The Logical Fallacy of Requiring Material Evidence to Prove God’s Existence

The following graphic, which I saw on Facebook, sums up the argument I consistently hear from materialistic atheists in their arguments against God.

For many, this seems like a rational requirement. If something is true, there should be scientific evidence to prove it.

However, such a “rule” is actually nonsense. There are logical fallacies involved in requiring the use of the scientific method to prove the existence of God.

Fallacy #1 – It’s totally arbitrary

The first fallacy of requiring empirical scientific evidence to prove God’s existence is that such a requirement is total arbitrary.

When an atheist demands physical evidence for the existence of God, my first response is, “Why? Why is scientific evidence the only acceptable evidence?”

The usual response is, “Because the only way we can know anything is through physical evidence.”

And again, my response is, “Why?” And I usually get a confused stare, like I’m crazy for even asking such a question.

The point is, there is absolutely no logical reason why such a rule should exist – except for the worldview of the materialistic atheist. The materialistic atheist believes that the material world of matter and energy is all that exists. The thought that anything else could exist is absurd to them. However, material atheism is itself completely arbitrary.

Fallacy #2 – Category Error

A category error is “a type of informal fallacy where things that belong to one grouping are mistakenly placed in another,” or where “a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property.” If someone says, “My coffee is a Republican,” they are committing a category error – coffee cannot be a Republican. Only people can be Republicans. Coffee does not belong to the category of things capable of being a Republican.

The Biblical God is not a material Being. He is not part of the natural universe. By definition, God is supernatural (super- “Above; over;” natural “Present in or produced by nature”). God is in an entirely different category than the natural universe. When one demands physical evidence for the existence of a non-physical Being, they are committing a category error fallacy. It would be like demanding DNA evidence for the existence of black holes, or asking for a test tube full of consciousness, or trying to put time in a bottle.

Fallacy #3 – It’s self-refuting

What do I mean by saying this rule is self-refuting? Basically, this rule, when applied to itself, contradicts itself.

First, the rule requires “empirical results of repeatable experimentation.” There is no way to conduct a repeatable experiment to empirically test whether “empirical results of repeatable experimentation” are required to argue for the supernatural. One cannot use the rule to test the validity of the rule.

Second, the rule requires “cogent, non-fallacious argumentation.” Yet, as I’ve already demonstrated, the rule itself is fallacious.

Fallacy #4 – Even when the rule is met, material atheists ignore the evidence

This fallacy isn’t with the rule itself, per se, but with the way atheists handle the scientific evidence that does support God’s existence.

There is a tremendous amount of “empirical results of repeatable experimentation” and much “cogent, non-fallacious argumentation” that supports the existence of God. The sheer volume of such evidence makes it impossible to present these evidences in this brief blog. A simple Google search will bring up tens of thousands of articles, peer-reviewed papers, and Websites that present the scientific arguments for God. My point is, when confronted with these evidences, the materialistic atheist will reject it anyway. Why? Because to acknowledge the validity of scientific evidence for the existence of God would completely shatter the material atheist’s entire worldview. They would be forced to face the fact that they are wrong. In other words, the material atheist cannot objectively examine scientific evidence that is presented; they must deny it, not because it isn’t scientific, but because it leads to conclusions they don’t want to acknowledge. Romans 1:18 states, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Those that reject God must suppress, or hide, the truth. Romans 1 continues:

19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Those who reject God ultimately do so, not because of a lack of evidence, but because they foolishly refuse to submit to His authority over their lives. The issue is not evidence; the issue is rebellion.

Christians need to continue to present the Gospel to non-Christians, including materialistic atheists. We must continually pray for the lost, be prepared to present cogent arguments when needed, and rely on the Holy Spirit to us to reach the lost. We must not be swayed by the fallacious arguments used to deny God, but must stand on the truth of God’s Word as the foundation of our beliefs.

Grabbed this off Facebook a couple of minutes after I posted this blog. It seemed to fit.

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12 Responses

  1. Hi, there. I don’t mean to troll your blog, but you are inviting a response by posting such an argument.

    Perhaps you should read the poster graphic again. It does not say, “Prove God exists using scientific principles.” It says if you are going to attack scientific principles, you need evidence. How is that a problematic concept? “The Bible said so,” is hardly a convincing counter argument.

    Science isn’t (or shouldn’t be) in the business of defining and refuting spiritualism, because it’s a different realm. Conversely, religion (any religion) gets into trouble when it tries to refute physical, empirical evidence with spiritualism.

