The Burden of Proof

 

This is a very common argument in creationist circles. Hence, a perfect example for my demonstration.

First let’s examine the official burden of proof argument…

1) A skeptic, by definition, is one who challenges a claim – not a person who presents one.

2) A believer of anything, i.e. religion, space, time, bananas…ect. asserts a claim is indeed a valid one, and thus owns the responsibility to provide some kind of conclusive evidence for their belief to pass from subjective knowledge to objective knowledge to establish a Commonality between the two perspectives (subjective vs. objective).

Therefore, the burden of proof lies with the ‘believer.’

Furthermore,

Between the two parties, there are generally two different schools of thought on how life began:

1) Atheists/Agnostics/Skeptics may postulate evolution and scientific fact/theory.
However, you will not catch many people in this category claiming to have THE ‘truth’ – due to the fact science does not have all the answers. The most fundamental property of this group is that they position their understanding in credible evidence. There is little or no faith involved due to the fact that assertions on this side can be placed in objective reality either by physical evidence and/or logical conclusion.

2) Believers claim creation.
It is important to note that a believer’s ideas of creation belong to an extremely diverse group of people. There are over 10,000 + different religions alone (not accounting for sub-sects). Considering these numbers significantly lowers the possibility of believing in the ‘right’ religion – due to the fact that the majority, if not all people belonging to these differing variations of religions claim to have the one and ONLY ‘truth.’

Evidence – the only evidence for religion is alleged testimony of people who are typically unable to currently testify and/or teachings/prophecies/allegories passed down through history.

This evidence is:

a. Subject to alteration due to translation(s).

b. Subject to political influence(s).

c. Subject to interpretation(s).

d. Subject to questionable source(s).

Religion also must own up to the following Relative Factors:

a. Cultural Relativism

b. Moral Relativism

c. Linguistic Relativism

d. Psychologism

At this point in my demonstration comes the use of (one of my favorite tools) Occam’s Razor.

After taking all these factors of probability into consideration, Occam’s razor delivers the final death blow to religion when it is pitted against scientific analysis, logical/mathematical proof, and physical evidence. Religion does not hold even when these factors are not taken into account.

And finally:

It would be just as easy to say that of all the billions of people throughout history, none have been able to prove the existence of any deity.

This is known in philosophy as an Appeal to the Masses:

“APPEAL TO THE MASSES: One is committing this fallacy when he tries to justify a belief or action by the support base behind that action. Saying that Christianity is the right religion because it has a billion followers is an appeal to the masses. As with other logical fallacies, there is no logic behind this, just ignorance.

EXAMPLE

“There are more and more people converting to Creationism everyday. Even astrophysicists and biologists are seeing the light. This is God’s work!”

Creationists often engage in an appeal to the masses in tandem with the appeal to authority, as you can see here. In this case, they use the appeal to an anonymous authority with the appeal to the masses. If all the physicists in the world suddenly said that they Earth pulled down at 1,000m/s2 without any proof, they’d still be wrong. If all the Creationists in the world jumped off a kilometer-high bridge, would you? If you said, “Yes,” please proceed to the nearest bridge.”

Again, such arguments are dust in the realms of logic…

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21 Comments

Filed under Philosophy, Religion, Religion and Modern Politics

21 responses to “The Burden of Proof

  1. I think first thing to clarify is that implied in the argument is that the dependency lies solely within the Creation vs. Transpeciational Evolution debate. I’m not sure that this is the most essential foundation for a theistic/atheistic dialogue.

    Second would be in defining religion in the macro sense as opposed to religious practices in the cultural sense. Generally monotheistic believers would be separate from mult-theistic believers, pantheists and Mormons.

    For me, proof is a difficult concept to nail down in discussions. As proof is dependent on adhered to concepts and meaning of language.

    Examine the evolutionary debate. The “fossil record” can be interpreted in two ways:
    1) the rise of an entire class of life forms
    or
    2) the extinction of an entire class of life forms

    Hence when examining geologic strata the former is adopted and the latter is ignored.

