Where are these boundaries anyway?

Believers are often railing that atheism, and especially Richard Dawkins, goes beyond the bounds of science in its claims. What is never actually articulated is how. How does atheism go beyond these bounds?

But that other comment about going “beyond the boundaries of science” is a curious one. Where? I think that when you invoke an invisible, undetectable ghost in the sky who diddles quanta or turns into a man who raises the dead, then you are going beyond the boundaries of science. When someone points out that there is no evidence of such activities, that the claims of supernaturalists are contradictory and unreasonable, or explains that the material claims of priests are fair game for critical examination, they are actually operating entirely within the domain of science.

Atheism is not science, but as I’ve said in the past, it reflects the essence of science.

Acceptance without proof is the fundamental characteristic of Western religion. Rejection without proof is the fundamental characteristic of Western science. ~Gary Zukav

While Zukav is otherwise uninteresting, his quote is concise and spot on. The onus is on the positive claimant to show his evidence. This is why the common comparison of God and gods to gnomes and unicorns is so apt; atheism is a rejection of certain claims which have no proof.

Of course, an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But an absence of what should be present is evidence of absence. This is just common sense we use all the time; if a prosecutor claims John shot his friend but there is no bullet hole in the friend and there hasn’t been time for anything to heal, then that is evidence that John never did shoot his friend. Faith, the basis for all religious belief, is not good enough here. It’s laughable.

To put it another way,

If Susie tells us she stopped a train in its tracks a la Superman, we would rightfully demand some real evidence of this (assuming we didn’t outright reject her claim as obviously false). We would even call Susie’s claim impossible. But that isn’t to actually say it is impossible. In theory, at least, it could have happened. All the atoms which made up the train could have spontaneously disassembled in a manner consistent with how they would have been altered had Superman actually been standing in front of the train. Of course, there is a huge difference between something being possible and something being plausible. This scenario fits the former while falling far short of the latter.

Atheism is much the same.

Atheism does not violate any boundaries of science (though it is not required to fall within a scientific purview to be true); instead it is a reflection of science. It is not built upon superstition or faith or unevidenced claims. Atheism is a rational view of reality which does not overstep anything. In fact, it embraces particular bounds – the bounds of human knowledge. “There probably is no God” perfectly reflects current human knowledge because, to date, there is no evidence for any gods. None. Let that sink in. It isn’t that the evidence is disparate, poorly argued or presented, poorly collected or organized…no. No, it’s that there is no evidence for any supernatural being. It cannot, with any respect for reason, be asserted that atheism is the boundary-stomping culprit here. Atheism is a standing demand for evidence as a result of a standing lack of reason, rationality, knowledge, and, well, evidence.

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We appreciate your concern

But no thanks.

It is difficult to avoid the observation that, whenever believers give advice to atheists on how to run our movement, it is always in the direction of telling us to be more quiet, to tone it down, to be less confrontational and less visible. I have yet to see a believer advise the atheist movement to speak up more loudly and more passionately; to make our arguments more compelling and more unanswerable; to get in people’s faces more about delicate and thorny issues that they don’t want to think about; to not be afraid of offending people if we think we’re right. I have received a great deal of advice from believers on how atheists should run our movement… and it is always, always, always in the direction of politely suggesting that we shut up.

You’ll have to forgive me if I question the motivation behind this advice, and take it with a grain of salt.