    Also, why do you say, “Christians need to continue to present the Gospel to non-Christians, including materialistic atheists”? Please don’t. It really irritates us.

    Thanks for letting me give my two cents.

    Peace.

    • Perhaps you need to read the poster again.

      It says, “If you post an attack on any scientific principle…replacing it with a SUPERNATURAL explanation…”

      It’s the SUPERNATURAL explanation atheists object to.

      And, it’s illogical (category error) to require a natural explanation for the SUPERNATURAL.

      Why do I say, “Christians need to continue to present the Gospel to non-Christians, including materialistic atheists?” Because, anyone who has not received Christ as Savior is bound for Hell. Many former atheists have received eternal life in Jesus Christ because Christians continued to pray for them and share the Gospel.

      I’m sorry if it irritates you. Truth is often irritating. Christians share the Gospel, not to irritate people or win an argument, but because Jesus Christ loves us, has changed us, and given us eternal life, And, we want others to experience the life-changing love of God through Jesus Christ.

      If you’d rather keep convincing yourself there is no God, and continue to exist apart from His love, then just ignore us.

      • We’ll have to agree to disagree on the semantics of the poster. You are correct that I object to supernatural explanations for anything, since I do not believe in supernatural things. We’re just different in that way.

        I understand that you feel joy in God and being saved by Jesus and that you want to share that joy. Perhaps what irritates us non believers is when you use phrasing such as “If you’d rather keep convincing yourself there is no God…” I’m not continually convincing myself of anything. I used to be a Christian until I learned to objectively assess the evidence. From my perspective, religious people are the ones who keep convincing themselves.

        I’ll leave it at that, because I really don’t want to troll your blog (you are welcome to come to mine and annoy me in return). Indeed, I’ll bet we have more in common than not.

        Peace, brother.

  2. Sure, there can we knowledge and evidence that are not remotely scientific for a supernatural claim against anything scientific. But that can be applied to any supernatural claim. We use scientific evidence to determine everything that we scientificly know.

    Why should we make an exception to NOT use scientific evidence to accept a supernatural claim? If you can’t adequatly justify why one should make an exception on that question, then that’s a logical fallacy called “Special pleading.”

    If i claim that a fairy made the universe, why will you reject it? You do reject that claim because I have no scientific evidence to support that claim. Sure there can be evidence that we don’t know of or ever will know that a fairy actually did that. But you still reject this supernatural claim? Do you actually have any good reasons to reject my claim about that fairy? If yes: well then that’s very materialistic atheistic of you to do that! Tell me why you reject it. Tell me why you don’t do the same with a claim that says that a god (also supernatural) did something that has already been explained by science with materialistic evidence?

    • Thanks for commenting.

      Why should we make an exception to NOT use scientific evidence to accept a supernatural claim? If you can’t adequatly justify why one should make an exception on that question, then that’s a logical fallacy called “Special pleading.”

      This argument shows that you don’t understand the arguments I’ve already given.

      The scientific method is limited to examining the natural universe. By definition, anything supernatural exists independent of the natural universe. It is therefore illogical to use the scientific method to test for the supernatural.

      Additionally, although the supernatural cannot be tested and proven through the scientific method, neither can it be disproved. Scientific testing simply does not address the supernatural, one way or the other.

      To use an analogy, it would be like someone living inside a box arguing that there is nothing outside the box, because there is no evidence inside the box to prove it.

      If i claim that a fairy made the universe, why will you reject it? You do reject that claim because I have no scientific evidence to support that claim.

      I would reject your claim because there is no evidence of ANY kind to support it.

      There are different kinds of evidence – scientific evidence, historical evidence, logical evidence, personal testimony, anecdotal evidence, transcendental evidence, legal evidence, and so forth.

      By arbitrarily limiting evidence to observable scientific evidence, you ignore the majority of the evidence that supports belief in the supernatural. There are numerous logical arguments, for example, that demonstrate that the supernatural must exist.

      Additionally, there is no observational scientific evidence that precludes the existence of the supernatural, nor any that precludes a supernatural cause for natural phenomenon.

      Limiting evidence of the supernatural to observable natural evidence is a circular argument. By limiting evidence to only physical evidence, you presuppose that physical evidence is all that exists – presupposing the very point you are arguing against. This is the logical fallacy of begging the question.

  3. I’m glad that we can agree that with the scientific method one can’t determine if anything supernatural is true. If one could, then someone would have won that James Randy Challange by now.
    You are correct that it can’t be disproved. Science can’t disprove any fantasy claim or a supernatural claim. The thing is that the one with a supernatural claim or a fantasy claim (me with my fairy thing going on) have the burden of proof, not the rejecter.