    Now examine the proof from an existential position, that our abilities to sense that which may exist but are unable to sense due to the limitation of the mechanical abilities of our bodies. Yet we are able “conceptualize” the input we have and choose to act on it, question it, postulate ideas about it, and observe ourselves contemplating it.

    • “I think first thing to clarify is that implied in the argument is that the dependency lies solely within the Creation vs. Transpeciational Evolution debate”

      Sure, that’s a fair assessment. However, the heart of this issue resides with the claim that skeptics must provide proof for doubting said claim. It is not necessarily a “versus” issue, though I cover the possibility in the writing.

  2. Like.

    I long for a day when your type of mind globally far out:ratio’s believers. I think that has yet to occur in humanity, so we might be waiting awhile.

    And since belief is a much better beaten & thus easier path than scepticism, especially when such scepticism includes challenging an oft punitive majority, it may never occur.

    Add in my perception that the generally ignorant tend to breed at a significantly higher rate than the well-informed, and my pessimism further increases.

    • “Add in my perception that the generally ignorant tend to breed at a significantly higher rate than the well-informed, and my pessimism further increases.”

      That is actually fact. Unfortunately. I decided not to bring a child here, so…the plan is to leave behind a book. lol.

      If it reaches one person – it will have served its purpose.

      Thank you for your kindness, sir.

      May it be echoed back to you…

      ~Cat

  3. Kelly

    I’m often confused by the atheists argument “burden of proof.” I believe in a creator of a universe. I assign no “characteristics” to this creator nor do I belong to a religion. Since it is not known at this time through scientific fact, why is the burden of proof on the believer? It is very difficult to be a skeptic while at the same time choosing to believe. Any person who is passionate about these things must make a choice (red pill, blue pill). Unless, one is asserting that their belief in a creator is justified through scientific method, why are they required to provide proof? Why is it not sufficient for them to say “based on the evidence available to me at this time, I believe that a supernatural being is first cause (creator) of the universe.

    Too often, I am pulled into the atheist argument that I am somehow dumb to believe in a creator. When I look at the universe in all of its glory, I see the hand of something far beyond the reach of my imagination. Certainly, the earth didn’t just combust spontaneously to create such a complex existence of species. Why isn’t the burden of proof on the non-believer? Why are they not required to satisfy my skepticism?

    • Kelly,

      The traditional Burden of Proof argument proposes that the skeptic must disprove the existence of a claimed god of sorts.

      Yet, the skeptic cannot prove nor disprove such a claim – as it has no quantifiable parameters. Thus, it is the claimant’s responsibility to provide such.

      For example, say I claim that I have a position opening up and I’d like you to move asap! The position pays well over six figures. However, the company I claim to own is only listed in the yellow pages. You arrive at the alleged location and find nothing but a few houses in a neighborhood. You voice your concerns, yet I just say, “Kelly, take a leap of faith here. The office is on its way. The money is good.”

      Now, are you going to pick up and move? Do I have the grounds to tell you that my offer must be disproved before you decide not to move? Which party needs to provide proper evidence here?

      Hope this helps…

      ~Cat

      • Kelly

        that’s a good analogy but it just doesn’t hold water for me in the area of “burden of proof.” While a business, building, address CAN be proven, a God or creator cannot. Isn’t this the crux of the bisquit or apples and oranges? lol I am willing to have rational discussions about rational matters but if someone asks me to prove to them why I believe in God, I cannot do that. Consequently, if I ask them if they can prove to me that the universe was created without a God, they cannot do so. I guess it depends on who is asking and WHY. Personally, I see know reason for either side to prosetelyze their position because proof cannot be presented for either belief. “Not to decide is to decide.” It is an existential choice what one does with the knowledge they procure.

