Oftentimes when I debate issues such as the existence of God or whether scientific models are correct or not my interlocutor often asks me why I am doing this. Why do I argue about this stuff? Why do I want people to accept evolution? Why do I want people to have evidence for the beliefs they hold?
Long story short: Because truth matters! What reality is and what the evidence indicates matters.
I think William Kingdon Clifford put it quite bluntly in his take on epistemic responsibility: “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”
Now one may argue that this is far too radical and that there are certain problems with that view. What for instance is my evidence that it is wrong to believe without sufficient evidence?
My evidence for that is, that believing without sufficient evidence can lead to undesirable outcomes. Let’s take 9/11 for instance: Atheists as well as most Theists can agree that those Terrorists didn’t have sufficient evidence. They acted under the assumption that certain premises (if I sacrifice my life in the name of Allah, I will go to Heaven) were true, when they had no justification for assuming that.
Other than that we’ve heard of mothers killing their children in the hope that God will allow them to go to Heaven, since they haven’t reached the age of accountability yet. I am of course not implying that Christians do that or should that, I am saying that accepting the premises that Heaven and Hell exist and that there is such a thing as the age of accountability can, under certain circumstances, lead to this conclusion. If the premises are wrong, then the conclusion is not true and the implications are significant.
The same is true for Jehovah’s Witnesses and their refusal of blood transfusions. There are countless examples we could bring up but the point is made: Evidence matters.
The same is of course true for evolution: There was a very famous case, the case of “baby fae” who was born with a heart defect. the surgeon transplanted a baboon heart into her body. The surgery was a success but her body rejected the baboon heart and 20 days later she died. As far as evolution is concerned he should’ve taken the heart of a chimp but unfortunately the surgeon didn’t accept evolution.
Of course none of us know whether she would’ve survived with the heart of a chimp but the chances would’ve certainly been higher.
Evolution helps us within modern medicine. Not just in this one case but in general. The model works. It is useful.
Now if you are reading this as a Creationist then you probably think, that there is no evidence for evolution. I disagree, but I hope we can at least agree, that if evidence for evolution is forthcoming and you’d have to admit that there is evidence, then we should all believe it, whether we like it or not.
Likewise if we are shown evidence that contradicts some of the beliefs we hold, then it is the beliefs that should be rejected.
I however do accept, that personal experience is evidence for the person who had the experience. If we find data that overwhelmingly contradicts that though, then it is the experience and the beliefs that should be questioned and/or abandoned.
Goodbye from yours truly,
Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation