Extraordinary Claims Demand Extraordinary Proof

Atheists and skeptics frequently write articles from the standpoint that their view is ‘rational’ and ‘logical’ and that religious or ‘New Age’ views are irrational and based on incorrect assumptions. This view is fallacious and in these writings I explain that atheism is simply another belief system with as many (if not more) irrational assumptions as many religions.

Skeptics place great emphasis on arguing techniques. Ostensibly, their motive is to expose the false arguing techniques used by their opponents but the fact is, many of them place greatly more emphasis on arguing than they do on understanding. In my personal experience, I would say this applies to the vast majority of skeptics. One of the arguing techniques that seems to raise its head frequently is that Extraordinary Claims Demand Extraordinary Proof. The basic proposition here is that science has established some rules for how the universe works. These rules appear to work, they are useful in that we can build on them to, for example, produce computer chips or send rockets into space. If a claim comes along that appears to go against the established way of seeing the world then we can’t apply the same rules of proof to it as we would to a claim that goes along with our current way of seeing the world. For instance, an investigator trying to determine why an aeroplane crashed would look at the known possibilities for crashes: Pilot error, equipment failure, maintenance failures, these sort of things. If someone suggested that it was caused by an alien UFO, most investigators would be dismissive of the idea. This is, in one sense, the idea that ‘Extraordinary Claims Demand Extraordinary Proof’. The investigator would examine the mundane possibilities first. In fact, he would probably investigate only these possibilities.

However, suppose a person, who was firm believer in alien UFOs saw the crash and saw that a UFO was involved. To him, the possibility of UFO involvement is not an extraordinary claim but a quite obvious one. What determines what is extraordinary depends on your current belief system. In fact, put another way, the phrase ‘Extraordinary Claims Demand Extraordinary Proof’ simply says that once you have made your mind up as to how the things work, you do not have to change it simply because a few facts come along that contradict it. Of course, in the case of most skeptics, they have no intention of changing their belief system and this parrot call is simply a method they use to retain their belief system.

Another piece of poor logic that comes up is the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Put briefly, this says that if we going to believe in one deity that has no scientific validity, then why can’t we accept any deity? And the Flying Spaghetti Monster is as good as any other.

This ignores experience. I believe in God because I have had experiences that convince me that God exists. Neither I nor anyone else, so far as I know, has had experience that would convince them that a Flying Spaghetti Monster exists. The skeptic, of course, argues that the experiences I have had are not scientific evidence, which is true. But here is the circular argument: the skeptic will only accept as evidence what is scientifically verifiable. Belief in God can never be scientifically verifiable. So when I talk about experience it is no account to the skeptic – I may as well be talking about dreams. So as far as the skeptic is concerned, belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a valid as belief in God. The huge range of human experience counts for nothing.




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