12/02/2012 | Share this article: View CommentsBy WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~
One often reads the claim that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. That is, if there is no evidence for the existence of something, that should not be taken as evidence that that something doesn’t exist.
I do not agree with this claim. Further, I think that in some cases a missing piece of evidence can be taken as sufficient for the falsification of a claim, provided one is using a practical standard of proof. By a “practical standard,” I mean “beyond a reasonable doubt,” as in American legal parlance.
Consider the case for the existence of the legendary Bigfoot. The sum total of evidence for the existence of the creature amounts to a few blurry photos, a couple short, grainy films, and some apparent tracks on the forest floor. All of these things - photos, film, and tracks - can be easily misinterpreted or faked. The very best evidence for Bigfoot is the evidence that is missing: bones. No one has ever produced a bone which has been proven to contain the DNA of such an animal. That is, a bone that is not human, not bear, not gorilla, and not any other large mammal that can walk on two legs. Nor has any fossil fitting that description ever been found.
If there is a sustainable population of large, bi-pedal mammals out there in the forests somewhere, then they die now and then. So there should be dead carcasses and bones, fresh or fossilized, to be found. But they never are. After all this time, of people searching for them far and wide and coming up empty, I think it is fair to proclaim that Bigfoot doesn’t exist, and never has. The missing evidence, the missing bones, falsifies the claim beyond a reasonable doubt.
I believe it makes sense to apply the same sort of test to the question of whether Jesus was/is a god, as the Bible proclaims. According to the Bible, Jesus performed dozens of miracles, from walking on water, to healing disease with a touch or a word, making food fall from the sky, and raising the dead (Lazarus). But there’s one miracle missing. One piece of evidence that would prove he was/is a god.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus admonishes people to believe in him as god (or the son of god with godly powers). He proclaims that believing this will save us from everlasting torment in the hereafter. According to the Bible, nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than our belief in him as the savior. He wants desperately for us to believe, and his whole ministry is dedicated to this end.
The Bible lays out considerable evidence (using the term loosely) that Jesus was/is the god he claims to be, through an abundance of miracles. In fact, there appears to be just one miracle missing, and that is the miracle that we can investigate today with modern historical analysis, forensics, or other scientific means. All of the miracles proclaimed in the Bible depend on hearsay alone. That is, there are written accounts in the Bible, usually by unknown authors, which we must accept or reject solely on the say so of those authors. No one today can prove that Jesus walked on water, or healed the sick with a touch, since there is no physical evidence available. For all we know these could be simple embellishments of witnesses’ stories, or just magic tricks.
According to the Bible, Jesus wanted to convince us that he was a god. But, if he was truly a god and wanted to convince us of that fact, shouldn’t we expect that the most intelligent and powerful entity in the universe would have come up with a way to do that, with solid, testable evidence? As a mere human, I can think of several ways he might have accomplished this. Surely he, being a god, could think of many more and better ways.
I would suggest that he might have gathered together several contemporary historians and high-ranking government officials, and a few hundred other people, and made a proclamation something like this:
“In thirty days, the moon shall increase to 3 times its current size and remain that way for exactly thirty days before returning to its current size. This shall be visible the world over and shall be remarked upon in the histories of all the world’s nations.”And then he does it.
Given this specially selected audience, several accounts, at the least, would have been written of the proclamation, and of its coming to pass as promised. There would also exist accounts from this time from all over the world attesting to the moon’s suddenly increasing in size and then shrinking back to normal again. Some of these accounts would come from parts of the world that were unknown to the Middle East in those days. The event would be thoroughly chronicled the world over.
absence of evidence IS evidence of absence. It is not proof, mind you, but surely, if an all powerful god WANTED to convince us to believe, then he would have provided some testable evidenceIf that kind of evidence existed in the world’s histories from the time of Jesus, I think very, very few of us would question that it actually happened and that it was caused by Jesus, who must then be a god. This is probably not the best miracle that Jesus could have done to prove his godliness, and may not be perfectly foolproof, but it would certainly be far, far more convincing of the active hand of god in the world than anything that exists today.
This is where many Christians would interject that Jesus didn’t provide conclusive evidence because he didn’t want to take away our free will. They will point to John 20:29:”Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ " This is really a very transparent argument. Obviously, John is attempting to get us to buy a pig in a poke here in telling us we need not examine his claims. If a man claims to have golden plates telling a story of Jesus being in the Americas, but refuses to let anyone see those plates, should we just believe him? If a god (Jesus) insists he is god, and thus can do anything, but refuses to provide testable proof, should we really just believe him? Isn’t this why thousands of false gods have been believed in and worshipped throughout history - because people didn’t insist on proof? Clearly, we humans not only have the right to demand proof, we have an obligation to ourselves, to avoid being misled on one of the most important issues of our lives.
However, no such miracle – one that is testable today – is described in the world’s history books, nor does it exist anywhere else. It’s not that this particular miracle is missing, it’s that there is no solid, convincing evidence of ANY miracle of Jesus which can be examined today. That missing miracle may be the best evidence that Jesus was no god, just as the missing bones are the best evidence for the missing Bigfoot. And absence of evidence IS evidence of absence. It is not proof, mind you, but surely, if an all powerful god WANTED to convince us to believe, then he would have provided some testable evidence; something more than just hearsay claims in an ancient book written by primitive, superstitious men. Without testable evidence, I’m just guessing; just picking door number one, or two, or three, and I might just as well believe in Allah, or Zeus, or Thor, or no gods at all.