The latest issue of Touchstone journal has a great essay by Edward Tingley titled The Skeptical Inquirer. You can access the full essay here. The gist of the essay is that atheists and agnostics do not go far enough along in their journey to truly conclude that God or gods does or do not exist because they give up to easily once hard, physical evidence is declare unobtainable. What is amazing here is that Tingley concedes from the start there is no hard, physical evidence that would lead one to a belief in God and, by extension, that God cannot be sought by the mind, by reason. But he does not stop there and this is where the essay really takes off. He write:
All of those people who insist that they would reasonably believe on the basis of “a range of confirming evidence corroborated by a community of inquirers,” or if there were no other way to explain the universe, or if there were “evidence of miracles,” or if there were predictions of “natural disasters . . . using non-ambiguous language,” or archeological traces of biblical events, and all the rest of it, are truly not worth listening to. Truly not.”
Why? Because in all of this they are refusing to go where their own skeptical-scientific questioning actually points: not back to concrete evidence but on to the question of whether there is another way to answer the question, which they reject without further thought. Rather than ask it, they balk, they flinch, they bluster—they do everything that in their own eyes signals the dogmatic refuser of science.
Given the options that logic delivers, the one thing it is utterly ridiculous to do is to keep going on about “strong, compelling evidence [for] the existence of God.” Yet that is what both the agnostic and the atheist never stop talking about: the agnostic, so that he can believe; the atheist, as the crux of the belief he has already raced to. Pascal has left both behind him: This is patent “folly,” he says.
All of the people who say that they are “atheists through skepticism, because they see no evidence that God exists,” are patently unthinking people, since by virtue of turning skeptic, no one has ever done anything—employed any logic, gathered any evidence, found any way forward—to reach a conclusion about whether God exists. So these atheists have not reached a conclusion; they have made a commitment.
What the scientific skeptic ought to say is this: “Having examined the hard evidence, we declare that route to be exhausted. The only kind of evidence for God’s existence that counts will have to be of some other kind—if there is any other kind.” (Touchstone, June 2008, pp 20-26)
That is the question isn’t it? Do atheists and agnostics exhaust all possible avenues by which one might know whether or not there is a God or gods? Tingley concludes no. I won’t spoil all the fun by revealing his conclusion. This is heavy hitting stuff and I encourage you to check it out for yourself.
I wonder if, however, on this basis alone we can agree that those people ‘are truly not worth listening to.’ That might be a bit harsh and unnecessary, but he probably just means that we should pay no attention to their diatribes and their ‘convincing arguments for the non-existence of God’ because their arguments are non-arguments, their logic is pale (‘To talk like Russell after Pascal only makes you quaint and silly, because what the lack of evidence delivers is logically a question, not a conclusion.’ 22), full of folly, and they are, to be sure, unthinking people who have already made a commitment.
Anyhow, it’s a fantastic essay that requires, probably, two reads to get at all he saying. I know I have had some atheists visit here before so I’ll ask: Is there any other kind of evidence for the existice of God that might be explored? Have you continued to search or have you abandoned all hope? What say you?
PS–There is a ping below, but for more on this essay and the ‘other point of view,’ visit my friend Jeff at atheocracy where I have also responded to his post.