eli5: Carl Sagan’s absence of evidence


Big fan of Carl Sagan, he was like a father figure to me, I’m partially molded by him.
That said, something he used to say all the time really baffled me, still does:
“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”
He said this when talking about aliens.
However: Sagan was a famous non believer.
How does this aphorism reconcile with the existence or non existence of a god?
If “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” does that apply to a god as well?
Is there a god even though there is no evidence of him/her/it?

In: 95

It means that no reasonable atheist can 100% completely rule out the possibility of some sort of deity existing.

However, if there is no evidence of something that realistically should leave some evidence, then that is a pretty good reason not to actively believe in its existence even though it is theoretically at least somewhat possible.

So no, just because some sort of deity is theoretically possible does not necessarily mean that it is reasonable to believe in a diety. Certainly not any one of the deities that humanity has come up with since no other human has displayed any sort of viable knowledge about the subject.

I feel like it goes back to the old saying, “You can’t prove something doesn’t exist.”

We haven’t explored but the merest fraction of space. We have no idea what’s really out there. Just because we haven’t found any evidence of aliens yet (and some people would argue that point), it doesn’t mean aliens don’t exist.

They could be so far away that we’ll never find them within the Sun’s (or Humanity’s) lifetime.

They could be completely uninterested in us.

They could be under some sort of Prime Directive to leave developing worlds alone.

They could be so foreign in nature that neither species would recognize the other as life.

They could be warlike, and keeping ratio silence until their fleet arrives to exterminate us.

They could have more pressing concerns with their own civilization they are trying to work out before contacting us.

You get the idea.

Yes that applies to a god as well.

It doesn’t mean you have to believe in a god, science says there could be one, we just know a bunch if the things the bible claims are incompatible with reality so if there is a god it isn’t the god the christians picture.

Same applies to aliens. They could exist, but it’s extremely unlikely they look like what the alien conspiracy people believe.

Also from a plausibility perspective it’s different. There is zero evidence for any supernatural being. But we have evidence for life being able to exist on one planet, so why shouldn’t it happen on others as well?

To rephrase the quote…”just because there is no reason to believe something is true, that doesn’t mean it *isn’t* true.”

Atheism is commonly defined as the belief that no gods exist. A truer definition is the rejection of any claims that any gods *do* exist. These are distinct positions. It is similar to a jury in a trial: if a jury finds you “not guilty,” that doesn’t mean it finds you “innocent,” it just means they found the prosecution didn’t adequately make the case that you were guilty. This was generally Sagan’s position on the subject of gods, with the occasional variance.

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” is part of the reason why it’s logically impossible to prove a negative. You can never prove that something *doesn’t*, or *isn’t*, or *wouldn’t*, etc. This means that instead of trying to prove a negative, you must instead prove a positive. In this case, the positive would be “supernatural deities *do* exist”.

Atheism is saying: “OK, go ahead. Prove that. I’ll wait.”