Two days ago at Pharyngula, P. Z. Myers asserted that there was no evidence that could ever convince him that a God exists. (He was commenting on an earlier piece by Steve Zara at the Dawkins website that argued the same thing.) P.Z. sez:
The nature of this god is always vague and undefined and most annoyingly, plastic — suggest a test and it is always redefined safely away from the risk. Furthermore, any evidence of a deity will be natural, repeatable, measurable, and even observable…properties which god is exempted from by the believers’ own definitions, so there can be no evidence for it. And any being who did suddenly manifest in some way — a 900 foot tall Jesus, for instance — would not fit any existing theology, so such a creature would not fit the claims of any religion, but the existence of any phenomenon that science cannot explain would not discomfit science at all, since we know there is much we don’t understand already, and adding one more mystery to the multitude will not faze us in the slightest.
So yes, I agree. There is no valid god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence, so let’s stop pretending the believers have a shot at persuading us.
I’m not “pretending,” and I’m not really on board with P.Z. on this issue. Both Greta Christina and I have written about what sort of evidence would convince us of the existence of a divine celestial being. But maybe P.Z. is a tougher nut to crack. So here’s a challenge to him:
Suppose that you, P.Z., were present at the following events, and they were also witnessed by lots of other skeptical eyewitnesses and, importantly, documented on film: A bright light appears in the heavens and, supported by wingéd angels, a being clad in white robe and sandals descends onto the UMM quad from the sky, accompanied by a pack of apostles with the same names given in the Bible. Loud heavenly music is heard everywhere, with the blaring of trumps. The being, who describes himself as Jesus, puts his hand atop your head, P.Z., and suddenly your arms are turned into tentacles. As you flail about with your new appendages, Jesus asks, “Now do you believe in me?” Another touch on the head and the tentacles disappear and your arms return. Jesus and his pack then repair to the Mayo clinic and, also on film, heal a bunch of amputees (who remain permanently arméd and leggéd after Jesus’s departure). After a while Jesus and his minions, supported by angels, ascend back into the sky with another chorus of music. The heavens swiftly darken, there is thunder, and a single lightning bolt strikes P.Z.’s front yard. Then, just as suddenly, the heavens clear.
Now you can say that this is just a big magic stunt, but there’s a lot of documentation—all those healed amputees, for instance. Even using Hume’s criterion, isn’t it more parsimonious to say that there’s a God (and a Christian one, given the presence of Jesus!) rather than to assert that it was all an elaborate, hard-to-fathom magic trick or the concatenation of many enigmatic natural forces?
And your evidence-based conversion to God need not be permanent, either. Since scientific truth is provisional, why not this “scientific” truth about God as well? Why not say that, until we find evidence that what just happened was a natural phenomenon, or a gigantic ruse, we provisionally accept the presence of a God?
This scenario is jocular, of course, but the point is serious—is there no evidence of any sort or variety that would convince you that God exists?
UPDATE: I knew the stuff about aliens would surface, but let’s be a bit more constructive here. If there’s any evidence that would convince you of God, please describe it. If there’s none, and you could never be convinced by anything that there’s a powerful supernatural being, or anything that’s reasonably God-like, do say so.