The group of atheists behind last year’s controversial bus ads that suggest God “probably doesn’t exist” will be splashing a new set of posters on buses across the country. Photograph by: Handout, Handout
The atheist group behind last year’s controversial bus ads suggesting “there’s probably no God” is rolling out a provocative new set of posters on buses across the country that places Allah beside Big Foot and Christ beside psychics. The new posters bear the slogan: “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence” with “Allah, Big Foot, UFOs, Homeopathy, Zeus, Psychics, Christ” listed below. They will hit Toronto streetcars in January, pending final approval from the Toronto Transit Commission, said Justin Trottier, national executive director of the Centre for Inquiry, an atheist organization. After the Toronto debut, the organization plans to post the ads to buses in Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa, Saskatoon and Montreal. “Why is belief in Big Foot dismissed as delusional while belief in Allah and Christ is respected and revered? All of these claims are equally extraordinary and demand critical examination,” says the campaign’s website, http://www.extraordinary-claims.com. Trottier insists the ads weren’t designed to offend religious Canadians.
Perhaps you’ve heard this particular mantra of the atheistic crowd before. It is a favourite for stifling any meaningful debate. And why wouldn’t it be? If you demand extraordinary evidence it is then very easy to simply dismiss any evidence given as not extraordinary enough. So nice try, but better luck next time. You can see why many find it effective. In case you are wondering, this seems to be where the idea came from:
“Carl Sagan is also widely regarded as a freethinker or skeptic; one of his most famous quotations, in Cosmos, was, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” This was based on a nearly identical statement by fellow founder of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, Marcello Truzzi, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” This idea originated with Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749–1827), a French mathematician and astronomer who said, “The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.”” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Sagan)
I agree, that all claims must be backed up by evidence, but here is where a little bit of rational thought clears up a whole bunch of silliness … Pecisely what is “extraordinary” evidence? Evidence is evidence. You either have evidence for your claim or you do not. We may certainly dispute the worth of the particular evidences given, we may seek to give differing weights to say, circumstantial evidence versus eye-witness evidence, forensic or textual evidence, and the like … but who gets to say what is “extraordinary” or not? Especially before any such evidence is even given? And, just what evidence are they providing to make their (extraordinary) distinctions?
As a wise fellow on a discussion forum once said, The phrase has a certain emotional appeal, but such an appeal has no place in critical thinking, logic, or scientific discussion. Evidence is evidence. You either have it or you do not. Any preceding adjectives (like “extraordinary”, or “overwhelming”) are subjective and emotive value judgments that should have no place in rational discourse. To put it another way, the veracity of any claim must be assessed according to the “weight of evidence”. Any claim, big or small must be supported by sufficient evidence.
To see how this particularly silly argument holds little real weight, consider this. If extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, then surely very little claims require very little evidence, right? Then why not make the claim that anyone who seriously holds to this position is either not very bright, or is intentionally lying. Secondly I will claim that you shouldn’t listen to those who are not wise, or who are lying. Neither of these is an extraordinary claim. They are each of them, rather minor claim, therefore my evidence needs be no more than they think calling something extraordinary is enough to shut people up.
It is not my intention to get into bout of name-calling, however, just to point out the lack of rational integrity in such a point of view. Evidence for Jesus and His resurrection, (unlike Bigfoot and UFO’s) is not only substantial, historical, verifiable (and found outside of the Bible too), but on orders of magnitude above and beyond any other historical figure of the ancient world. If atheists would like to argue the particulars of the evidence that would be most productive. But then again, it wouldn’t easily fit on a bus ad and would take a lot more conviction, care, and well-reasoned thought.
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By the way, just for fun, why not turn the whole thing around, and let them taste their own medicine for a while … Christians are not the only ones to have “extraordinary” claims.
If life came from non-life, then only being able to make new life from completely non-living materials will be proof enough, that such a thing happens.
If, in the Big Bang, everything came from nothing, then once again making everything from nothing is the evidence required to prove it happens.
Multiple universes, the spontaneous creation of (useful) genetic information on an order such as to change an organism, dark matter and dark energy, star formation, and billions of years, all need to be shown, not by extrapolated information (as the underlying constants may not be constant and the beginning assumptions may not be correct), or by secondary effect (simply showing how such a thing “must” be to balance some mathematical, or physics equation is not proof – again the underlying equation may be faulty, and/or the assumptions may be wrong), or by computer simulations (they only do what their programmers tell them to).
True science is observable, measurable, and repeatable. Until such claims can be directly observed, measured AND repeated no amount of evidence will be enough.