        I think the “burden of proof” should be placed on someone who is attempting to “define” God/creator and not those who are simply acknowledging that one may exist and chooses to live their life marveling at the possibility instead of staring into the abyss of nothingness. Another might say that the abyss of nothingness is where true happiness lies but I don’t happen to agree. I think that is a completely subjective opinion and that’s all. Thus, the beauty of philosophy allowing the procurement of knowledge to be a life long journey. I just don’t want to miss out on the empirical data that can be gained along the way. This isn’t an “easy” position for me but I think it is as valid as any other position. :)

        • “that’s a good analogy but it just doesn’t hold water for me in the area of “burden of proof.” While a business, building, address CAN be proven, a God or creator cannot.”

          The core of the analogy wasn’t a building. Rather, it was the promise of a job, followed by a chain of promises from someone you only know via internet. The search for the building was one empirical test you tried in the scenario. Yet, it was ultimately the promise that brought you to the desolate location to begin with…

          The rest of your comment should be speculated on another day. Naturally, if someone offered me a new car behind door number two and something I perceive as nothing behind door number one – the choice wouldn’t be difficult.

          On the contrary, I personally question the authority figure pointing to door number two, whereas, I see a mysterious journey behind door number one. Furthermore, I find no reason to believe the claims of the person pointing to door number two – Particularly, if he plans to map a reality onto my waking mind in exchange…

          Just my perspective…

          • Kelly

            //The core of the analogy wasn’t a building. Rather, it was the promise of a job, followed by a chain of promises from someone you only know via internet.//

            Oh, that does change my perspective / response and I in fact mulled that over after I posted. You are correct that those who would offer a promise such as salvation and eternal life OR a consequence such as eternal damnation, the burden of proof is absolutely on them. I do not get my morality from the bible or any religious text but it is fair to even go so far as to REJECT what is behind door #2. A religious doctrine should not dictate morality and if it does, its God/God’s should be accountable to the same morality. By all means, challenge away……. You got me thinking when I was at that fork in the road, or rather four way stop light. :)

            • I hope this makes more sense now. I know that it is no simple task transitioning from one established mindset to another. Even if the transition is mild. This becomes more difficult with age. As we grow older, neural pathways begin to crystallize and we become more resistant to new thought paradigms. Our comfortable patterns of thinking attack new ideas as if they were white blood cells seeking out infection. This issue becomes increasingly evident among those recovering from a life saturated by religion.

              I plan to cover cognitive mapping in the future. Richard Dawkins calls it the “mind virus.” My thoughts on the idea differ from his use of terminology.

              Please, do not hesitate to voice objections in the future. I’m here to help…

              ~Cat

              • Kelly

                :)

                In a lot of ways, allowing ones views about God/universe/reality to expand is likened to outgrowing a relationship. In many ways, the four stages of grief take place. I am still in “transition” but I am more at peace with it. My path has not been an easy one. In many ways, it would be so much easier to cling to belief in a doctrine that tells one how to live life while at the same time, so much more can be discovered when one surrenders to not knowing. Perhaps, that is when true knowledge can be received.

                …fellow traveler

  4. Kelly

    in my haste, I made some grammatical errors here and their is no “edit.” Sorry.

    off-topic:
    Hyper Intellectual….I think you say out loud what a lot of us are thinking. I choose not to be a breeder. I am completely and utterly bewildered as to why people choose to bring children into this world. Adoption would be a much more self-less act. In general, humans are non-pathologically narcissistic in wanting to see a “reflection” of themselves in their children and worse go on to negate their individuality.

  5. *Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before. So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

  6. Kelly

    Hey Cat – I’m unsubscribing. Your readers are stupid. They are rating my comments b/c they are passive-aggressive assholes pretending to be grown men.

    You are not the only person to have something to say about these things. A narcissist is born every day but in the end, that individual is as mediocre as they fear they are. Lots of people teach, lots of people are highly educated and can write beautiful lectures. Only when the write can respect and comprehend his audience intelligence can he really “judge” their comments. Envy is a powerful motivator among narcissists.

    • Thank you for bringing the rating issue to my attention! I disabled it. My original intentions were for people to rate me – not others.

      My apologies.

