My Take on the Burden of Proof
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22-12-2012, 03:41 PM
RE: My Take on the Burden of Proof
Some thoughts on "The burden of proof"

The statement that the
burden of proof lies with the one making the claim" seems to state that
if you make a claim, you have an obligation, a responsibility, an
opportunity, or something like that which is called here a burden, to
provide, or at least offer a proof or a reason for that claim. I trust
that no one, claim maker or not, would argue the point.

If, as
an atheist I make the claim "There is no God", I then, as a claim maker
carry a burden of proof. If, as an atheist, do not make a claim, then I
am a non-claim maker.

The question then becomes, "Can non-claim
makers respond to claim makers?" If yes, then the question becomes,"Is a
response something other than a claim?" I suggest not.

propose that an atheist is by definition a non-claim maker. But that is
possibly true only if he says nothing, and thinks nothing. If a man
thinks nothing, that makes him agnostic. If a man thinks "I am an
atheist" and says nothing that makes him more accurately a kind of claim
withholder. Since he has a claim to make, but does not.

further question then is "Can, or even, should a claim witholder respond
to a claim maker?" I'll allow yes, but only as a spectator. That is,
only to himself, as a claim withholder, and not as a player. If he has a
claim ("I am an atheist" for instance) he should either sit in the
bleachers or put on a uniform and get in the game.

And finally, it
occurs to me that the title of this forum is "The Thinking Atheist",
which as far as I can tell can include either spectators or players. Fine. But the game has no need for the person who, when the
score is: Atheists 3, Theists 0, states "I don't have to play the game,
but I'm winning.

You can have your cake and even eat the other man's cake, but you can't have your cake and eat it too.

am new here. Please don't accuse me of playing word games. That is not
my intention. If something I say appears to be a word game, point it out
to me and I'll attempt to clarify the thought.
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22-12-2012, 05:52 PM
RE: My Take on the Burden of Proof
In scholarly debate, the "claim-maker" is easily defined. It is no harder in a less formal debate.

In the ongoing theist vs atheist debate, the burden of proof issue has become muddied by rhetoric, but it isn't really unclear once we wipe it off. Belief is a special case in making a claim. Disbelief (not just lack of belief either, actual disbelief) is the default position so it can't ever carry the burden of proof.

If person A makes the claim, "I have a magic sandwich," and person B says, "No you don't," B HAS NOT taken the burden of proof onto themselves, despite wording their response as an assertion of the converse.

Sure, if B were to claim, "There are no such things as magic sandwiches," it now needs to be supported. "There are no such things as magic sandwiches because there has never been a magic sandwich, there is no evidence of magic, and it isn't reasonable to believe in all the things that have never been disproven. In addition, a being that is 'perfect' but desires or needs is self-contradicting," B has now given logical support for his position and A can address his logic, or prove the converse but until he does so, B has presented a prima facie argument and it stands.

Atheists have the most reasonable position and have presented a logically sound argument for lack of belief and disbelief so they do not carry the burden of proof.
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22-12-2012, 06:47 PM
RE: My Take on the Burden of Proof
(22-10-2012 02:00 AM)fstratzero Wrote:  This is a statement addressing what an atheist may desire to do and what the desired and/or presumed effects of his actions are, and is not strictly speaking a factual statement, nor should it be taken as a definition.
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22-12-2012, 10:28 PM
RE: My Take on the Burden of Proof
Well, I guess that a supposed diety could only be supposed to do anything by the supposer. So you're right to not have to worry about that. And the logically appropriate thing for a Theist to do is first to respect your thoughts. And whatever else he did should follow from that. And if it doesn't, you could point it out to him, at least.
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23-12-2012, 02:41 AM
RE: My Take on the Burden of Proof
(22-12-2012 03:41 PM)rjminns Wrote:  Some thoughts on "The burden of proof"
I disagree with a lot of what you said.

If I read it correctly, you're suggesting that proper debate etiquette would require, if a person makes a claim, that the only people who should reply against that claim are people willing to make a counter-claim; anyone not willing to make a counter-claim should keep their mouth shut.

I don't think that's true. It's not how debates currently work. I also don't accept that it is how debates should work.

If you tell me that you're ten feet tall, I could very easily reply that I don't believe you. In fact, that is a claim all its own, a claim that I disbelieve what you said. But do I have to take the counter-claim and say "You are absolutely definitely not ten feet tall" or else keep my mouth shut?

I don't think so. I don't think it's necessary to counter-claim in order to express a lack of agreement with the claimant.

Sure, some do. Some would specifically say that you are definitely not ten feet tall. And that would be making a claim, and you might even be justified to ask them to accept the burden of proof and support their claim.

But it's equally valid, perhaps even more valid, to simply state a disbelief and leave the burden of proof on you.

There are some atheists who defiantly stand up and shout to the rooftops that they are absolutely certain there are no gods anywhere, at all. That's a claim, and I would ask them to prove it. The rest of us simply tell the theists that their claim, the existence of whichever god they favor, is as yet unsupported by any credible evidence so we don't believe they are justified in making that claim and would like them to prove it or come to their senses. No counter-claim. No reassignment of the burden of proof. And no violation of proper debate etiquette.

Oh, and Hi, welcome to the forum.

"Whores perform the same function as priests, but far more thoroughly." - Robert A. Heinlein
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28-12-2012, 10:49 AM
RE: My Take on the Burden of Proof
While logically those making the positive claim (that there is a God) have the burden of proof, indoctrination overrides logic.

If you have been taught that you will go to Hell for eternity for not believing, then you will be unwilling to take the risk of even thinking about it. This used to terrify me as a child. I would realize that if I have doubts, then maybe I don't really believe strongly enough to avoid hell. The most comforting thought is that it is not true, but entertaining that thought would make me an unbeliever, which would scare me even more. It was an extremely vicious cycle to break free from. While the logical part of my brain recognized how ridiculous religion is, the indoctrination made admitting it - or even thinking about it - terrifying. I still feel nervous and have some superstition about calling myself an atheist, but at least now I recognize that for what it is- an irrational superstition.

While the theist making the god claim has the burden of proof, a theist who believes in eternal punishment or reward cannot see it that way. To someone with certain beliefs (and I don't mean to generalize this to all theists), entertaining any doubt is dangerous. To someone who has been taught about Hell, Pascal's wager would seem valid. Someone with those beliefs would have to be convinced that there is zero probability to even allow themselves to think about it. Without allowing yourself to think, no argument can convince you of what should be obvious.

Religion is poison.
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