Proving a negative?
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20-07-2016, 07:22 PM
RE: Proving a negative?
If a theist believes that stating "There is no God" is a positive claim, the next question should be "Which God?" They also believe Gods don't exist, if they say "Brahma isn't real." Ok I agree, but if that is a positive claim than how do they know that? For sure? Did they go looking for Brahma and just couldn't find him?

When a Hindu says "Brahma is real." they are making the claim, if anyone says "No he isn't, until you can prove he is real." that is the default position, it's not a positive claim of anything, just the rejection of a claim.

If I said I had a pet unicorn at my house you would want to see proof of it first, until I do that your only reasonable response would be "No you don't, unicorns aren't real." If I said I have a dog at my house you wouldn't question it, it's completely ordinary and reasonable to own a dog, it's not ordinary for magical sky wizards to exist, if you make that claim I'm gonna want some evidence or else I will simply reject it, which is what atheists do. Theists do the same to all Gods, except one so they should be able to understand that.

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20-07-2016, 07:37 PM
RE: Proving a negative?
(20-07-2016 03:26 PM)The Organic Chemist Wrote:  Can I prove that carbon does not make 6 discreet bonds? Yes.
Can I prove that you did not hatch from a lizard egg? Yes.
Can we prove that there was no worldwide flood? Yes.

The point is that the idea that one can never prove a negative is not entirely true. Sometimes they can be and my point is that it is unwise to make the blanket statement.

I agree with your assessment of using simple logic to break down a claim and using absence of any evidence as evidence since it can be used both ways. You can always say yes I don't have any evidence to prove your God doesn't exist but there is no proof fairies don't exist or never never land so we should just go ahead and believe it just in case so we don't piss off Captain Hook? That would be a silly waste of time.

We really need to pressure the theists to define their God, if he is indefinable we run into a wall, we can't find something that can't be found. If God can't be measured on any device or seen, heard, felt, etc. than how can he proven to exist? Could there ever be a reasonable experiment or test to prove his existence in any tangible or even intangible way? Sure we can't "feel" him physically but can we "feel" him emotionally? How do we even test that?

Until this God is defined or described we can't go looking for him, it's like when theists say "God is like air, we can't see it...blah blah blah." Yes we can see air, when someone smokes or the wind and we have scientific tools that can help us measure it and break down it's components, we don't have to "see" something to define it or measure it. Anything that exists can be measured or proven in some way, if not we have to invent something that can prove it, if we can't it's either not real or we just don't have a good enough definition of it yet.

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20-07-2016, 07:43 PM
RE: Proving a negative?
(20-07-2016 01:19 PM)dancefortwo Wrote:  I was having an online discussion with a theist who insisted that the claim that a god doesn't exist is actually a positive claim to which I replied that atheists have no belief in a god which is neutral or the default position to which he replied that the default position is a claim itself, and a positive claim at that.

Simple

There is a god <- claim

There is no god <- claim

I do not believe in god <- statement of opinion - not a claim

I believe in god <- statement of opinion - not a claim

There are few atheists that will state, "There is no god". (though, i am one)

"They think, therefore I am" - god
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20-07-2016, 08:05 PM
RE: Proving a negative?
(20-07-2016 03:44 PM)WillHopp Wrote:  
(20-07-2016 03:26 PM)The Organic Chemist Wrote:  Can you prove there is no Earthly Teapot orbiting Jupiter? Probably. Why? A) there is no evidence that humans have ever sent a teapot and b) we are unaware of any extraterrestrial intelligence with the capabilities to orbit the teapot. Both of these pieces of information (and they aren't the only pieces) do not support the claim that "there is a teapot orbiting Jupiter" but they DO support the claim that "there is not a teapot orbiting Jupiter." Lack of evidence for something can sometimes be taken as evidence against, but not always. This was a bit of a poor example I admit but there are other negative claims that can be proven. It also helps to define what I mean by "prove." In this case I am opting for the most demonstrable example of a claim, to which there is none that support the teapot.

Can I prove that carbon does not make 6 discreet bonds? Yes.
Can I prove that you did not hatch from a lizard egg? Yes.
Can we prove that there was no worldwide flood? Yes.

The point is that the idea that one can never prove a negative is not entirely true. Sometimes they can be and my point is that it is unwise to make the blanket statement.

I'm not stating you can't prove a negative. I'm saying you can't prove there isn't a teapot orbiting Jupiter. You've failed. Given your explanation, you could substitute "teapot orbiting Jupiter" with "god" and you're in hot water. You're then saying because we are unaware of any evidence that supports there being a god that we can prove there isn't one. That's not how it works.

You can't prove that I'm not just a brain in a jar of ambiotic fluid kept alive by wires, dreaming everything in existence.

How long should an arbitrary pissing contest last?

Don't let those gnomes and their illusions get you down. They're just gnomes and illusions.

