LogicalFallacy

Burden of Proof

Recommended Posts

Well since our latest visitor has been called away by God due to the horrendous assault which we inflicted upon him I thought we could have a discussion on logic and possibly a bit of philosophy - specifically about the Burden of Proof.

 

Basically it an oft said phrase that "the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim". Often atheists will say this in a response to a theist saying "prove god doesn't exist".

 

I've just read a christian blog article (By Eve Keneinan) that had the picture below that essentially attempts to turn this phrase on its head by saying the person saying that is making a claim, and therefore they have to prove it.'

 

evehoodieburdenofproofcard.png?w=640

 

Full article

 

https://lastedenblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/extra-special-pleading-how-burden-of-proof-atheists-engage-in-special-pleading-to-be-allowed-to-engage-in-special-pleading/

 

Note the whole blog is quite big and covers many topics - possibly a good read for those who like sharpening their wits against opponents of far higher standard than is usually seen in the den.

 

The writer also challenges the idea that lack of, or no belief in a god is the null or default position.

 

Some of you here have been around logical arguments and philosophy much longer than I have. What is your response to Eve?

 

Thanks

LF

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thank you for your support
Buy Ex-C a cup of coffee!
Costs have significantly risen and we need your support! Click the coffee cup to give a one-time donation, or choose one of the recurrent patron options.
Note: All Contributing Patrons enjoy Ex-Christian.net advertisement free.
♦ ficino ♦    1,697

Hi LF, thanks for posting. I haven't come across Eve Kenainen before. Her name sounds Finnish. I have read things by people she quotes: Christians Plantinga, McInerny, atheist Parsons (he's often posting over on The Secular Outpost on Patheos)...  I am not a professional philosopher. I'm a professional Classicist, but one of my main areas is ancient philosophy.

 

Having just read through Kenainen's post once, my reaction is that she's trying to block skeptical arguments by refusing to concede the skeptic anything about methodology. I'm guessing that if the skeptic appeals to some methodological principle, she'll bring out what one of my profs called "the old philosopher's trick" and demand that the methodological principle be applied to itself and proved.

 

OK, it may be possible to prove some methodological principles by appeal to a "higher" science, in Aristotle's sense. The principle about burden of proof is not a factual claim - at least, not an empirical claim. If it's going to be supported, it will be supported from principles higher than it is.

Eventually in any inquiry you reach basic laws of thought that are so basic we have to take them as axioms. They cannot be proved by appeal to anything more fundamental than they are. E.g. the principle of non-contradiction, or law of excluded middle. You can't argue for them without already using them. I'm sure you're familiar with this issue.

 

Something like principles about burden of proof, or Karl Popper's falsification principle as applied to scientific theories (which Eve thinks has been exploded), are probably less basic than the "laws of thought," so a justification may lie in the domain of what Aristotle tries to get at by referring to "first philosophy" - an inquiry into principles that are basic for the various sciences, which themselves use the principles rather than establish them as principles.

 

Douglas Walton, who works on informal logic and fallacies, distinguishes a burden of proof from a burden of casting doubt. The person who asserts a claim, that P or that not-P, faces a stiffer burden than the person who merely casts doubt on that claim. Skeptics like to inhabit the easier position of casting doubt. Kenainen is trying to take that position away from the skeptic by saying that what Walton calls the burden of casting doubt (i.e. showing that it's rational to reject a claim as not proved) collapses into a burden of proof. But the skeptic isn't arguing, "no, you said P, but it's really not-P." The skeptic is only saying, "I am not convinced that you have proved your case that it's P."

 

Somewhere in the discipline of logic or philosophy of logic, perhaps, lie the tools to tackle Kenainen's argument.

 

I'll say in passing that I'm put off by her tone, which seems to be overly polemical and talking down. Why does she put into symbolic form a very simple Modus Tollens and not just say it? We are to be impressed by her use of symbolic notation?

