What should you do if you meet someone who says there’s no evidence for a claim? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Twice recently I’ve seen this claim and I know I’ve seen it umpteen times before. It is the claim that there is no evidence for something like say, God. When you meet mythicists, you will be told that there is no evidence for Jesus. Of course, we all make statements like this at times, but if you meet someone who says something like that, what are you to say in response?
To start off, it would be good if you really did have something that could be considered evidence. Unfortunately, as many of us know, many times you will tell what your reasons are and you will be told that that does not count as evidence. What’s the problem here?
The problem is there is a false understanding of evidence as if evidence meant proof. You can have evidence for a claim that is false, for instance. Go watch a mystery show sometime or read a mystery novel. You can have evidence that makes you think Smith is a murderer, and in the end, you find out that Jones is the murderer. It wasn’t that the evidence was faulty or untrue. It was that it was being misunderstood in some way. The facts were all the same in the case.
There can also be such a thing as insufficient evidence for a claim. A knife that Smith owns is found at the murder scene with blood on it. Could that be evidence Smith committed the crime? Sure. It’s hardly going to be enough in itself to get a jury to find Smith guilty. Still, that can be considered evidence.
What are some other reasons people might give as evidence for believing a claim? Suppose you grew up in a Muslim community. You saw Islam your whole life. Your parents raised you as a Muslim. Every intelligent person you met was a Muslim. Would you have evidence that Islam is true? Yes. Would this be sufficient evidence? No. It might be enough to give you justification for your belief at the time, but it is not enough to convince someone outside. We could say the same for someone who was raised an atheist and we could in fact say the same for someone who was raised a Christian.
Could we even say there is evidence outside for other claims? Sure. We could say there is evidence for atheism in the problem of evil. Do I think this is sufficient evidence? Not at all. If someone pointed to a miracle with a Muslim man being healed after prayer, and I have met such, then assuming it wasn’t a Christian praying in the name of Jesus, we could say that is evidence for Islam. The key is that we have to look at all the claims that people bring to the table when they have a discussion. If we take what a person believes and just say “no evidence” we are in fact saying that they and everyone else who believes the claim believes blindly.
Now even if you’re an atheist reading this, really think about that. Do you really want to say that every single person who holds to any theistic belief whatsoever is doing so blindly without any reason whatsoever? That is indeed a huge claim and one that needs to be backed. It would be nice if such a person had evidence that they talked to everyone on the planet who holds to theism and determined this.
I suspect that they don’t.
Of course, it can’t hurt to ask for their evidence. The person has made the claim. Let them back it. If not, you can just kindly tell them you don’t believe a claim that they can’t back.