I disagree. The Bible is evidence for the reality of God. Anyone can see that.First, note that Gilson's working definition for evidence is pretty good. It's not hard, though, to see where this line of reasoning goes awry. I'll briefly illustrate a few points.
The definition of evidence is something like this:
Some information E is evidence for some belief B, if E’s being true, and E’s being known to be true, provides good reason for a reasonable person to judge it more likely that B is true, compared to the situation where E is not in existence, is not true, or E is not known to be true.
The Bible exists and speaks of God in ways that can be assessed for truth. This information E increases the likelihood of belief B, “the God of the Bible exists,” being true, compared to the case where there is no Bible.
- It assumes God exists.
- It assumes that the Bible is a reliable source (which, among even more things, also depends upon the assumption that God exists).
- The claim that the evidence that the Bible exists and speaks of God in ways that can be assessed for truth increases the likelihood of belief that the God of the Bible exists compared against the case where there is no Bible is, at the least, rather controversial. More than one person has noted that the Bible, if read in full, is one of the most potent books in existence for creating formerly Christian atheists.
- I'm not so smug as to add a rejoinder that "anyone can see that."
He's not trapped permanently by it, though. This is why I go on and on in this Faith Discussion about falsifiability (and really, then, informed skepticism as an extension). If one's default position about the evidence is to doubt that it supports the belief, and if one's chief effort is to look for ways to see how it may fail to constitute evidence, and if one's effort is redoubled and trebled by the efforts of others seeking to help you keep from misinterpreting evidence and jumping to erroneous conclusions, the trap can be avoided. Gilson knows this. He's a psychologist that relies heavily upon statistics, the foundational premises of which depend exactly upon this. Faith is used as a justification to avoid all of those possibilities, or rather to pretend that one need not engage in them and can still trust the conclusions that are drawn. (Hence, pretending to know what one doesn't know.)
Before I get another boring and predictable tu quoque ("you also!") to this, I'll make another point. I'm aware of this bias, which is ultimately mainly based upon confirmation bias, and I know I fall victim to it sometimes. That's why I am an informed skeptic and have worked hard to reset my default position on claims to doubt. I still fall prey to it, of course, but actively reassessing and having others help me reassess is an important part of my thought process on claims, particularly important or consequential ones. This is why the honesty of being willing to say "I don't know" about one's beliefs is so important and so respectable.
To be clear, I'm always open to something that would constitute proper evidence for belief in God (or even Christianity, but that's a really long shot given that I don't think the foundational premises--original sin and atonement, especially via a brutal human/deistic blood sacrifice--make any sense at all), but the evidence has to be really good and non-circular. Unfortunately for Christians, particularly, they've made their God unfalsifiable (axiomatic, really), and thus even they claim that the only evidence for him is necessarily circular. They're always welcome to let me know when that changes.
Allow one more short diversion here before I close this to elaborate on (3) above. Let me grant Tom Gilson's dubious claim that the Bible does constitute evidence for God for the sake of argument (something I normally don't do because that's the main thing apologists aim to get people to do so they can keep talking).
If the Bible is evidence for God, it's abysmal evidence. The manner of attaining salvation--its main job--is utterly unclear, spawning many contradictory denominations. The moral injunctions are utterly unclear (and often depraved), spawning many contradictory denominations. Most of the Bible has to be apologized for (e.g. God's genocides, slavery, the mistreatment of women, and violations of human dignity throughout) or ignored not just because it's patently horrible (as mentioned) but because it's so apparently nonsensical and impertinent. It's disastrously local to both time and place, filled with issues that would completely undermine its reliability by today's standards (like doctored texts by anonymous authors), and oddly unhelpful at addressing any technical concern arising from a later than a third century understanding of the world (with some of those being quite bad, like the instruction on how to get multicolored livestock). All of this would lead people away from believing in the reliability of the Bible, raising the issue of why such a loving God would pick such a poor way to communicate the most important information in the universe.
Again, though, because I doubt, my burden is simply to provide potentially equally more plausible accounts than the one I'm trying to help Tom and his followers see through. I do not have to prove that I'm right about all of that. Anyone who wants to take the Bible as evidence has it upon their shoulders to explain (not just explain away) those issues without pretending to know anything they don't along the way.
Incidentally, for those interested in the discussion with some time on their hands, Gilson's two most recent posts have rather a lot of comments on them now, including (perhaps as a mistake on my part) several from me in which I try to address their specific concerns more directly. They are stunning to behold and almost a textbook example of their retreat into doxastic entrenchment (complete with vigorous attempts to shift the burden of proof and change the subject). If you're particularly interested in some (relatively) short answers from me to the specific kinds of questions Gilson is raising a fuss over, among others, it's worth a look for that reason too. It isn't because I can't answer them that I haven't been.