    In your analogy…What’s in the box is our reality, anything outside the box is fantasy and anything other supernatural. Do we agree on that?

    Do we agree that the issue revolving “Fallacy #1 – It’s totally arbitrary” can be concluded with: People who try to prove anything supernatural using the science or anything scientific have been wrong so far.

    I would like to discuss an other issue:
    “There are numerous logical arguments, for example, that demonstrate that the supernatural must exist.” Can we agree that this will be our next issue to talk about and that we will stick to the issue?

    Can you be nice and provide one of these logical arguments that the supernatural must exist, please?

    • I’m glad we agree that the supernatural can neither be proved nor disproved with the scientific method. The irrationality of insisting that one do so is the main point of this article.

      As for changing the subject to discussing the logical arguments for the existence of God: I find it a bit presumptuous for you to try to change the topic on my blog, then insist that “we will stick to the issue.”

      A simple Google search will bring up logical arguments for the existence of God.

      Rather than changing the subject, let me recommend a couple of books:

      The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Jason Lisle
      Always Ready by Greg Bahnsen

      If you just want to argue, as I suspect is the case, I’m not interested.

      If you want real answers, start with these two books; then we can talk.

      Thanks for your comments,

      Rich

      • You built your entire argument on the assumption that I must accept that for X, since X is unique, you do not have to prove your argument with the same methods that are used to prove Y andZ(and all the other alphanumeric letters that exist.). You then go on to assume that I have done so, implying I am not an alien from somewhere and cannot under any circumstances comprehend what you you are stating exists without something to you know, point at even…

        Substitute the words Invisible Dragon for God throughout this post or Aliens and it becomes difficult to take take in the rest of your defense for this being the one thing that is shielded from skepticism and query.

        I am sure you have read/watched Carl Sagans Invisible Dragon argument, I will post a link to to presume you have not, but perhaps for others.

  4. A simpler version would be:

  5. Thanks for your feedback, Stacy.

    A couple of comments:

    1. An invisible dragon or an alien would be a physical entity, composed of matter and/or energy. It is reasonable to expect physical evidence for the existence of a physical entity. By definition, God is not a physical entity, existing independently of space, time, matter, and energy. It is irrational to require physical evidence for something existing independent of the physical universe. Your example is an apples-to-oranges comparison, and therefore fallacious.

    2. My point in this argument is not that it proves the existence of God, just that requiring physical evidence to prove His existence is illogical. In order to prove or disprove the existence of God, other kinds of evidence must be used.

    Hope that clarifies my argument.

    • No, I would submit it is the same; Sagan in his example anticipated that and stated it was non corporeal, ethereal or stara; whatever your preference. Or lets just add, made of of the same god-stuff.

      At the beginning of your comment you open with. ” An invisible dragon or an alien would be a physical entity, composed of matter and/or energy. (How do we know that? Do you have evidence of the make up of non-corporeal, invisible dragons?) It is reasonable to expect physical evidence for the existence of a physical entity. (Do you have evidence of the existence of any other entity, throughout history of mankind?) By definition, God is not a physical entity, (Do you have evidence of this?) existing independently of space, time,(Do you have evidence of this?) matter, and energy. (Do you have evidence for that?)

      You are still basing your entire argument on an assumption, That is that in the case of the Divine, we have neither the tools to nor the knowledge to detect the overwhelming evidence. Then what made you or what evidence made you believe in the divine? Did you just wake up and believe in a specific branch or of the 1000s of christianity, why didn’t you believe in the Hindu divinities? Wouldn’t they be just as real using your method? For that matter, every old god ever would be just as real as yours, from Thor to Isis. What evidence sets yours part from those, assuming I would agree to argue from the assumption that the divine is different for purposes of proof?

      My point is that by using this example, you either see how it is necessary to hold all evidence to the same principals, or things get ridiculous.

      • Stacy, again, thanks for your response.

        To use an analogy, requiring physical evidence to prove the existence of a non-physical God would be like requiring DNA evidence for the existence of black holes, or fossil evidence to prove the existence of gravity. Gravity is not dependent on fossils; black holes are not dependent on DNA; and God is not dependent on anything material.

        What kinds of evidence would be acceptable to prove God’s existence? There are numerous metaphysical and logical arguments supporting God’s existence. For me personally, the best evidence is the fact that the universe exists at all. This cannot be explained rationally without the existence of God.

        https://richwendling.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/the-absurdity-of-the-alternative/

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