Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The burden of Proof

I was reading the comments on this blog, and came across this ping pong about the burden of proof. Theists seem to either struggle to get it, or to disingenously obfuscate.

Hume established a fairly important point in this regard which perhaps can help to cut through the noise. In summary "extraordinary claims, require extraordinary evidence.".

The theist claims that not only is there an invisible being everywhere and everywhen, but that it is all powerful, good and knowing, despite the world we see. To explain this glaring disconnect, the theist must resort to convoluted, but ultimately futile feats of logic, resorting to platitudes such as "God is God", "It's a mystery etc.", to fill the void the application of logic inevitabley leaves.

Furthermore we are to understand that this being desires a very specific body of behaviours from humans, but theists cannot actually agree on what this body of behaviour is, how it has been communicated, or wether it may change, often disagreeing violently with each other on the specifics.

Yet those that reject all of these absurd, mutually contradictory and frequently objectionable bodies of belief, must "prove" to the satisfaction of any given religious adherent
a) The non-existence, of a being noted for it's desire not to be found. We know this of course, only because its acolytes have told us. It is not entirely clear how they know, and although they don't agree on much, they do seem to agree on this.
b) That a particular body of religious claims, is untrue.

This seems to me to be stacking the deck. The burden of proof clearly rests with those making the extraordinary claim. Humes simple idea dismisses all religions (presented to date) at a single stroke, because they have all uniformly failed to present compelling evidence despite having had several thousand years to do so. By comparison the germ theory of disease, took about 50 years to become standard practice across the entire planet.

To hamfistedly demand that the sceptic prove a negative, is to dismiss the most powerful tool of investigation the human race has ever developed, or perhaps merely to fail to understand it.

Whatever the reason for doing so, the outcome will always be muddle, tautology and occasional violence, which of course is exactly what we see on the religious front.


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