Evidence never demands a verdict

I recently became aware of an upcoming event on a university campus. It was described thus (paraphrased to eliminate identifying references):

The Symposium is the single largest annual outreach event in our community.  This year, we’re hosting a debate on whether faith in God is reasonable.  Next day we’ll have over a dozen professors giving 30+ talks on matters relevant to faith and academics, science, comparative religions, suffering, etc. from a Christian point of view.  Thousands will be in attendance.

(Italics added) I question the efficacy of this approach. Evidence never demands a verdict.

* * * * *

A few years ago, a young man – with several years’ history of schizophrenia and abuse of a prescription drug – went to his parents’ house at night, knocked on the door, and when it opened, systematically began pumping his father full of bullets, following dad as he fled across the road and calmly reloading.

Before you judge him for his drug abuse, you need to realize that “self-medication” is pandemic among people with serious mental illness. They take medicine to try to feel better even if those prescriptions aren’t prescribed and aren’t remotely appropriate for what’s ailing them.

For years his family had struggled to keep him in reality. There were interventions and hospitalizations. Still, he retreated into a private world with cassette tapes of some backwoods evangelist who had caught his fancy. The family, devastated by the tragedy, nevertheless agreed that their son/brother was insane. The evidence of his insanity before and after the shooting was overwhelming.

The state, correctly, perceived that it had a most difficult burden, whatever the law said about “burdens of proof,” of proving the defendant sane when he killed his father. So they hired the best Sophist money could buy, who flew in from the coast and put on a dog and pony show for a full week of court time. The gist of his testimony was that despite years of insanity behind him and years of insanity before him, the young man was stone cold sane when he committed the insane act on his father, toward whom he bore no ill will until he became mentally ill. “Trust me. I’m a Sophist.”

The jury, presumably not wanting this young man to show up on their doorsteps with pizza delivery in a few years after some psychiatrist declared his schizophrenia control “good enough,” endorsed the opinions of the Sophist.

The young man sits in prison, where he’ll become an old man, the world spared at least one pyscho pizza deliveryman.

Evidence never demands a verdict.

* * * * *

The evidence for God’s existence is ample.

  • The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork. Day to day utters speech, and night to night shows knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. (Psalm 19:1-3)
  • Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. (Romans 1:19-22)
  • The fool hath said in his heart, “there is no God.” (Psalm 53:1)

I cite those verses not as syllogistic proof, or as an appeal to authority, but as the testimony of people who recognized God where they saw Him. I see Him, too, on all but the very darkest days of my life.

I don’t claim the proof is overwhelming. For various reasons, some can’t see, or won’t admit they see, the evidence. The former may be like color-blindness, or loss of the sense of smell.

The latter may just not want God showing up at the door and knocking. Some bring the Sophists in to reassure themselves. “Man, Bill Maher has, like, so nailed this god myth once and for all! Him and Penn Jillette!”

Evidence never demands a verdict.

* * * * *

The Symposium, I suspect, will convince few who aren’t already convinced. If it convinces anyone else, it will convince them merely of the god of the deists, the grand watchmaker who built it (or evolved it) all wound up.

I’m sure the sponsors want, shall we say, more than reluctant deists for their efforts.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.