Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

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Do they?

The phrase “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” was popularized by Carl Sagan (1934-1996), a well-known astronomer and author who hosted a TV series called “Cosmos,” published hundreds of scientific articles and was professor of astronomy at Cornell University in New York.

Requiring extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims sounds good on the surface. But, it is subjective. The fact is that a person’s presuppositions strongly affect how and to what degree the statement is applied. In Jesus’ resurrection, for example, Christians presuppose that God exists and that He could easily have raised Jesus from the dead. The evidence of fulfilled prophecy, eyewitness’ records, and changed lives of the disciples is enough to convince many people who believe in God that Jesus rose from the dead. This is a logical conclusion based on the presupposition and the evidence.

Atheists, on the other hand, would negate the resurrection by default since their presupposition that there is no God would require that God’s involvement cannot occur. Therefore, for an atheist, the extraordinary evidence would have to be “exceptionally” extraordinary in order to overcome his atheistic presuppositions. In other words, evidence would need to be presented that was rock solid and irrefutable.

This is why the skeptic must require “extraordinary evidence.” It enables him to retain his presupposition should the extraordinary level of the evidence not be met. Therefore, requiring extraordinary evidence effectively stacks the deck against the claim.

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Categories: Apologetics, Christianity

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6 replies

  1. You say “for an atheist, the extraordinary evidence would have to be ‘exceptionally’ extraordinary in order to overcome his atheistic presuppositions.” Would you say it would take “‘exceptionally’ ordinary” evidence to overcome your Christian presuppositions? It seems if you are going to make this claim, then it would cut both ways.

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    • Jon,

      I would say that there is no such thing as extraordinary evidence at all.

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      • So what evidence would it take for you to accept, for example, science’s understanding of the old universe? I assume that you accept science’s conclusions in many other aspects of your life, but when it comes to the age of the universe, the ‘evidence’ you see is not sufficient to overcome what you read in the Bible. Is this not the same as requiring a different level (whether you call it extraordinary or not) of evidence?

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        • Jon,

          I, like every Christian I know, believe much of what science says about many things but I don’t do so because any scientific evidence is particularly extraordinary. In fact, I can’t even come up with anything that would qualify as extraordinary evidence in any area of science.

          Ultimately, the age of the earth cannot be proven. Whether 6000 years or billions of years, both viewpoints (and everything in between) rest on faith and assumptions. Those who hold to billions of years trust that methods such as radiometric dating are reliable and that nothing has occurred in history that may have disrupted the normal decay of radio-isotopes. Those who hold to 6000 years trust that the Bible is true and that other factors explain the “apparent” age of the earth, such as the global flood, or God’s creating the universe in a state that “appears” to give it a very long age. As an example, God created Adam and Eve as fully-grown adult human beings.

          If a doctor had examined Adam and Eve on the day of their creation, the doctor would have estimated their age at 20 years (or whatever age they appeared to be) when, in fact, Adam and Eve were less than one day old. Whatever the case, there is always good reason to trust the Word of God over the words of atheistic scientists with an evolutionary agenda.

          Let me try to make this more clear, OK?

          If I told you I could fly or that I could do 1000 push-ups without stopping, the evidence you would require to believe either would be exactly the same.

          In other words, evidence that is more extraordinary to prove I could fly (a more extraordinary claim) doesn’t exist therefore could not be provided.

          That, as I addressed in the post, is the problem with non-believers demanding extraordinary evidence they know no one can ever provide. It gives them an easy yet intellectually dishonest out.

          Make sense?

          James

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  2. James-

    I believe (to borrow the phrase ‘billions and billions’ from Sagan’) that the farther one looks for ‘evidence,’ the farther he avoids the evidence staring him in the face, thus enabling ‘billions’ of excuses..

    Life is evidence of resurrection. Period. Something that is, from something that was not. Someone should have asked Mr. Sagan to go into his lab and create a fingernail………using nothing. Yeah, didn’t think so. Far too many people take credit for that which belongs to Another, and avoid the truth of the perennial flower which sings new life.

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    • CS,

      The evidence is all around but, despite that, some will just not see.

      It is to those people and no one else Sagan’s appeal makes sense.

      Simply put, there is no such thing as extraordinary evidence, it just does not exist in any form.

      James

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