 

Well, this is all I can do now. Later, f

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
♦ ficino ♦    1,697

Here's a paper by Walton about burden of proof, which I liked. I don't remember whether he "proved" what he says about burden of proof!

 

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e7e9/e902e7fe7a1a0cfd0871a69e17078a1d52c9.pdf

 

BTW note that Walton is clear on negative assertive claims' need to meet a burden of proof. To assert not-P is on the order of asserting P, logically. In the case of assertions about existence of individuals, the negative assertion usually fails to rest on the kind of empirical evidence on which a positive assertion would rest. Obviously. But this is why "I don't see sufficient reason to believe in God" is so much easier to argue for than "God does not exist." Heh heh.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Isn't quoting Scripture an appeal to an authority and not a proof? Hmmm...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Geezer    2,287
4 minutes ago, ag_NO_stic said:

Isn't quoting Scripture an appeal to an authority and not a proof? Hmmm...

 

Yes, I believe so, however,  the flaw in this approach is that it isn't possible to validate the authority, in this case the Bible,  as actually being a valid source to authenticate anything. The bible, after all, must be believed on "faith" since there is no evidence that it's true.

 

The Christians basic problem is to first authenticate their source as being literally true & historically accurate, something that they have been unable to do so far. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
♦ ficino ♦    1,697

The blogger at Gone Nova does a reprise of Keneinan's post:

 

http://gonenova.com/2017/06/28/eve-keneinan-atheists-and-the-burden-of-proof/

 

This blogger seems to conflate two positions, which he (?) imagines the atheist as holding. As far as I can see, Keneinan puts those two next to each other but does not conflate them, for she says one or both may be false. Gone Nova, on the other hand, talks as though the skeptic argues:

1. the Christian is the one who must meet a burden of proof

2. the atheist position is the default position

Gone Nova seems to think that the atheist derives 2 from 1. I'm not sure Keneinan foists that reasoning onto the skeptic.

 

Anyway, 2. is an assertive claim about a position, so it must meet a burden of proof. 1. is true if it's true that the Christian is making a positive assertive claim and the skeptic is not. Then the skeptic on Walton's model (see above) must clear the lower bar of a burden of doubt, i.e. showing reason why the Christian's case is not proved.

 

Does the skeptic need to establish 1 beyond what I've just said? In other words, to take Walton's model as an example - does the skeptic have to proof IT?

 

I guess discussions can keep going backwards to more and more general principles. A start might be to investigate the consequences of denying something like Walton's model. Even the Bible says, "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" (I Peter 3:15). This means a Christian should be able to offer a justification of his/her belief. That implies some standard of what counts as a justification. A burden of proof is to be taken up.

 

Keneinan wants to restrict assigning burdens of proof to three situations: legal cases; formal disputations; some third thing, I forget what now. I don't see why we can't demand proof in informal discussions and disputations.

 

BTW in the "card" that LF included in the screenshot of his OP, Keneinan talks about skeptics who say the person who makes the positive claim faces a burden of proof. On Walton's scheme, it's the person who makes an assertive claim, whether positive or negative, i.e. "that P" or "that not P."

 

Keneinan is to be lauded for posting atheist Matt McCormick's response here:

 

https://lastedenblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/the-burden-of-proof-is-on-the-atheist-redux-by-matt-mccormick/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
God    53

I can't help you here, human, my usual resort to being confounded or bested in anyway is a big ass flood or pillars of fire and what not. I know I said not to kill that one time, but you should really try smiting those who think critically, it does wonders for the spirit.

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very quickly as a passing thought before it goes away regarding proving not p. I don't think it is possible to ever prove not p in terms of No God, no Unicorns etc. This is because the 'proof' for the claim is the lack of evidence for it which as we know runs into fallacious reasoning. Just because there isn't evidence for something doesn't mean that is proof that that something doesn't exist.

 

Its an interesting thought because one of the primary evidences say against the exodus is the LACK of any evidence for it. That's not proof that it didn't happen. Its only an indication that we should doubt that it did happen until such a time as evidence is provided that it did.

