It’s Too Soon to Ask for Evidence, and What Is Evidence, Anyway?

Let’s take a peek over at Eve Keneinan’s post Keeping Track, which recounts a Twitter discussion between her, @MrOzAtheist, and Mark Houlsby, about Houlsby’s assertion that

There is no evidence for God. Therefore God does not exist.

Here’s a representative excerpt from Keneinan’s recap/rebuttal:

But evidence is an epistemological concept, pertaining to knowledge, to how we know that something exists or not, and what its properties are. Existence on the other hand is a metaphysical or ontological concept.

And another:

His claim that MH1: There is no evidence for God is already defeated by AMH1: It is possible there is evidence of God that has not yet be discovered.  I of course hold there is evidence for God, and plenty of it, [and so on, and so on]

And this (emphasis added):

I and others have attempted to refute this argument by arguing “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” We proffered plausible counterexamples: such things as protons (at one time), intelligent life in the Andromeda galaxy, and black holes (at one time). We argued that it is overwhelmingly likely that there are things for which we do not yet have evidence.

Go read, or at least skim, the whole thing if you’re curious.

In my experience, this sort of argument isn’t at all unusual for the more intellectual, ivory-tower sort of apologist. But here’s the thing: Keneinan says that “at one time” there wasn’t evidence for black holes. That “at one time” was on the order of a century: it was 101 years ago that Karl Schwarzschild discovered the radius around a collapsed star that bears his name.

A hundred years ago, we couldn’t sequence DNA because we didn’t know its shape and didn’t understand its role in reproduction. Hell, we hadn’t even isolated insulin yet.

Keneinan uses the word “galaxy” in the full knowledge that everyone knows what that is, and why it’s difficult to find life there. But a hundred years ago, we didn’t know that those fuzzy blobs in telescopes were in fact other cosmic islands of stars like our Milky Way. We didn’t know about the expanding universe or the Big Bang.

Meanwhile, we’ve had Islam for 1400 years, Christianity for 2000, Judaism for over 3000, and they’re still stuck on “well, you can’t disprove God” and “what constitutes evidence, anyway?”

You’d think that if there were any solid evidence for God, it would’ve shown up by now.