1

What exactly does it mean to not have evidence of something? Is it functionally and exactly equivalent to having no reason to believe in something?

Let us take the example of God. Let us now imagine three events occurring.

Event A: I wake up tomorrow

Event B: I pray to God to help me pass an exam and I pass it.

Event C: I pray to God to get me to win a royal flush at the poker game that day. I win it.

For each of those events, I cannot think of a reason as to why that particular event implies that God exists or did anything. Each of them are explainable through natural causes. And yet, intuitively, even many disbelievers in God may claim that events B and C are still weak evidence for God compared to A even though it is negligible. In what sense could this be true if evidence is equivalent to having no reason to believe it?

6
  • *** I pray to God to get me to win a royal flush at the poker game that day. I win it.*** You don't need God's help to win with a royal flush, you know. ;-)
    – user66933
    Aug 13, 2023 at 12:37
  • I had no good reason to get out of bed this morning. My evidence is an empty to-do list.
    – user64314
    Aug 13, 2023 at 17:52
  • "disbelievers in God" - I suppose you mean "believers in God"?
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 14, 2023 at 9:46
  • No I meant disbelievers. Some disbelievers may consider that as negligible but weak evidence @NotThatGuy Aug 14, 2023 at 10:21
  • i can't read it, as my IP was randomly blocked, but this might help obviously, none of what you describe are "miracles". whether or not you want to consider them works of god would depend on your prior for god intervening in your card games, i guess
    – user67675
    Sep 14, 2023 at 2:50

5 Answers 5

1

There is no difference in the strength of evidence for God's existence between the 3 scenarios as presented.

The events described (waking up, passing an exam, winning poker) have natural explanations that do not require divine intervention. There is no clear causal link presented between praying to God and the subsequent events occurring. The events are mundane everyday occurrences that do not need supernatural explanations. There is no empirical evidence put forward, only hypotheticals and intuitions.

But you ask - why some people may have different intuitive feelings about them?

Well, for purely psychological reasons.

  • Confirmation bias - people are prone to see evidence confirming existing beliefs more readily. So the poker and exam scenarios better fit existing concepts of a god intervening.
  • Pattern seeking - humans tend to look for and see patterns even in random events. So the timing between prayer and desired outcome creates an illusion of causation.
  • Emotive reasoning - the poker and exam scenarios involve high stakes outcomes we desperately want. This subconsciously biases us to attribute them to divine help.
  • Cherry-picking - scenarios B and C feel like selective cases of divine intervention compared to the mundane event A. This makes them feel special.
  • False dichotomy - people often falsely equate natural explanations with pure randomness. So God seems a better explanation by comparison.

That's why. Also even theists and believers would also claim that these are just biases. You don't have to be an atheist to understand the logical fallacies. let's not pretend that being a non-believer makes you somehow smarter and believers won't be able to see what I stated here in this answer.

1

Under scientism and empiricism, justification for belief and evidence should functionally be the same.

One could potentially also appeal to logical arguments to infer things.

Note that someone can certainly have a reason for belief which is a poor justification.


Your example is a bit different from the rest of your question, in that it asks why a specific piece of data is or is not (good) evidence.

I pray to God to help me pass an exam and I pass it.

The problem with this as evidence is that:

  • It's anecdotal and prone to cherry picking. How many times did you pray and you failed? How many times didn't you pray and you passed? What about the prayers of other people? What about someone praying to their child to be cured of a disease, but they ended up dying?* 1 data point doesn't give you any sort of probability of anything (other than "greater than 0", roughly speaking). If you can demonstrate this in a scientific study, then you'd have evidence (of something).

    * This is more a problem with specific traits that someone is claiming their god has, in that it would be odd that a god would help you pass an exam, but not do something about many children who suffer and die on a daily basis.

  • Correlation is not causation. There's a likely false cause here. If I pray and what I prayed for happens (and we demonstrate this scientifically), that demonstrates that prayer works, but not why it works. It may very well be that praying provides some psychological benefit that helped you pass the exam. Maybe your parents heard you pray, and they bribed the teacher. Or maybe it was the fairy of exam passing, or any other hypothetical being, rather than your very specific god.

    I don't know that it's possible to get around this problem with an invisible being that only rarely acts, and which is silent (or at least tends not to speak with words, and not such that more than 1 person can hear it at the same time).

People aren't naturally all that good at establishing causes. That's why science is a formal well-defined process, rather than everyone just sort of doing whatever and then reporting their findings.

1

Is having no good reason to believe something the same as having no evidence?

Evidence of foul play is not a good reason to arrest the butler.

0

Measuring the measurements which a falsifiable model predicts is evidence that the model reliably predicts reality. Insofar as the model purports to represent some real aspect of reality separate from the measurements of initial and end conditions (e.g. the electric field in Coulomb's law, God in the power of prayer), this constitutes evidence that other models which incorporate such an aspect of reality may also be reliable, although further testing would be warranted. This maps to the everyday meaning of existence, two steps removed.

The significance of a set of measurements for shifting belief in a purported cause of those events is expressed with reference to how likely the events would be without the cause. This is P-value.

Both the selection of the appropriate null hypothesis and the identification of the appropriate positive hypothesis are fraught with the possibility of cognitive error. Care must be taken to avoid dishonesty through negligence.

For example, your intuitive suspicion that C constitutes negligible evidence for the power of prayer reflects your knowledge that the hypothesis must be something like "God answers prayers like this one, but not the almost indistinguishable prayers made by all the other almost indistinguishable poker players who want royal flushes." We know that many people pray for royal flushes and only the number predicted by mundane statistics actually gets them. Such a hypothesis will probably be unfalsifiable (hence useless) if we design it to conform to our past measurements, not to predict extraordinary future measurements. A falsifiable hypothesis which predicts extraordinary future measurements may follow from a model with something recognizably God-like in it - like Thinkingman being able to pray for many wonderous miracles and get them every time, so long as he strictly abides by Shari'a. Or it may not - like Thinkingman being able to pray to whatever power he chooses, but only for winning poker hands.

0

The term ‘God’ is treated in different ways in different philosophies. Therefore explanations using God are biased. So, God will not help to get a good answer to your question if you insert God for no reason :)

Is having no good reason to believe something the same as having no evidence?

No. These two are different.

Individual difference influences when deciding good reason and weak (Or, which seems to be latent to almost everyone) reason. Here the person’s ability to analyse things plays an important role. Sometimes these ‘trifle’ reasons one find might be playing an important role in many cases (Eg: Some changes that happen in the universe). Scientific minded people always ignore such things, as there is no evidence in many cases; but believers do not.

Again,

Event B and C become successful to anybody who did not pray.

Very few people can differentiate the usages of the 'I's in Event A and Event B & C. The first 'I' that comes when you wake up can be considered the serene 'I'.

Event A happens naturally. Without happening Event A (the waking up of I in Event A), Event B & C would not happen. In other words, Event B or C happens only after Event A happened. So you will not get a good answer if you insert God for generalisation. We cannot not compare which becomes the base of the rest, with other things.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .