Burden of Proof: Really?
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24-02-2013, 04:58 PM (This post was last modified: 24-02-2013 05:03 PM by Averroes.)
RE: Burden of Proof: Really?
(20-02-2013 09:20 AM)Chas Wrote:  The burden is on the one making the existence claim.
(20-02-2013 09:17 AM)Averroes Wrote:  Not necessarily - that was the point of my ether example. Whatever you argue about, your default position is not "it doesnt exist", but rather the position that seems intuitive to you.
Again, no.
Non-existence is not provable; non-existence is always the default until evidence for existence is discovered.
"Non-existence is always the default..."

I'm curious what you say to my counterexamples, where nonexistence quite clearly wasn't/isn't the default:

1)Irrationality of Pi
Person A: "Pi can be written as a fraction of two integers."
Person B: "There are no two integers such that their fraction equals Pi."

I think that most students of math, when confronted with these claims for the first time, will say "well, strictly speaking I dont know, but why not? My guess is A", because they find the existence position more intuitive. They certainly won't believe B by default just because it is a nonexistence claim. They will require proof thereof.

2)Uncertainty principle
Person A: "There is a way of measuring position and momentum of a particle simultaneously with arbitrary precision."
Person B: "Such method does not exist."

First, experiments eventually leading to the latter had to be carried out before people even concieved such idea at all, let alone taking it seriously.

3)Time
Person A: "Time exists as such."
Julian Barbour: "Time is an illusion, it doesnt exist."

Most of us probably intuitively identify with person A, the evidence being our experience of life as percieved through our imperfect senses and processed by our mind. We probably cant grasp very clearly what time actually is and no-one has ever seen it, but we all understand one another when talking about it and we agree that whatever it is, it deserves its word in our languages (sounds a bit like talking about God, doesnt it? :-). I have no idea about the details of Barbour's work, but if he wants his ideas to be taken seriously or even become mainstream, he will have to bear his burden of proof of nonexistence (as he indeed tries to). Standing idly and waiting for the rest of us to do the proof of existence isn't going to get him anywhere.

There are more examples: absolute frame of reference, perpetuum mobile, ether...but the pattern stays the same: people claiming nonexistence also have to do the proving, when their claim goes against intuition and/or established knowledge.

The general problem with the "nonexistence is alwas default" attitude is that we can't treat human mind as some perfect intellect that only constructs its model of reality from scratch by means of pure logic, but rather as an entity that learns through experience mediated by our imperfect senses (that have evolved to guide us in an environment with very specific properties, time-scales and space-scales). What inevitably comes with it is a set of biases and prejudices. To determine if some widespread idea is a prejudice (be it towards existence or nonexistence of whatever), both sides have to give evidence, which is then compared and evaluated. Bickering about burden of proof is pointless, waste of time.

2 EvolutionKills, Full Circle and Kim:
All these Russell's teapots, Spaghetti Monsters, Pink Unicorns and Werewalruses...I know them all too well (and consider myself an enthusiastic Pastafarian), but I think they all have this one big flaw in common: they use a material, obviously intentionally bizarre object, where everyone agrees that the existence-claimer bears the burden, and then they extend the conclusion to all cases. Where they draw justification for this extending from is unknown to me. What makes the claimer bear the burden here is the bizarrness of the claim, not the fact that it is an existence claim, which I hope I have sufficiently illustrated by my examples. To say that "the existence of the Werewalrus on Pluto happens to be bizarre, but I dont believe it because it is an existence-claim and I havent been provided with evidence" is like saying "16 happens to be power of 2, but it is even because its digit sum is 7" - the facts are all there but they are ill-connected.

I may be wrong. But please, before anyone replies, do me a favor and reflect a bit on how much you have seriously thought about this yourselves, and how much you have taken an argument from authority (Russell, Dawkins...).
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24-02-2013, 05:11 PM
RE: Burden of Proof: Really?
(24-02-2013 04:58 PM)Averroes Wrote:  
(20-02-2013 09:20 AM)Chas Wrote:  The burden is on the one making the existence claim.Again, no.
Non-existence is not provable; non-existence is always the default until evidence for existence is discovered.
"Non-existence is always the default..."

I'm curious what you say to my counterexamples, where nonexistence quite clearly wasn't/isn't the default:

1)Irrationality of Pi
Person A: "Pi can be written as a fraction of two integers."
Person B: "There are no two integers such that their fraction equals Pi."

I think that most students of math, when confronted with these claims for the first time, will say "well, strictly speaking I dont know, but why not? My guess is A", because they find the existence position more intuitive. They certainly won't believe B by default just because it is a nonexistence claim. They will require proof thereof.

