Back in the Courtroom
In nearly a year of writing for Atheist Republic I've offered a philosophical case against the existence of god. I've argued the case as if it were a legal matter. I've even offered an argument or two based on emotion. Many people who have read all these have questioned why I've offered arguments from so many different stances and so I feel obligated to give an answer to this, as well as an explanation as to why I believe this is the only way to make a truly compelling argument. So let's journey into our imaginary courtroom again to get some perspective.
There are only really two types of court cases. There are hard evidence cases, where there are things such as DNA or eyewitness accounts that are the sole indictment against the accused. Such cases are almost always an open and shut slam dunk. Then there are cases that are purely circumstantial in nature. There may be a good bit of evidence to support the case, but none of that evidence is a smoking gun that basically cements the case. In such cases the prosecution must rely on many little pieces, that don't by themselves prove anything, but when all added together make a strong case against the accused.
A Good Circumstantial Case
So what we must understand is that in the matter of the existence of god we have no hard evidence for either side. The only case that can be built is a circumstantial one. With that being said, there are most definitely strong and weak circumstantial cases. In each case it is the strength of the evidence offered when added all together that makes or breaks the case.
In any circumstantial case no one piece of evidence will do to convict or acquit, and this is where I believe many theists and atheists both fail at making a strong case. Many seem to not understand that a single philosophical argument or logic problem will not win the day in this case. Men, such as William Lane Craig, pump out philosophy and claim victory as if that alone is enough to put the case to rest, but it really isn't.
Instead, what we need to win the case with a preponderance of evidence that when taken as a whole draws a picture that is as close to proof as the evidence will allow. This is what I attempt to do in my writing. I don't just offer philosophy or science or emotion, but rather I offer arguments of varying degrees in all these arenas.
Maybe Dawkins got it Wrong...
Richard Dawkins has offered that there are seven types of believers and nonbelievers. These range from what he calls a strong theist to a strong atheist. He makes the case that at the extremes are gnostic theists and atheists who claim to know that there is or isn't a god and nearest to center are agnostic theists and atheists who claim to not know, but have a strong feeling one way or the other.
But I think Dawkins somewhat misses something in this assessment, because I think it wrong to say that someone who claims to know what is honestly unknowable is strong in their position. While they are certainly strident in their belief, the evidence is against them and so it honestly makes their case the weakest. More importantly, that gnostic statement of knowledge shuts down any real discussion and debate, and turns people off to even hearing you out. They simply think you arrogant and will disregard your case no matter how good it is simply because you are stating it as fact, rather than circumstantial evidence that can lead to a given conclusion.
I believe a truly strong atheist is one who is adamantly agnostic and admits openly that we can't at this point know one way or another. These are the people who are listened to by the fence sitters in the crowd, because they simply offer their case and let all decide what the evidence shows for themselves.
This is my intent by offering arguments in all arenas and why I urge my readers to examine all the evidence and arguments. I don't believe that this is an issue that should be taken at face value or that we can just say the idea of god seems silly so we can just dismiss it. Yes, it does seem silly to me, but that isn't a good enough reason by itself to just shrug it off. I believe we need more than that, more than just logic or just science or even just philosophy. Because the strongest case that can be made is when all of these reasons and more are taken as a whole along with the circumstantial evidence and are too great to ignore.