Huffington Post UK helpfully reported on the Twitter blowup, with lots of tweets – so much pleasanter to read than Storify.
I went back to the December NS piece in which Mehdi Hasan confirmed his belief in flying horses. Really he’s not talking about the flying horse in particular, but about how reasonable it is to believe in goddy things overall. It’s the usual shifty kind of thing.
In trying to disparage “faith”, Dawkins and his allies constantly confuse “evidence” with “proof”; those of us who believe in God do so without proof but not without evidence. As the Oxford theologian (and biophysicist) Alister McGrath has observed: “Our beliefs may be shown to be justifiable, without thereby demonstrating that they are proven.”
Those atheists who harangue us theists for our supposed lack of evidence should consider three things. First, it may be a tired cliché but it is nonetheless correct: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I can’t prove God but you can’t disprove him. The only non-faith-based position is that of the agnostic.
That’s not the issue; the issue is which is more reasonable. Is it more reasonable to believe in an untestable hidden god that answers prayers, or is it more reasonable not to?
Second, there are plenty of things that cannot be scientifically tested or proven but that we believe to be true, reasonable, obvious even. Which of these four pretty uncontroversial statements is scientifically testable? 1) Your spouse loves you. 2) The Taj Mahal is beautiful. 3) There are conscious minds other than your own. 4) The Nazis were evil.
Shifty, shifty, shifty. Not even close to a good comparison. 1 and 2 are certainly susceptible to inquiry and evidence. 2 and 4 are value judgements, and thus a different kind of thing from an ontological claim.
Third, there are plenty of good, rational and evidence-based arguments for God. You don’t have to agree with them, but it is intellectually dishonest to claim that they, too, like God, don’t exist.
No it isn’t, not if the reason you don’t agree with them is because you consider them not good and/or rational and/or evidence-based. In any case the claim is shifty in the sense that it assumes that all those arguments are good arguments for God, when in fact some of them are arguments for a first cause and similare abstractions. The two are not just automatically identical.
Four hours ago Hasan replied to a tweet asking if he was equally “open-minded” about dragons.
What the hell does that mean? “Meaningful”? That’s not any kind of legitimate criterion for how we know things or whether we have good reasons to believe something. An answer can be “meaningful” without being true. #nicetryyourself