2)Uncertainty principle
Person A: "There is a way of measuring position and momentum of a particle simultaneously with arbitrary precision."
Person B: "Such method does not exist."

First, experiments eventually leading to the latter had to be carried out before people even concieved such idea at all, let alone taking it seriously.

3)Time
Person A: "Time exists as such."
Julian Barbour: "Time is an illusion, it doesnt exist."

Most of us probably intuitively identify with person A, the evidence being our experience of life as percieved through our imperfect senses and processed by our mind. We probably cant grasp very clearly what time actually is and no-one has ever seen it, but we all understand one another when talking about it and we agree that whatever it is, it deserves its word in our languages (sounds a bit like talking about God, doesnt it? :-). I have no idea about the details of Barbour's work, but if he wants his ideas to be taken seriously or even become mainstream, he will have to bear his burden of proof of nonexistence (as he indeed tries to). Standing idly and waiting for the rest of us to do the proof of existence isn't going to get him anywhere.

There are more examples: absolute frame of reference, perpetuum mobile, ether...but the pattern stays the same: people claiming nonexistence also have to do the proving, when their claim goes against intuition and/or established knowledge.

The general problem with the "nonexistence is alwas default" attitude is that we can't treat human mind as some perfect intellect that only constructs its model of reality from scratch by means of pure logic, but rather as an entity that learns through experience mediated by our imperfect senses (that have evolved to guide us in an environment with very specific properties, time-scales and space-scales). What inevitably comes with it is a set of biases and prejudices. To determine if some widespread idea is a prejudice (be it towards existence or nonexistence of whatever), both sides have to give evidence, which is then compared and evaluated. Bickering about burden of proof is pointless, waste of time.

Your first two examples are utterly inapplicable. Those are not existence claims.

As for the third, we all agree that we perceive the passage of time; that argument is about the nature of time.

Let's stick to true existence claims.

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24-02-2013, 06:13 PM
RE: Burden of Proof: Really?
(24-02-2013 05:11 PM)Chas Wrote:  
(24-02-2013 04:58 PM)Averroes Wrote:  "Non-existence is always the default..."

I'm curious what you say to my counterexamples, where nonexistence quite clearly wasn't/isn't the default:

1)Irrationality of Pi
Person A: "Pi can be written as a fraction of two integers."
Person B: "There are no two integers such that their fraction equals Pi."

I think that most students of math, when confronted with these claims for the first time, will say "well, strictly speaking I dont know, but why not? My guess is A", because they find the existence position more intuitive. They certainly won't believe B by default just because it is a nonexistence claim. They will require proof thereof.

2)Uncertainty principle
Person A: "There is a way of measuring position and momentum of a particle simultaneously with arbitrary precision."
Person B: "Such method does not exist."

First, experiments eventually leading to the latter had to be carried out before people even concieved such idea at all, let alone taking it seriously.

3)Time
Person A: "Time exists as such."
Julian Barbour: "Time is an illusion, it doesnt exist."

Most of us probably intuitively identify with person A, the evidence being our experience of life as percieved through our imperfect senses and processed by our mind. We probably cant grasp very clearly what time actually is and no-one has ever seen it, but we all understand one another when talking about it and we agree that whatever it is, it deserves its word in our languages (sounds a bit like talking about God, doesnt it? :-). I have no idea about the details of Barbour's work, but if he wants his ideas to be taken seriously or even become mainstream, he will have to bear his burden of proof of nonexistence (as he indeed tries to). Standing idly and waiting for the rest of us to do the proof of existence isn't going to get him anywhere.

There are more examples: absolute frame of reference, perpetuum mobile, ether...but the pattern stays the same: people claiming nonexistence also have to do the proving, when their claim goes against intuition and/or established knowledge.

The general problem with the "nonexistence is alwas default" attitude is that we can't treat human mind as some perfect intellect that only constructs its model of reality from scratch by means of pure logic, but rather as an entity that learns through experience mediated by our imperfect senses (that have evolved to guide us in an environment with very specific properties, time-scales and space-scales). What inevitably comes with it is a set of biases and prejudices. To determine if some widespread idea is a prejudice (be it towards existence or nonexistence of whatever), both sides have to give evidence, which is then compared and evaluated. Bickering about burden of proof is pointless, waste of time.

Your first two examples are utterly inapplicable. Those are not existence claims.

As for the third, we all agree that we perceive the passage of time; that argument is about the nature of time.

Let's stick to true existence claims.
We should then clarify what constitutes an existence claim. Those two integers either exist or not. Absolute frame of reference exists or not. Ether exists or not. That method of measurement and perpetuum mobile...can exist or not. What's the problem?

