Before the hard ID guys get here …
John Farrell, at Forbes (Mar. 15 2011), wonders, “What Would “Evidence” for God Look Like?”, observing that Jerry (thank heaven he exists, so I don’t have to invent him*) Coyne has got himself inspired. Yup.
University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne was inspired by a recent discussion between Richard Dawkins and A.C. Grayling to defend the notion that there could be scientific evidence that might persuade him to believe in God. Coyne has tangled in the past with other atheists among the science bloggers who on a-priori grounds dismiss any such possible evidence.
Maybe I’m foolish or credulous, but I continue to claim that there is some evidence that would provisionally—and I emphasize that last word—make me believe in a god. (One can always retract one’s belief if the god evidence proves to be the work of aliens, or of Penn and Teller). I agree, of course, that alternative explanations have to be ruled out in a case like this, but remember that many scientists have accepted hypotheses as provisionally true without having absolutely dismissed every single alternative hypothesis. If a violation of the laws of physics is observed, that would be telling, for neither aliens nor human magicians can circumvent those laws.
While I agree with Coyne, there are good philosophical reasons traditional theists would offer for not expecting to be able to find scientific evidence either. But that’s opening up a can of worms.
The big problem, here as elsewhere, is: What would people accept as evidence?
In my experience, most people who say they had a religious experience that causes them to believe in God had something like this happen: They were in some dire trouble, tried praying on a provisional basis, and suddenly – as if they were on inline skates – things got better. Sometimes that was because they got what they wanted, other times because they saw a way to accept what could not be changed, and thrived afterward. Either way, things got better. Is that evidence? Well, it is for them, and no one could dissuade them.
* 😉 Yes! A Darwinist who can express himself without using profanities or engaging in antics. Who says there is no such thing as evolution?