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Evidential Arguments

Evidential arguments for atheism attempt to show that certain known facts that are (at least so far as we can tell) consistent with theism nevertheless provide evidence against it. Typically, such arguments start with a known fact, such as the amount of suffering in the world. The arguments then attempt to show that the fact in question supports the hypothesis of atheism over the hypothesis of theism because we have more reason to expect the fact to obtain on the assumption that God does not exist than on the assumption that God does exist. Accordingly, the fact in question is more probable on the assumption that atheism is true than on the assumption that theism is true, and hence provides some evidence for atheism and against theism. By combining such facts, one can begin to construct a cumulative case for atheism.

What, then, are the evidential arguments? The following is a partial list; it summarizes the facts to which the evidential arguments appeal:

There are additional facts which form the basis of other evidential arguments, arguments not yet discussed on the Secular Web. These additional facts include facts about the scale of the universe, the flourishing and languishing of sentient beings, and the distribution of religious experiences. (See our Call for Papers if you are interested in contributing a paper on one of these arguments. To see how these and other arguments can be used to build a cumulative case for naturalism, see The Lowder-Fernandes Debate.)

Note: the definition of an evidential argument for atheism was taken from Paul Draper, "Evolution and the Problem of Evil," in Philosophy of Religion (3rd ed., ed. Louis P. Pojman, Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1998), p. 220.

-- Jeffrey Jay Lowder

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