 

On the other hand we can say the great flood did not happen. All our geological, biological, and other areas of science point to a great flood can't have happened according to the information we have.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
disillusioned    752

I agree with what ficino said earlier about the skeptic's position not really being "not P" but rather "you have yet to prove P". In general, I think that the principle of the burden of proof cuts both ways; ie, if you say "P" and I say "not P" then we both share an equal burden of proof. Keep in mind that "P" could be anything, including "not A" for some other claim "A". But in this case "not P" reduces to "A". From the right perspective, every assertive claim is a positive truth claim and requires proof if it is to be accepted of necessity. But, in every day life, many claims are accepted without proof, and this is fine. The burden of proof only really exists if someone is being skeptical of the claim being made, and the party making the claim wishes to convince the skeptic. Otherwise we can just agree to disagree.

 

Regarding proving negative statements like "the exodus did not occur", I'll just say for the moment that one common way of doing this is to show that the corresponding positive claim leads to a contradiction. If we can show that the claim that the exodus did occur entails that some other verified fact can't be true, then we have a contradiction. And, so long as we assume the law of non-contradiction, we can conclude that the exodus actually did not occur. Unfortunately I don't know enough about history to make any comment on whether or not this can actually be done in the case of this particular claim.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
♦ ficino ♦    1,697

I'm in agreement, disillusioned.

 

As to Eve Keneinan's posts, I think she tries artificially to narrow the scope of the applicability of burden of proof demands. One way to look at religious claims is on a model of sales pitches. Someone is trying to sell you something. Someone else is trying to sell a rival product in the same industry. And so on. Whose product are you going to buy - the Baptist's, the Catholic's, the Muslim's, the Buddhist meditation cult guy's ... ?

 

i think it's intuitively obvious that it is irrational for the consumer of religion not to demand some justification that one religion's claims are true - let alone that the others' are false. Don't call it burden of proof, I don't care. But don't come onto my front porch selling me your religion and then refusing to take up some burden of justifying your claims.

 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the thoughts so far folks.

 

I am currently working my way through the links ficino provided.

 

Meanwhile please continue discussion. I think these (And discussions like BAA's fine tuning argument) are important to be able to adequately answer Christians of higher calibre than usually seen here. (No offense intended to any Christians who have posted here, but the arguments put forward in the den over the last few months don't even make me blink)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Rounin    76

Ah, but I do have proof for Eve Keneinan.

My proof is:

"What proof do you have that the burden of proof doesn't lie on the one making the claim?"

Either she must accept my proof, or she is a hypocrite.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Joshpantera    588
On 9/12/2017 at 5:28 AM, LogicalFallacy said:

evehoodieburdenofproofcard.png?w=640

 

This doesn't seem too hard to address. But it has to make sense in some context. 

 

1) a positive claim (a) is made.

2) a skeptic (b) asks the positive claim maker (a) to prove it, citing the burden of proof requirement.

3) the positive claim maker (a) diverts to the above, asking the skeptic (b) if they can prove the requirement of the positive claim maker (a) to satisfy the burden of proof, introducing a reverse burden of proof requirement (c). 

 

Isn't this simple enough?

 

Should there be no burden of proof requirement resting on the one making positive claims (a)? If so, why not? This is a common sense issue. Any one could claim any thing and everyone would have to blindly accept it as true if there were no reason to ask people making positive claims (a) to prove their claims (b).

 

If we consider CLAIMING positively that positive claims require a burden of proof (c), we can prove that by simply illustrating why this is so. Who's burden of proof does the claim Santa Claus exists rest on, the person making the positive claim of the existence of Santa Claus (a) or the person claiming that the former must prove it (b)? 

 

Why even introduce (c) when (b) is self evident, common sense, and more than obvious? 

 

The only reason I can think of, is to introduce a red herring thrown at (b). By someone disgruntled over the fact that they carry a burden of proof when positive claim making, and wrongly thinking they have a clever way out of their predicament by introducing (c). 

 

 

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now