      Calling my readers stupid is a very broad and negative statement. That is uncalled for. I understand your feelings were hurt, but ranting on people and then blaming me for it is only an insult to your injury.

      My work is whatever people perceive it to be. That is all part of the idea. If my work displeases you, I encourage you to move on.

  7. Kelly

    RB is a young earth creationist who has two grown children who do not speak to him. He claims the books by christian psychologists and authors of “BOUNDARIES” are responsible for ruining his life. He beat his children with branches from trees and joined a facebook page in favor of spanking children. And, it was disgusting! If you consider these people your readers, count me out.

    • Kelly, I do not discriminate. This blog is for everyone.

      Robert has always been polite to my knowledge. Unless someone is promoting extreme negativity, they are free to speak their views. This includes you.

      This blog needs to be a climactic environment in order that differences may reach a point of reconciliation. I encourage you to work out your differences. It is easy to ridicule and dismiss someone, but understanding takes work.

      I’m still hoping to gain some insight into what you’re seeking here. You certainly aren’t required to walk on eggshells around here, but neither is anyone else.

  8. Sorry, but I couldn’t simply leave this important subject with just my previous comment.

    The content of “The Burden of Proof” is eloquently put and deserves a prominent position on my book shelf. And yes, I do personally think that it is up to whoever is making a claim regarding something being true to eventually provide proof of that claim. After all, providing proof is the foundation of scientific method – an emperically based system of reality testing that has served humanity very well. But it goes both ways, both the claimant for something being true must provide proof that a fact is indeed true, and on the contrary, it should also stand that any skeptic that claims that something is not true, must also back up this claim with solid proof to that effect.
    Now, a major problem arises when we are exploring a new area of reality where we do not have the tools yet to either prove or disprove a claim being made regarding the existence or non-existence of something. For example, exploring the existence or non-existence of realities beyond the scope of our physical material world i.e. the new frontiers of metaphysical or spiritual states of being. Without these tools (the necessary understanding to navigate a reality beyond our ken), it becomes very easy to right something off as sheer nonsense without giving it due diligence. This of course gives the skeptic the upper hand. This is because the claimant cannot yet prove what they are claiming. Hence “the burden of proof” for the claimant. However, what we “should” end up with during this interim period is a stalemate for both the claimant, and the skeptic, of the claims being made until more data can be accrued. This is a period where it is prudent for all parties to keep an open mind until tools can be developed to prove or disprove a claim. Of course, skeptism ensures due diligence is given, but excessive skeptism only serves to ransack a new path of enquiry with the effect of imprisoning humanity’s continued evolution in a cage of ignor-ance. The path of exploring new frontiers is therefore a delicate dance between accumulating what data we can at any point in time, and resting with the uncertainties arising from a hunch we believe could be true. After all, all new discoveries have come about from someone’s hunch that something could be true – a hunch that necessitates going beyond the boundaries of our present generally accepted reality e.g. Christopher Columbus who had a hunch that he could reach the East Indies by sailing the opposite way around the world – a hunch that he put his own life and many others on the line for that led to the discovery of the Americas.
    So a plea to everyone: Don’t be too quick to burn our pioneers at the stake just because they are exploring hunchs that cannot yet be backed up with concrete proof. They are in the interim process of finding new answers that will eventually lead to the shedding of their burden of providing proof.

  9. As a reality check, I found myself reading your excellent post once again. Having done so, I would like to fall on my sword and erase an aspect of what I wrote in the above comment i.e.
    “But it goes both ways, both the claimant for something being true must provide proof that a fact is indeed true, and on the contrary, it should also stand that any skeptic that claims that something is not true, must also back up this claim with solid proof to that effect.”
    I now wish to align with your position that the burden-of-proof lies solely with the claimant (the believer) of something being true. Insisting that the skeptic provide proof to the contrary is unworkable and not in keeping with the scientific method. I still however make a plea to the skeptic to give the claimant sufficient courtesy and time to gather the proof necessary to back up their claim.

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