Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Would Make You Change Your Mind?

In the fall out of the recent Nye vs. Ham debate, the internet is abuzz with Ham's admission that nothing would change his mind to accept evolution. Ham's faith in the literal truth of the Bible supersedes all possible evidence to the contrary. You see, Ham is really a presuppositionalist pretending to be an evidentialist. He presupposes, on faith, that the Bible is the literal word of god as his starting point, and then he "reasons" from there. There is no hope of having a rational debate with someone who adopts this mentality, because evidence and reason ultimately mean nothing to them; their sacred text is really the only thing that matters.

I, on the other hand, arrived at my atheism through a careful examination of all the evidence for and against theism. So that brings up the question, what would it take for me to accept that there is a god? What evidence would persuade me? Well, it is a worthy enough question. So let me list in the order of strongest to weakest evidence that would convince me that a god existed.

1. If there was direct, verifiable, empirical, scientific evidence for god, I would accept that god is real. This would be fantastically easy for any omnipotent god to provide. Now a critic would say this is too much down the line of logical positivism, but there is no reason why, in principle, god wouldn't or couldn't give us verifiable evidence for his existence. Many would say that if we had proof god existed, then we wouldn't be able to voluntary reject god. I disagree. I can reject my parents or my friends even though I don't deny that they exist, and so I can do the same with god. Thus I feel that the objections against why god wouldn't/couldn't give us proof don't hold up.

2. If, for example, all of the scientific evidence pointed to an earth and universe that was less than 10,000 years old and there was no evidence for evolution (as many creationists believe), or, if all the scientific evidence pointed to a relatively small, geocentric-model of the universe with earth at the center and all the planets and stars revolving around it, then I would say that there would certainly have to be a god, or some kind of creator that made the world for human beings.

3. If there was a religion that accurately described the world historically and scientifically, such as with the universe and earth's true age, the cosmic and biological evolutionary process, germs, DNA, human sexuality, or something very detailed and specific that no human could have known at the time, and if it was free of irrational dogma and made logical sense, that would convince me that it was likely true. The existence of such a religion would convince me that its deity was most certainly real, or at least more likely true than not.

4. If there was good scientific evidence that free will existed or that mental events came prior to and caused physical brain events, that might push me towards some sort of agnosticism that dualism could be true. It would not necessarily convince me that there is a theistic god that exists, but it might make me jettison materialism. If this evidence existed in tandem with any of the other above evidences, that would further convince me that materialism is false, and that theism is more probable.

The bottom line is this: in order for me to be convinced that some kind of god exists or that a particular religion is true, I need to be shown good evidence. I am simply not going to believe something on faith that to me makes no sense and that has plenty of good evidence against it. That said, there are plenty of ways a god could have made this world so that atheism would be completely untenable and wouldn't be able to get off the ground. And there are plenty of ways that atheism can be falsified and theism could be proved. Given the current evidence we have, I don't think any of it could convince me that theism is true. All of the popular arguments for god at best could make a reasonable case for deism, but no good arguments exist for the existence of a theistic god. So at this point in my life, I am certainly capable of being convinced that theism is true, but I require really good evidence, not philosophical word games and bad arguments.


  1. I've asked "what would change your mind" as an interview question to many atheists and, to be fair, some gave Ham's answer. They say that even seemingly compelling evidence for God in the form of a miracle or even Jesus' return, would be more likely committed by an alien prankster with advance technology. It's hard to gauge the probabilities of such things. :-)

  2. One must keep in mind Arthur C. Clark's third law which states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.



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