As so often happens, Jerry Coyne is full of hot air this morning. In a post entitled What evidence would convince you that a god exists?, Coyne wonders what evidence might convince various non-believers that God exists. That’s a reasonable and interesting question, and even more so since some in the comments essentially admit that since any such evidence could potentially be faked (by, say, sufficiently advanced technology), they can’t be so convinced.
But I was particularly struck by the specious claims Coyne makes along the way. Let’s take a look.
“In contrast, the faithful do not (and cannot) specify what observations would disprove their beliefs—or the whole basis of their religion.”
Nonsense. Good evidence that Jesus never existed would cause me to abandon my Christianity. More generally, convincing evidence that we don’t have some measure of volitional freedom (as I think naturalism demands) would cause me to abandon my theism. It’s amazing how cavalierly Coyne makes such obviously false claims.
“Religion is not a way of knowing because it doesn’t have a way of knowing that it is wrong. And without that, you don’t know if you’re right. This is why science makes progress in understanding the world while religion is still mired in medieval theology.”
More nonsense. Most fundamentally, Coyne is stuck using the wrong measuring stick. Matters of value are incapable of conclusive demonstration. The claim — whether religiously based or not — that “torturing innocents is wrong” can’t be proven. It must be argued for. But unless Coyne is trying to jettison ethics, morals, and philosophy along with religion (is he?), his claim here is incoherent. And if he is trying to jettison everything except science as a means of figuring out how to live, he’s just plain wrong. I can’t prove with any degree of certainty that torturing innocents is wrong — I can’t establish that I’m right. That fact doesn’t invalidate the effort or the attempt and doesn’t necessarily invalidate any conclusions I might draw.
In looking for comments, Coyne seems to seek out believers:
“If you’re one of the faithful reading this, feel free to post those observations that would convince you that God doesn‘t exist.”
I would have loved to have commented there, but Coyne hasn’t allowed me to post. I have been advised of a number of people who are banned from Coyne’s site also. Apparently, he doesn’t really want people to challenge his orthodoxy.