F.X. CRONINEvidence for Agnostics: The Primary Problem
This is the first article in a new nine-part series entitled “Evidence for Agnostics.” New articles in the series will be published each Monday.
Today no one questions the range of scientific inquiry nor the reality of scientific certainty. For the empirical method has provided the modern world with a vast array of factual information about the nature, the processes and the behavior of the physical world from the sub-atomic to the cosmic level. Now, the range of scientific capacities and certainties seems without practical limits and almost defies description.
And, even in the mundane aspects of our daily lives, the scientific imprimatur is the universal standard of credibility, the certain and solitary source for facts about life and truth, about practical life and living. And, this ubiquitous power and practicality blinds many in the modern world to the limitations of science and leaves them ignorant about a crucial component inherent in the very nature of science and scientific inquiry.
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For the limitations of the type of phenomena accessible to scientific investigation and the crucial role played by logical reasoning in the conduct of science are the two crucial areas obscured by the rise of science and ignored by the assumption that science is the only way to find truth. For in the modern world, science has become the exclusive path to truth. It is the modern cultural default belief about truth and the core belief of most agnostics. But is this true? Is science the only path to actual and factual truth?
No. And it is surprisingly easy to demonstrate. Just think about the very idea of truth and its reliance on evidence. How any belief must be grounded in evidence, sound evidence, actual and factual evidence. Think about how evidence is an absolute essential to any and every truth claim.
Not only does any truth claim need evidence, it needs germane evidence, appropriate evidence, evidence on a scale appropriate to the scale of the truth claim. It needs foundational and expansive evidence of a breadth and depth appropriate to the nature and substance of the truth claim. And all that tells us that logic demands such evidence.
For reason requires the need for evidence. It is obvious. A truth claim cannot become factual truth without evidence, overwhelming evidence, evidence that removes all doubt. Such are the demands of reason. And, we all seem to know this intuitively. It’s common sense. The plain and simple truth about finding truth is that it requires evidence.
Another simple truth about truth is that opposing truth claims cannot all be right. They can’t all be true. If all actual possible truth claims considered cover the full range of possible truths and these truth claims are distinctively different and mutually exclusive, only one truth claim can actually be true. This is particularly true when it comes to foundational and ultimate truth claims. So, let’s look at two such questions.
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First let’s consider the question of the existence of God, the crucial question for agnostics and atheists alike. First of all, on this most basic level, the full range of possible answers is either God exists or God doesn’t exist. Existence is a truth claim that allows for only two possibilities. Either something exists or it doesn’t. So, we know the existence of God is not a matter of belief. It is a matter of fact, a matter of truth. Logic tells us this. For something cannot be and not be.
But, we know either assertion of truth must require evidence. For that demand for evidence is both a logical and practical requirement. And, given the vast scale and importance of this particular question, the evidence should be virtually irrefutable logically and practically, because the question of God’s existence effects everything. Everything, one way or the other. And, only one possibility can be true. For these two possibilities are mutually exclusive and comprise the full range of real possibilities, when it comes to the question of the existence of God.
Can you see the logical requirements of this question, this most crucial of all questions? Can you see how our rational reasoning demands evidence, evidence of an expansive and incisive nature given the scale of the question? For the question of God’s existence affects the existence of everything else. Everything. Space and time. Matter and energy. The scale and substance, the nature and nuance of the physical world, as well as human existence and consciousness and all that that entails. Everything.
And because the assertion of God’s existence is an ultimate claim, it is a truth claim that makes the existence of everything else contingent, dependent, derivative on this God’s existence. And, cases can and will be made for these truth claims and realities later in this article series. But, for now, let’s look at the demand for evidence itself and the rational and logical order as well.
For the demand for evidence is evidence. For it is inherent to knowing anything regardless of scale or substance, regardless of physical tangibility or mental intangibility. For this logical dimension is necessary in the conduct of science and the empirical method itself. It is necessary in mathematics and all its many theoretical and practical uses.
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You see the demand for evidence and what constitutes evidence rely on a rational order. A logical order. A mental order of an intangible nature by definition and by its many practical utilities, including scientific empirical research of a pure and applied nature. And all its many dependent and derivative fields like engineering and medicine, law and accounting to name just a few.
For logic, reason and even our common sense are all reliant on rationality and logical order, even in more debatable areas like our relationships and our recreations. Reason affects everything, so much so that our daily lives and living are constant and continual manifestations of reason’s intangible order and ubiquity. And, this rational capacity and order must be explained. All this evidence demands an explanation for its existence. That is the demand of logic. For the need for and the existence of evidence is evidence. Evidence that God exits. Evidence of an intangible order-er. Evidence of an intangible mind and being. Evidence of a God who is Reason. A God who can be known through the use and rigor of reason’s rules.
For reason in this sense is what is called “natural theology,” what we can know through our proper use of our natural rational capabilities. Capabilities and capacities that are inherent to our nature and are open to growth and development. Abilities that can and must become more sensitive and sophisticated as even our modern scientific and technological advances attest.
So, for you skeptical agnostics out there, remember even your demand for evidence is evidence, even when you are not pondering foundational questions like the existence of God, the nature of God or the content of the different religions. For rationality and its rules require explanations for their very existence and their inherent order, their power and their practicality, their ubiquity and utility on any scale and application.
For many such agnostics are often stuck in their concern for evidence about God. And, that is fair and right. For reason demands evidence. Rational and real evidence. But remember, the demand for evidence is evidence. Evidence enough to understand reason’s existence, order and power is evidence. Evidence that reason is the gateway and guide to the preponderance of scientific evidence and other confirmations of God’s existence, His nature and His plan for life and for all of your life and living.