Agnostic Carl Sagan is typically credited with coining the phrase, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, which has sometimes been referred to as the “Sagan Standard”. Sagan may actually have been parroting a fellow scientist – Marcello Truzzi – who said “An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof”, but nonetheless, the phrase has been pinned to the famous Cosmos TV series creator and has been used many times by atheists to challenge the truth claims put forward by Christians.
When it comes to belief in God, is extraordinary evidence truly needed? If it is, does such a thing exist for God? Lastly, if such a standard is necessary, then does it also apply to the atheist worldview if it makes extraordinary claims?
What is ‘Extraordinary Evidence’?
Before we get started, I want to make it clear that there is everything right with a person asking for reasons and evidence to back up a truth claim – any truth claim. Since consequences exist in every area of life for being wrong, it’s reasonable and rational to ask questions and request verification to validate claims made by others, especially those that directly impact our life. One of Christianity’s best defenders – Francis Schaeffer – said, “Every honest question must be given an honest answer. It is unbiblical for anyone to say, ‘just believe.’”
But, do we need extraordinary evidence to believe in God? Before we can answer, we have to know what the skeptic means when they say they want evidence that is ‘extraordinary’.
If the unbeliever equates extraordinary with something that is supernatural, the situation becomes untenable as the skeptic is usually asking for evidence to prove another supernatural event like Jesus’ resurrection. If they require another miracle to validate a prior miracle, then they immerse themselves in an infinite series of requests as the second miracle now needs a third and so on.
If, by extraordinary, the non-Christian means something that is scientifically provable via repeatable experimentation and such, then nothing from history or any singular occurrence can be embraced as being true, and few are willing to assume that much skepticism.
If extraordinary means more than the usual, then is it a matter of quantity (e.g. 100 people saw something vs. just 5) or probability (the mathematical odds being likely or remote), or authority (experts agreeing/disagreeing) or a combination of these and others?
If we use the last definition (more than usual), which is the only one truly feasible out of the three, then I would like you to consider that, where Christianity is concerned, the bases are well covered.
The High Probability that God Exists
The vast majority of the time, when someone says a claim is extraordinary, they are implying that a low probability exists of the statement being true. With God, I strongly believe that the proposition ‘God Exists’ has a rather high probability of being correct, and therefore, extraordinary evidence is not needed.
Starting at ground zero, no matter how you section reality, you will always end up with something that owes its existence to something other than itself. This means every thinker who asks the question, “Why do we have something rather than nothing at all?” must go back to something that is the First Cause; something that is not contingent but is eternal. Unless a person believes in an infinite regress of causes (and few, if any do) or self-creation (an analytically false proposition) we must go back to something that has always existed, including those who try to redefine what ‘nothing’ means as Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss try to do.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Robin Schumacher