Regarding time, I think it really is about existence and not just the nature of it. It is about the nature of our perception of time, namely, if it corresponds to something that exists or not. It is about whether it is justified to deduce the existence from the perception.
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24-02-2013, 07:45 PM (This post was last modified: 24-02-2013 07:52 PM by kim.)
RE: Burden of Proof: Really?
(24-02-2013 04:58 PM)Averroes Wrote:  What makes the claimer bear the burden here is the bizarrness of the claim, not the fact that it is an existence claim, which I hope I have sufficiently illustrated by my examples.
I think your examples were cool, but were more empirical rather than theory or pure logic.

If one were to argue a conceptual theory about existence, any claim made would use basic logic simply as a starting point of discussion.

A person says: I have not observed any evidence for the existence of a thing, so I can not state or think that this thing exists. Well, that's pretty much what it's about for them... if some sort of evidence comes along, they will be happy to examine it.

Another person says: There is a thing and this thing has an effect on even those who do not perceive any evidence that this thing exists.

The person who does not think there is a thing, has no evidence and has stated as much, so they would need evidence to be presented by the person who says there is a thing.

Logically; the person who has no evidence can not produce any. So the person with evidence must present it, if discussion of this thing's existence is to begin.

***
I didn't mean for my previous response to be glib or anything; I just figured everyone had already addressed your inquiry. Shy

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28-02-2013, 07:33 AM
RE: Burden of Proof: Really?
Quote: I think your examples were cool, but were more empirical rather than theory or pure logic.
That surpises me. I'd say that irrationality of Pi is as pure logic as it gets. What is empirical about that?
Quote:If one were to argue a conceptual theory about existence, any claim made would use basic logic simply as a starting point of discussion.
That probably indeed is a necessary condition for continuing :-)


Quote:The person who does not think there is a thing, has no evidence and has stated as much, so they would need evidence to be presented by the person who says there is a thing.
That is surely true when we think of God as of a material thing, but I think this is a grave oversimplification, which makes the problem appear more trivial than it is - actually that is the very same reason why I disagree with the teapot (werewalrus, pink unicorn, dragon in my garage) argument. Consider again the case of Pi: you can say you believe there are no such two integers whose fraction equals Pi, but you can also take a stronger position - you can say you know that, and you can do the proof. And only then you will convince anybody. So, material objects are not the only things whose existence we can argue about, and rules that apply to them do not necessarily apply elsewhere so we shouldn't generalize too easily.

Btw, an interesting question to ask is, in what sense do numbers and all math actually exist. You can see them only as concepts in our minds, but at the same time, they often appear to really correspond to some deep structure of our universe, to something "behind the scenes"...I'm not very clear on this.


Quote:***
I didn't mean for my previous response to be glib or anything; I just figured everyone had already addressed your inquiry.
No offence taken. I only felt that my question goes deeper than is being assumed. And generally (not saying that is the case for the users here) I sometimes have the feeling that also atheists scrutinize those arguments supporting their view less then those running against it.
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28-02-2013, 09:22 AM
RE: Burden of Proof: Really?
(24-02-2013 04:58 PM)Averroes Wrote:  1)Irrationality of Pi
Person A: "Pi can be written as a fraction of two integers."
Person B: "There are no two integers such that their fraction equals Pi."

I think that most students of math, when confronted with these claims for the first time, will say "well, strictly speaking I dont know, but why not? My guess is A", because they find the existence position more intuitive. They certainly won't believe B by default just because it is a nonexistence claim. They will require proof thereof.

It really doesn't matter what you think, or what most students think.

You have presented an argument where A makes a claim and B denies that claim. The burden of proof is on A since he says that Pi is a fraction of two numbers. If B had any brains at all, he'd simply say "OK, prove your claim, show me your to integers". But your example your version of B allows A to shift the burden of proof to him and now he has to prove, what, that every possible combination of two integers cannot be arranged such that their quotient is Pi? Clearly, with infinite integers to work with, this cannot be done. Both A and B know this, and you know it too.

So why this strawman argument with A and B turning around the burden of proof? Le'ts leave the proof where it belongs by allowing A to prove that he has the magical two integers.

(24-02-2013 04:58 PM)Averroes Wrote:  2)Uncertainty principle
Person A: "There is a way of measuring position and momentum of a particle simultaneously with arbitrary precision."
Person B: "Such method does not exist."

First, experiments eventually leading to the latter had to be carried out before people even concieved such idea at all, let alone taking it seriously.

Again, another strawman.

Sure, initially, scientists thought they were examining particles. Then someone realized they might be screwing with those particles by examining them. Then he demonstrated that to be true via reproducible experiments. Now scientists know that they're (probably) screwing with particles every time they examine them, making their observations uncertain.

