Here's a practical thought about “evidence”, since I often hear Atheist talk about no observable evidence for the existence of God and I often deal with evidence (or a lack of) for a living.
I’m certified to teach (and use) a logic method in problem solving & decision making for a global 500 company. The problem solving part is all about finding the root cause of a deviation. It answers the question, “why did it happen?” The decision making part is all about making a choice. It answers the question, “what should we do?” One might say it is about finding “truth”, regardless of opinions or feelings, even regardless of some facts that seem relevant at first, but turn out to be distractions in the end. When a group of engineers or managers cannot solve a problem or wants to make a good decision, I’m sometimes asked to help with the logic process even if I’m not an expert in that particular product or system. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here; I’m getting to a point if you bear with me.
You may think our method is 100% about facts and evidence. IT IS NOT! Most often it is physically impossible for us obtain all the data we need to answer all the questions we have. In fact, I don’t remember a time when we had all the evidence we wanted at our disposal.
So what do we do? Do we give up and say there is no way to proceed with a decision? Do we report back to upper management that the root cause of a problem is “nothing”, or the cause is “random chance”, or a “spontaneous event”? No, these answers are not answers at all and they are unacceptable to explain ANY observed effect, including the existence of the universe or our own being.
Instead, we use a thinking process to navigate the gaps between what we know and what we don’t know. Part of the process involves carefully making and tracking assumptions and inferences that connect the facts we have. We then have a way to move toward what is more reasonable and step away from what is less reasonable given the available data. This is NOT done via experimentation, observation or trial & error because these kinds of activities tend to waste company resources. It’s all done “on paper”, at first, using the available facts & knowledge (thinking made visible). We must get buy-in that the company should spend the time and money based on the conclusion we come up with, even though we have no absolute proof that it is correct; we just show how it is the most reasonable.
(If you’re curious, the process is called KT Resolve. It contains aspects of Occam’s Razor and Toyota’s “5-Whys”, but is much more comprehensive.)
|A Thinking Process|
The main point is this; at the end of the process we make a decision or determine the most probable cause of a problem, but our conclusion comes with NO observable evidence that it is actually TRUE and we still expect people to accept it. Why? Because accepting some things without observable evidence is rational & responsible solely based on the reasoning. Rejecting those same things is irrational & irresponsible based on the same reasoning. If an engineer or technician at our company were to keep repeating, “I reject your conclusion because there is no observable evidence that it is actually true and I will continue to work as if it were not”, he or she would not be employed with us for long.
Of course, the most probable cause of a deviation is ultimately proved-out to see if it is in fact the TRUE cause. A decision will also prove itself out over time as a good or bad choice. In the spiritual life this proving-out or “moment of truth” relates to the point of death where the theological virtues of Faith and Hope are no longer needed for a soul in the presence of God. All that will remain is Love (see 1 Corinthians 13:13).
There is no question however, that reason alone is not enough to rest in God’s love, but it can start us on the adventure. Like John the Baptist, reason cries out in the wilderness to prepare the way for faith, asking questions about life like “why did it happen?” & “what should we do?” Through reason, the winding roads of contradiction are straightened and the rough paths of muddled thinking become smooth to make way for something mightier, something that completes the often long and difficult journey from the head to the heart.