Evidence from how it is vs. how it would be

So if the Christian story was true, what would things look like? Let’s give a quick list.

  • Human intelligence
  • Appearance of design
  • Appearance(intuition) of an immaterial soul
  • Outside world matching up with thoughts in head
  • “Beautiful” theorems and laws
  • Rapid spread of belief after Jesus resurrection
  • Bible matching up archeologically and historically
  • Evil (due to free will)
  • Good sometimes coming from result of evil
  • Religious experience
  • Appearance of “miracles”

There are more, but this you get the idea. There are certain things we would expect to see if it were indeed true.

So what about this? Do we see this? It seems we do see these things, ALL of these things. Dawkins admits that things appear designed, physicists are saying it seems like somebody monkeyed with physics, Einstein found his formulas by looking for beautiful theorems, we find ourselves able to think of these things, and so on. So is it a coincidence that what we would expect to see we do indeed see? It doesn’t seem so to me. It seems like this is decent evidence for the Christian view. It matches up.

On the other hand, what about atheism? Do we see what we would expect? Does it appear that things happened by chance? Obviously not if they appear designed, since something can’t be appeared to be designed by chance (this is not saying that evolution by natural selection is wrong, just simply that one may not say, “Oh yeah, just looking at this it looks like it was entirely unplanned and random.”). Is there a natural explanation for everything? Not yet at least (origin of life, origin of universe…). Why would self-sacrificial religion be so prevalent (some religions may benefit survival, but ones like Christianity that lead to selflessness and possibly self-sacrifice would not be too beneficial)? Purely natural evolution would not explain such a thing. If atheism were true, we should expect religious stories to all fall into the “myth” category and not have hardly any evidence that any such religion is true or has any trace of fact in it. Such things like the Greek and Egyptian myths of gods impregnating humans to form demi-gods like Hercules (Heracles), or fighting each other to form night vs. day, and dying and rising with the changing of the seasons. There are no evidences that would support these being held as facts about the real world, but are rather stories that helped explain events that otherwise had no explanation. And this is what one would expect to be true of all religious stories if atheism were true. But…

There is great evidence for Christianity in the Bible. There are cities and civilizations that were dated correctly by the Old Testament. The same for the New Testament, not to mention the life of Jesus. We have more biographies written within 50 years of his death than almost every ancient figure including Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. He is mentioned also by Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Seutonius, and Tacitus, not to mention the Talmud. The events in the New Testament are historically accurate on nearly everything spoken of, and even some of the so-called “errors” may be reconcilable. But is this what one would expect if atheism were true? That one religion would have any evidence, yet alone this much supporting it, on top of what is mentioned earlier about finding what one would expect to find if this religion (Christianity) were true? The answer is no, this is not what one would expect to find given atheism.

1 in 3 people are Christians, and 62% believe hold to a form of theism, while only 2% claim to believe in no gods, and 8% are atheist/agnostic/humanists. These don’t seem to be the numbers one would expect to see if there were no gods, and yet the numbers are what the Christian theist would expect. Should we really have to be so counter-intuitive, explain away so many facts, in order for atheism to be rational? One would think that if atheism were true, that religion would be counter-intuitive, or at least be discarded by natural selection once it was no longer useful. But religion, Judeo-Christian belief in particular, has weathered every storm, assault, and come out with 1 in 3 people in the world believing it. Not what atheism would seem to promote.

Now by no means is this definitive of anything, but simply is a point that should spark some thought. This is at a glance, since this is by no means delving too deep into this idea, the concept of expect to see vs. actually see supports the Christian theists view, and not the atheistic view. Think about it.


About sorentmd

I am a student at the University of Cincinnati and am majoring in Philosophy and Marketing. I love the Lord, and I try to live my life in a way that pleases Him. View all posts by sorentmd

3 responses to “Evidence from how it is vs. how it would be

  • Chad McIntosh

    I think the best way to cash out arguments like this is by putting them into probability form. The difficult part is actually showing that these facts are in fact expectable given only Christian theism, not just anachronistic or expectable for some other reason (people are big fat liars, sensationalistic, and have deep psychological problems). Richard Swinburne does a brilliant job of this. See especially his books The Resurrection of God Incarnate (Oxford, 2003), and Was Jesus God? (Oxford, 2008). They’re both pretty small and managable.

  • sorentmd

    I would agree that some of these are possible on other reasons as well, but it is still what one would expect given Christianity. Could you explain a little of how to put something like this in probability form? My original goal was not to pose an actual argument but to invoke some thought. So putting this in probabilistic argument form would be nice.

  • Chad McIntosh

    The best (and most fashionable) way is to put it in Bayesian lingo. A simple statement of Bayes’s theorem:

    Pr(H|E&k) = Pr(E|H&k) x Pr(H&k) / Pr(E&k)

    Where Pr = “the probability of”, E = “the evidence accepted”, and H = “the hypothesis being tested”, and k = “background beliefs/knowledge.” Every probability estimate is informed by our prior beliefs about how the world is irrespective of the hypothesis and evidence in question. So how well H and E fits with k factors into the the probability of H by itself, K by itself, and both combinations of the two.

    Pr(H|E&k) = the posterior probability of H given evidence E&k
    P(E|H&k) = the likelihood of E given H&k (i.e., how strong is the connection between H&k and E; does acceptance of H&k entail or just make likely the occurrence of E?).
    Pr(H&k) = the prior probability that H&k is true apart from evidence E. That is, the prior probability of H&k by itself.
    Pr(E&k) = the probability that E&k will obtain apart from acceptance of H, often called the expectedness of E&k.

    The best way to make a good Bayesian argument is to compare the conditional probability of the hypothesis you want to test with a rivaling one to see which hypothesis the evidence is more expectable on.

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