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20-07-2016, 08:18 PM
RE: Proving a negative?
(20-07-2016 03:44 PM)WillHopp Wrote:  
(20-07-2016 03:26 PM)The Organic Chemist Wrote:  Can you prove there is no Earthly Teapot orbiting Jupiter? Probably. Why? A) there is no evidence that humans have ever sent a teapot and b) we are unaware of any extraterrestrial intelligence with the capabilities to orbit the teapot. Both of these pieces of information (and they aren't the only pieces) do not support the claim that "there is a teapot orbiting Jupiter" but they DO support the claim that "there is not a teapot orbiting Jupiter." Lack of evidence for something can sometimes be taken as evidence against, but not always. This was a bit of a poor example I admit but there are other negative claims that can be proven. It also helps to define what I mean by "prove." In this case I am opting for the most demonstrable example of a claim, to which there is none that support the teapot.

Can I prove that carbon does not make 6 discreet bonds? Yes.
Can I prove that you did not hatch from a lizard egg? Yes.
Can we prove that there was no worldwide flood? Yes.

The point is that the idea that one can never prove a negative is not entirely true. Sometimes they can be and my point is that it is unwise to make the blanket statement.

I'm not stating you can't prove a negative. I'm saying you can't prove there isn't a teapot orbiting Jupiter. You've failed. Given your explanation, you could substitute "teapot orbiting Jupiter" with "god" and you're in hot water. You're then saying because we are unaware of any evidence that supports there being a god that we can prove there isn't one. That's not how it works.

I am perfectly aware how this works. I am also perfectly aware that there are steps that can be taken that can verify this claim one way or the other. In the most extreme example, we could send 1000 probes to Jupiter that can scan for years and if no teapot is found, that negative claim is therefore verified to be correct. However, to essentially verify this beyond a reasonable doubt we can evaluate what we do know. Is there a way to send a teapot to Jupiter? Yes. Has any teapot ever been sent from the Earth? NO. What I think you are missing is that to "prove" there is no god, one must first establish the supernatural is even possible. We know that teapots exist and we also now that the means to get them to Jupiter also exist. We have no evidence for the supernatural, no way to test for it, and therefore that PARTICULAR claim cannot be tested. It really isn't that hard, dude. A negative CAN be proven correct in certain instances. All I am saying is to claim that a blanket statement that no negative claims can be proven is not a true statement.

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
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20-07-2016, 08:21 PM
RE: Proving a negative?
(20-07-2016 08:05 PM)Old Man Marsh Wrote:  
(20-07-2016 03:44 PM)WillHopp Wrote:  I'm not stating you can't prove a negative. I'm saying you can't prove there isn't a teapot orbiting Jupiter. You've failed. Given your explanation, you could substitute "teapot orbiting Jupiter" with "god" and you're in hot water. You're then saying because we are unaware of any evidence that supports there being a god that we can prove there isn't one. That's not how it works.

You can't prove that I'm not just a brain in a jar of ambiotic fluid kept alive by wires, dreaming everything in existence.

How long should an arbitrary pissing contest last?

It really isn't arbitrary. If you say that you can't prove any negative, that is wrong if you have the means to test for it. He seems to think that if you simply substitute something we can observe and know exists (the teapot) with something that we do not know exists, can't observe, and can't test, that they carry the same weight and he's flat out wrong in that regard.

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
- Paul Dirac
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20-07-2016, 08:58 PM
RE: Proving a negative?
(20-07-2016 08:21 PM)The Organic Chemist Wrote:  
(20-07-2016 08:05 PM)Old Man Marsh Wrote:  You can't prove that I'm not just a brain in a jar of ambiotic fluid kept alive by wires, dreaming everything in existence.

How long should an arbitrary pissing contest last?

It really isn't arbitrary. If you say that you can't prove any negative, that is wrong if you have the means to test for it. He seems to think that if you simply substitute something we can observe and know exists (the teapot) with something that we do not know exists, can't observe, and can't test, that they carry the same weight and he's flat out wrong in that regard.

I'm merely asserting Bertrand Russell's analogy of the celestial teapot that is too small to be perceived by our strongest telescopes, etc. I never said you can't prove a negative. Making the argument "supernatural" certainly helps "prove" the point, but it isn't necessary.

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20-07-2016, 09:29 PM
RE: Proving a negative?
To some extent, the burden of proof rests on the person who is trying to convince someone else.

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20-07-2016, 09:45 PM
RE: Proving a negative?
(20-07-2016 09:29 PM)Fatbaldhobbit Wrote:  To some extent, the burden of proof rests on the person who is trying to convince someone else.

Certainly, and that is Russell's entire point. It's ludicrous to take him at his word that there is a teapot (orbiting the sun) so small it can't be seen even with our strongest telescopes. So there is no reason to try to prove it doesn't exist.

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20-07-2016, 10:50 PM
RE: Proving a negative?
(20-07-2016 09:45 PM)WillHopp Wrote:  
(20-07-2016 09:29 PM)Fatbaldhobbit Wrote:  To some extent, the burden of proof rests on the person who is trying to convince someone else.

Certainly, and that is Russell's entire point. It's ludicrous to take him at his word that there is a teapot (orbiting the sun) so small it can't be seen even with our strongest telescopes. So there is no reason to try to prove it doesn't exist.

I agree. I understand what Russell was trying to say, that a ludicrous claim should not be taken seriously just because the person says so. However, we all know that is not what we face in discussions on the god question.

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
- Paul Dirac
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