Carl Sagan once wrote a little parable entitled “The Dragon In My Garage.”
This is meant to be a thinly-veiled analogy for Christian faith–or religious faith in general.
The first thing I’d note is that Sagan’s parable of the invisible dragon is a rip-off of Antony Flew’s parable of the invisible garden.
Both parables presume that Christians believe in God despite the total absence of evidence for his existence.
On a related note, they accuse Christian faith of being unfalsifiable since nothing would ever count as evidence against it.
There are some fundamental problems with this objection to the Christian faith:
1.There’s no real argument here. Sagan and Flew have imputed to Christians a position that many or most Christians reject. Sagan thinks there’s no evidence for God. (Flew has since changed his mind.) So that’s a presupposition of his parable.
In his parable, he tacitly imputes that assumption to the Christian, as if the Christian shared his belief that there is no evidence for the existence of God. His parable is then designed to illustration the vacuity and irrationality of Christian faith.
But, of course, most Christians (except for a few extreme fideists) wouldn’t grant his assumption in the first place. So his parable amounts to a straw man argument. What he’s done is to begin with an atheistic assumption, impute that atheistic assumption to the Christian, then point out that the Christian is irrational for continuing to believe in God in spite of the atheistic assumption.
But the parable is an exercise in mirror-reader since the Christian doesn’t buy into Sagan’s atheistic assumption. All that Sagan’s parable ends up revealing is his insular, hidebound perspective. Sagan lacks the critical detachment to even distinguish between his own viewpoint and the viewpoint of his opponent. His parable is monumentally obtuse.
2.There is also an elementary difference between inevidence and counterevidence. Lack of evidence is not synonymous with evidence to the contrary. As such, lack of evidence doesn’t falsify a position.
Lack of evidence might mean we lack adequate warrant or sufficient justification for what we believe. But that’s not the same thing as falsifying our beliefs. It most, it means our belief is irrational, not that our belief is erroneous.
In other words, Sagan is using the argument from silence. But the argument from silence is only cogent if, assuming the belief were true, we we’d expect there to be some evidence for what we believe.
That, in turn, goes to the types of evidence appropriate for the existence of God. In his parable, no physical test can detect the presence of the dragon.
But, of course, that’s parabolic. In order to convert this illustration into an argument from analogy, Sagan needs to step outside the parable and literally explain why we don’t have the types of evidence for God’s existence which we’d expect to find if he existed.
As it stands, Sagan is giving us an illustration in lieu of an argument. While illustrations can be useful, they need to illustrate an argument, and not take the place of an argument.
Ironically, the popularity of Sagan’s parable demonstrates the irrationality of the average atheist. An atheist would have to be pretty dense to be impressed with Sagan’s stupid little parable.