I suppose a simple answer to that would be something like: it’s not clear what “spiritual evidence” is, but if it’s along the lines of a “personal testimony,” that means it is visible only to the person having the vision. It’s not visible to anyone else, so how can it be evaluated at all, by them?
An evangelist trying to convert an atheist is asking a lot: the atheist is being asked to re-wire his (or her) head, to lower or discard his normal intellectual standards, for the promise of intangible rewards. When you are accustomed to scientific standards of evidence – such as repeated observations and double-blind trials – it’s a major step down to demand belief on the basis of someone else’s “faith.”
Even when the evidence seems strong enough for you to draw a conclusion, it’s never final; your conclusion could be turned on its head by new evidence. Which brings us back to the original questions: you haven’t specified what “spiritual evidence” is, but if it comes from an individual person’s experiences, it’s just not reliable enough to be called “evidence” in the scientific sense.
Copernicus was a fallible person, but Galileo and others could look at the same sky after Copernicus died, and come to the same conclusions. Seismographs on different continents can measure the effects of the same earthquake, and pinpoint its location and magnitude to a startling degree of accuracy. None of this relies on faith, or the personal testimony of individuals. So how can we accept one person’s “spiritual evidence” as reliable?
Posted: July 9th 2007
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