calling my bluff concerning putting her information on the transcript and found out that I wasn’t bluffing, or she didn’t care that her antics would be made public. Any of her stories about being a victim is nonsense. She literally asked for this and knowingly took actions that would result in her information being posted again. It seems to me that she has a “victim” complex. In this case, the only thing she is being victimized by is her own irrational, selfish, and rude behavior.
I also explained to her that the information I shared is public information. She had this information public on Facebook and her Linkedin profile. Indeed, people have shared my information before, and I have been criticized on the internet by a multitude of people. If you decide to publicly voice your ideas, it is something you have to get used to.