Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! We’ve been looking lately at atheist sound bites. These are claims that are made by atheists in the blogosphere. Tonight, we’re going to be looking at ECREE which is “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
I understand this one goes back to Carl Sagan. (Why does it seem that scientists seem to think they’re good at philosophy when they’re not?) This was his response to those who held theistic beliefs. A lot of times today, it’s given as a stopper to Christian beliefs. Many a Christian has been unable to respond to this sound bite.
To begin with, if anyone has the claim that would be seen as extraordinary, it would have been Sagan. After all, most people in history have been theists and even most people today are theists of some sort. Most people probably thought Sagan’s claim of “The cosmos is all there ever was, is, and ever will be” was extraordinary.
That gets us to the first problem with this. The idea of what is extraordinary is subjective entirely. Who determines what is and isn’t extraordinary? I find Sagan’s claim to be extraordinary. He finds my claim to be extraordinary. Is there any neutral party between us?
We can also ask what constitutes extraordinary evidence? As one of my professors said in response to this claim when he was given it, “Does it glow?” As it is in the first problem we have with this sound bite, the term “extraordinary” is just way too ambiguous to know what is meant by it.
Let’s suppose also a claim was made that I found to be hilarious. Does that mean that the evidence for the claim would have to be hilarious? Whether something is hilarious or not can differ from person to person. What we need is a different measure whereby to determine what kinds of evidence are to be given for an argument.
Here’s my solution. First off, if you are making a claim of science, your evidence should seek to be scientific. If you are making a claim of philosophy, you should seek philosophical evidence. Historical claims are to be backed by history. Mathematical claims are to be backed by Math.
Who has the burden of proof? Anyone making a claim does. Of course, the inability of one person to back their claim does not prove the other is true, but it can weigh heavily in their favor. If Sagan says “The cosmos is all there was, is, and ever will be,” then that’s a claim and it needs to be backed. If I say “There is a God,” that’s also a claim and it needs to be backed.
What about evidence? You give the reasons for believing what you believe and so does your opponent. If you find an argument faulty, you tell why. If you don’t find the data convincing, you tell why. ECREE is a sound bite that simply stops debate and sadly assumes atheism as it is atheists who use it the most.
That gets us into a topic for another day however.