Do extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?

I think I just said this a couple of weeks ago, but it is worth repeating as it has become a mantra among evangelical atheists:

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

While this may seem like sound reasoning at first glance, it fails in significant ways. Try using this phrase and switch out the modifier. What if I said, “physical claims require physical evidence.” Or what about this: “miraculous claims require miraculous evidence”? How about “canine claims require canine evidence”? Of course, you would see the fallacy right away. The equivocation creates an apparent profundity that misdirects our senses. In every case claims just need evidence. At best, you could say that claims need sufficient evidence, but their sufficiency is subjective to the person, not the claim.

You may be like Thomas and say “Unless I stick my fingers in the nail holes and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” But this did not even end up being true for Thomas as the invitation to do so was given, but the subjective need has been overcome.

I don’t know what kind of evidence any one person needs for them to claim mastery of their own subjectivity and exercise a will to believe, so I try to stand ready at all times to give the reasons why my own subjective skepticism gives way to belief. One thing I do know is that when one continues to cry foul at the evidence for Christianity, pronouncing its insufficiency, it is not the evidence that is at fault. There is something more going on, something much deeper. The best I can do at this point is try to get the individual out of the endless spiral of disbelief, understanding that no matter how extraordinary the evidence is their will cannot be overcome by an act of the will. I do think there’s an outage that fits in the situation. “Convince someone against their will and they are of the same opinion still.”


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    3 replies to "“ Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”… And other stupid statements"

    • […] “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”… And other stupid statements (C. Michael Patton, Credo House): “ ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.’ While this may seem like sound reasoning at first glance, it fails in significant ways. Try using this phrase and switch out the modifier. What if I said, ‘physical claims require physical evidence.’ Or what about this: ‘miraculous claims require miraculous evidence’? How about ‘canine claims require canine evidence’? Of course, you would see the fallacy right away. The equivocation creates an apparent profundity that misdirects our senses. In every case claims just need evidence.” […]

    • Kevin L Caputo

      Hey guess what all religion has been furfilled no more scripture past now if want see how I write scripture and furfill it self furfilling profitcy email me or call I’ll show you a miracle as you’ll call it it just me having fun because I’m going teach them a lesson here chance to be part of a true overcommer of God I survived. Not only direct attacks on but victories over politics killing over 500 thousand politicians ok 7 billion human by but best yet come wrath of Greater Good Gothicker GoD as man writing new holy Bible it be testament for you hear how in o really feel ok Marie Celona my prize I want it .

    • Gordon

      “Of course, you would see the fallacy right away.” That isn’t a fallacy at all. If you make a claim, the evidence you present must be relevant and scaled to the claim. If I make a claim about canines, of course I need something with dogs as evidence on my claim about dogs! If I make a theory about physics, I have to make testable hypotheses on physical phenomena to verify the theory just like the predictions Einstein made proved the greater accuracy of his theory.
      And if you claim to have a god of love and miracles, you need to show that love in a way that is clearly impossible, yet clearly true (which is what a miracle is) to every generation of inquirers, not a dead book of lost dreams. Heal someone! Raise the dead! Prove a demon and drive it out! Then all who see it will naturally be delighted in being proven wrong, unless your god deliberately hardens their hearts in a supernatural way like he did when he abandoned Israel after moving the goalposts on who is Israel (Romans 9).

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