left biblioblography: IT'S EVIDENTIARY, MY DEAR WATSON! A BRIEF FORAY INTO THE BURDEN OF PROOF

Monday, February 26, 2007

IT'S EVIDENTIARY, MY DEAR WATSON! A BRIEF FORAY INTO THE BURDEN OF PROOF

I had a recent discussion (of a combative nature at times) here, upon which one poster actually stated, and I quote: "PROOF itself is simply a FORM OF EVIDENCE. There is all types of evidence: Authenticated, Witnesses, Hearsay, Circumstantial evidence, Direct evidence, and even Res ipsa loquitur."

So again we go on the merry-go-round of who shoulders the burden of proof. Of course, I maintain (as many others do) that the onus lie squarely on the shoulders of the believer, which usually results in the reply, "Prove otherwise!"

No.

I maintain that every atheist, agnostic, or other label equivalent to the 'there is no god' mindset bears the mantle of the trier of fact, which translates to: "Trier of fact is a person who determines facts in a legal proceeding. To determine a fact is to decide, from the evidence, whether something existed or some event occurred."

And of course, we fall back on the scientific definition, lacking an impartial judge, jury, etc. - "Outside a legal context, "burden of proof" means that someone suggesting a new theory or stating a claim must provide evidence to support it: it is not sufficient to say "you can't disprove this". Specifically, when anyone is making a bold claim, it is not someone else's responsibility to disprove the claim, but is rather the person's responsibility who is making the bold claim to prove it."

One of the consistent difficulties encountered is that it's been an assumption that some vast omnipotent deity has always existed (whether monotheistically or fragmentary), ergo, its non-existence is considered the bolder claim. However, as history has shown us, a consensus on a subject is more often wrong than not. An argument from tradition also has proven itself to be a weak rejoinder: little in this world is fixed in stasis.

The presuppositionalist approaches the entire subject from the wrong angle. Instead of testing the waters of said hypothesis, it is presumed to be correct, and all viewpoints flow henceforth from this fixed point (head, meet brick wall!).

Of course, by the above scientific definition, it (i.e., there is no god) can be construed as a 'new theory', but then again, we have seen that the concept of Illic est haud deus is hardly new: it has been around as long as (if not longer) any of the monotheistic constructs.

And when a group of people (no matter how large, two or two million) make an extravagant claim, it is contingent on them to provide the evidence to support their extravagance. Items such as defiance of the natural laws (bringing the dead back to life, for one) and the demonstrability of said defiance, proving the hand of some anthropic principle is behind reality (this is known as anthropic bias), or demanding that a personal anecdote be entered in as evidence.

Failing this, we then go to the documentation. Aristotle's dictum was that the "the benefit of the doubt should be delegated to the document itself, not arrogated by the critic to himself."

Of course, the book of which we speak is heir to vast amounts of errancy, so much so that is incredible that it is so widely accepted and relied upon. Not a year goes by that it is proven to be not only incorrect, but vastly mistaken on multiple levels and subjects. Historically, it misses the mark with staggering incompetency (so much so, that it's adherents are prone to use the Texas Sharpshooter method): it contradicts itself so often, that platoons of apologists have to massage and re-massage the fixed data and provide multiple translations in order to salvage it: and the fact that the myriad alleged authors that have little or no multiple historical external attestations does little to bolster it's fragile veracity. In fact, it's child's play to show that the book disproves itself (perhaps this is a bit of hyperbole: the ability to read, and some level of competency is assumed - not to mention the willingness of the listener to actually apply a yardstick of critical analysis to a cherished belief).

So we are left with little. Sporadic, unprovable witnesses of a faceless nature, an oral tradition which is shaky at best, a few historical annotations which are beset with doubt, and a set of documents that by any other standards are not only impeachable, but best relegated to the fantasy section of any bookseller.

And so the believer clings to the wreckage of that galleon which has shattered on the rocks of logic, that broken barque that is past seaworthiness, adrift on the ocean of fantasy, denying that the sailed ship is still whole, still capable.

The world is a wondrous, intricate place of beauty. I am always in awe of it: from each and every particle to the fields of flowers, the marvelous puzzle of life itself. But rather than to ask the why of it, I am more intrigued by the how of it. "Why?" is the venue of armchair philosophers. "How?" is the raison d'etre of the pragmatist.

Be then, the trier of fact, instead of the crier of slack. Question all things mercilessly.

That, dear readers, is my nickel's worth: flip it, or tuck it in your pocket.

Till the next post, then.

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19 comments:

beepbeepitsme said...

Most of us have been through this rigamarole many times.

I simplify it like this. If someone makes a claim - such as : "God exists", I am within my rights to to disagree and say, "I don't believe your claim."

I am under no obligation to prove their claim right or wrong. I can simply say that I don't believe that their claim is true.

However, if they want me to believe that their claim is true, the burden of proof is with them to make good their claim.

This process seems reasonable under other circumstances as well. If I said that I was 22, gorgeous and with an IQ of 200, you have every right to say that you don't believe my claim.

If, however, I wanted you to accept my claim, the burden of proof would be with me.

beepbeepitsme said...

Oh, and I am not 22 with an IQ of 200.

say no to christ said...

Last night I read the debate between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan and sadly Andrew tried that old played out "you can not prove god doesn't exist" and even sadder, the argument from tradition. When your beliefs are based on lies, your aguments just can't get any better.

When christians give me that ole song and dance, I remind them, that you can't prove what doesn't exist. How can I prove their is no god, if I can't prove there is a god. A Very circlular argument.

Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM:
However, if they want me to believe that their claim is true, the burden of proof is with them to make good their claim.
Sell me that car. Exactly.
If I said that I was 22, gorgeous and with an IQ of 200, you have every right to say that you don't believe my claim.
I wonder how many guys have been scammed on the Internet w/a claim like that? ;)
Oh, and I am not 22 with an IQ of 200.
But you are gorgeous? LOL.

SNTC:
Last night I read the debate between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan and sadly Andrew tried that old played out "you can not prove god doesn't exist" and even sadder, the argument from tradition.
I've seen him use that on Bill Maher.
Some of the audience applauded. Vigorously too. & there is once upon a time I'd have accepted that.
But then I grew up.

remy said...

thisisatest. Tryed earlier but no dice.

remy said...

Well.

Can't remember what I said. Something about how the Buybull raises questions right at the start and never lets up.

Oh yeah! Once up-on-a-time I began to write the questions down but my hand got tired before I got to Genesis 3.

Sadie Lou said...

KA, can you sum up the difference between someone who is agnostic and someone who is an atheist? Because I have gotten several definitions of both an agnostic and an atheist, so I thought I'd just get a few more.
:)

Krystalline Apostate said...

sadie:
KA, can you sum up the difference between someone who is agnostic and someone who is an atheist?
That falls under the umbrella of 'This AGAIN'? Kiddin'.
Atheist - one who has no belief.
Agnostic - One who is unsure either way.
We could go into 'weak' vs. 'strong', apatheist vs. ignostic, but let's keep it simple for now.

beepbeepitsme said...

RE KA

RE "But you are gorgeous? LOL."

Well my mother thought I was "gorgeous" but that is hardly an unbiased sample. ;)

RE sadie

You know how christians have different points of view of what a christian is?

Well, surprise surprise - atheists and agnostics have different points of view about the definitions. lol

This is why herding atheists or agnostics is like herding cats.

For example, under at least one definition of "atheist", you could be called an atheist, as you are "atheistic" to all the gods except one.

Me, I am atheistic towards all of them.

Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM:
Well my mother thought I was "gorgeous" but that is hardly an unbiased sample. ;)
Well, an old Korean philosopher once told me, all women are beautiful, but not all men know it.
This is why herding atheists or agnostics is like herding cats.
Very apt.

karen said...

The trick to herding cats is to go where THEY want to go. And do it one at a time of course! ;-)

I s'pose the same is true of atheists.

Krystalline Apostate said...

karen:
The trick to herding cats is to go where THEY want to go. And do it one at a time of course! ;-)
I'm put in mind of an old Sandman story about cats.
According to the vignette, once, the cats reigned supreme - humans were about the size of mice, & the cats kept them as pets, or hunted them.
1 human came up w/the idea of 'dreaming' a different reality, & about a 1000 of them did so, thereby changing the world.
This 1 cat learned of this, & traveled the world over, trying to tell all the other cats about it.
& after 1 of the 'sermons', an older cat told the kitten: "I'd like to see any king or prophet get 1000 cats to do anything in concert' (paraphrased).

Tommy said...

Whenever I get into the prove vs. disprove the existence of God debate with theists, I throw the argument at them that there may be a higher power or creator in the universe, but it is not the God of the Bible.

In other words, what if there really is a "god" but it takes no interest in us at all, and the god of the Bible is just as mythical as Zeus.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Hey tommy -

Whenever I get into the prove vs. disprove the existence of God debate with theists, I throw the argument at them that there may be a higher power or creator in the universe, but it is not the God of the Bible.
That's 1 angle - but I think that's a tight wire to tread. Too much wiggle room, & the possible accusation of being a deist.

Sadie Lou said...

atheist-one with no belief.
So if this is the case, why is there so much focus and center on Christianity?
There are lots of religious beliefs out there to be antagonistic against.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Hi sadie - there's lots of reasons to focus on it.
Note that I'm an EOB (equal opportunity blasphemer). I slam everyone.
It becomes readily apparent, IMHO, that xtianity doesn't make people better or more moral - religion (most of them) seems to pander to the worst parts of humanity.
Up until recently, it's been considered 'intolerant' to voice any sort of criticism against belief. 1 can critique politics, laws, clothing, just about anything, but religion was always off limits.
Any religion is simply a social system, like any other, & needs to be gauged in accordance w/the practitioners.
& if adherents seem to be incapable of playing by their own rules, then it's fair game.

Krystalline Apostate said...

sadie - there's other reasons as well.
1. It's readily apparent that someone in the govt. is trying to jumpstart Armageddon.
2. Xtians are subverting science, & trying to insert their beliefs into the public schools.
3. A large amount of the wackier xtians have far too much influence in how our govt. is being run (Robertson, Falwell, Dobson)
4. Too many Neocon xtians are trying to force their rules on everyone else in the US (gay marriage, abortion, etc). There's an ongoing movement to turn the US into a theocracy.
I could bring more to the table, but 4 should do for now.

Sadie Lou said...

Yeah, I can't say that I disagree with you. It does appear that some of the more wackier Christians are pushing their own agenda instead of weighing their agenda against Christ's.
It's funny, since when did Jesus ever fight for some Christian agenda? All I ever saw him do was minister to people of all races, creeds, sex, religion, financial situations--whatever! He preached his message and engaged people according to where they were at. He talked politics with politicians, he talked about the law with the legalistic and he talked in words people could understand and relate to.
I never saw him be judgmental (excpet to the Pharisees and Saducees). He never got in anyone's face and demanded respect or tolerance, in fact, it was quite the opposite.
Yet here are these Christians that bowl people over with the critisism and finger pointing! Gah! Really irks me.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Sadie - well, personally, I think jesus was a legend.
So, on a personal level, I'd like to be exempt from the forcing of belief. I get along fine w/my fellow humans.
The criticisms that your side of the fence are, to my eyes, a distinct sign of insecurity.
But that's just me.