So what? What does this prove? In your example, person A was wrong. Person B proved him wrong. End of discussion.

Are you equating this to the question of God's existence? Is it now your position that claiming god exists is wrong? If your answer is "yes", then what are we doing here arguing about god's existence? And if your answer is "no", then why are you using an analogy of an incorrect claim to prove your own claim?

(24-02-2013 04:58 PM)Averroes Wrote:  3)Time
Person A: "Time exists as such."
Julian Barbour: "Time is an illusion, it doesnt exist."

Wonderful example. A makes a claim, now he should prove it. Barbour refutes the claim saying time does not exist. It is now up to A to prove that it does. Again, it doesn't matter if most of us experience what we think is time or if most of us believe time is real. If person A is going to make the claim and Barbour is going to argue against it, then person A must prove his claim. Simple as that.

(24-02-2013 04:58 PM)Averroes Wrote:  There are more examples: absolute frame of reference, perpetuum mobile, ether...but the pattern stays the same: people claiming nonexistence also have to do the proving, when their claim goes against intuition and/or established knowledge.

No, they don't. People are not claiming "nonexistence", they are claiming "existence is unproven so go prove it". For example, Barbour didn't actually claim that there is no such thing as time, nor did he prove that there is no such thing, but rather he claimed that our belief and perception of time is wrong, essentially refuting all of our "proof" that time exists, leaving us at an impasse: we claim time exists because we perceive it but he showed us that our claim is invalid so now we either have to drop our claim (in which case Barbour wins his point without proving anything, he only disproved our claims) or we have to find more proof. So the burden of proof was never on Barbour to begin with, it was always on anyone claiming time exists.

This is true of all of your examples.

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06-03-2013, 02:04 AM
RE: Burden of Proof: Really?
This is a simple thing to solve. Generally, atheists don't make claims about anything without evidence. Whereas theists make claims without evidence all the time. thus they have the burden of proof
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06-03-2013, 03:19 AM (This post was last modified: 06-03-2013 03:25 AM by Adenosis.)
RE: Burden of Proof: Really?
Ugh, copied post.

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06-03-2013, 03:21 AM
RE: Burden of Proof: Really?
(24-02-2013 04:58 PM)Averroes Wrote:  All these Russell's teapots, Spaghetti Monsters, Pink Unicorns and Werewalruses...I know them all too well (and consider myself an enthusiastic Pastafarian), but I think they all have this one big flaw in common: they use a material, obviously intentionally bizarre object, where everyone agrees that the existence-claimer bears the burden, and then they extend the conclusion to all cases.

So you think your position is rational because you claim the existence of a immaterial and intentionally vague entity? Shocking

(24-02-2013 04:58 PM)Averroes Wrote:  I may be wrong.

Yes, you are. Now stop playing with words. The burden of proof is on the one making the claim, period.

(06-03-2013 02:04 AM)DerekS Wrote:  This is a simple thing to solve. Generally, atheists don't make claims about anything without evidence. Whereas theists make claims without evidence all the time. thus they have the burden of proof

Uhm.. No. The burden of proof isn't on a specific group because of the nature of the claims they generally make (substantiated vs unsubstantiated). It's on anyone that makes a specific claim.

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07-03-2013, 07:00 AM
RE: Burden of Proof: Really?
Quote:
Quote:All these Russell's teapots, Spaghetti Monsters, Pink Unicorns and Werewalruses...I know them all too well (and consider myself an enthusiastic Pastafarian), but I think they all have this one big flaw in common: they use a material, obviously intentionally bizarre object, where everyone agrees that the existence-claimer bears the burden, and then they extend the conclusion to all cases.

So you think your position is rational because you claim the existence of a immaterial and intentionally vague entity? :shocking


I dont claim that and I never have. To clear this out, I am a "6.9 atheist". But my position is irrelevant. I am attacking a validity of a specific argument, which can be done regardless of my position.

Quote:
Quote:
I may be wrong.

Yes, you are. Now stop playing with words. The burden of proof is on the one making the claim, period.

So much for humility :-)

Quote:
Quote:This is a simple thing to solve. Generally, atheists don't make claims about anything without evidence. Whereas theists make claims without evidence all the time. thus they have the burden of proof



Uhm.. No. The burden of proof isn't on a specific group because of the nature of the claims they generally make (substantiated vs unsubstantiated). It's on anyone that makes a specific claim.

The whole discussion is being detached from its original topic. The question is, is it justified to assume that the "specific claim" (whatever that means) is always the "existence claim" and the default position is nonexistence, or can it sometimes be the other way round? The Burden of Proof argument stands and falls with validity of the former, while I think the latter is true. See the examples above.
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