Author Topic: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question  (Read 4780 times)

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Offline Perpetual Change

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #70 on: March 28, 2013, 05:22:10 AM »
Honestly, I find discussions about who has the "burden of proof," and similar discussions to be purely academic and not really productive for anything.  In real life (as opposed to trying to "win a debate" on an Internet forum), I can have (and have had) very intersting, meaningful conversations with people who disagree with me about the existence of God without ever worrying about who has the burden of proof.  If I am trying to have a conversation with someone about the existence of God, and they don't believe God exists, I don't think that conversation would get very far with each of us trying to establish as a threshhold issue who has the burden of proof.  In reality, nobody does.  There is no rule that says one side or the other has the burden of proof.  Not only does meaningful discourse not work that way, but trying to make it work that way is actually counterproductive, IMO. 

In my opinion, what really matters is that each side can articulate why they think they have good reason to believe what they do.  In my experience, whether anyone ultimately agrees on anything or not, the most meaningful conversations happen when the approach isn't fixed on who has the burden of proof, but rather follow this general pattern:
A:  Well, why do you believe in X?
B:  Oh, well I believe in X because _________.  Why do you not believe in X?
A:  Oh, well I do not believe in X because ________.
Trying to insert artifical constructs into otherwise productive discourse more often than not turns productive discourse into nonproductive discourse.  The past two pages of discussion are a good example.

*back to lurker mode with Barry*
This is a pretty good explanation of why internet discourse can be so disappointing. It very rarely imitates the kind of "truth-seeking" discourse that can be held among good friends and other mature people of varied beliefs, and almost always defaults into something that is more akin to a nasty academic conference, or dramatized TV court hearing. When it's not defaulting into the kinda anonymous "bathroom stall" writing that characterizes most internet discussion.

My point is, I don't think I've ever had an a-ha moment as a result of an online discussion. I've had a ton of pissed off, frustrated, egotistical, and angsty moments, but very, very few  that I can think back on as being positive influences on how I've presently come to view things.

Offline bosk1

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #71 on: March 28, 2013, 08:40:14 AM »
You know what is interesting?  My Goofy/Pluto question that no one's addressed yet.

Best point in the thread so far. 

Here's something interesting:  Goofy and Pluto are both dogs, but Goofy is sentient, and Pluto isn't.  Pluto's just a regular pet dog.  What's going on there?

That's a tough question.  I can't pretend to have the answer, but here's my best shot.  It's just racism.  That's all.  Keep in mind that in October 1930, the same year that Pluto was created, tensions between China and the West were just developing, as the Chinese Communist Party was founded.  Pluto being colored yellow is obviously a somewhat bigoted reference to China.  Of the original "big five" Disney characters created during that timeframe (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto), Pluto is the only character that is yellow and is also the only character that is portrayed as less than human and unable to speak.  Coincidence?  You decide.
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Offline hefdaddy42

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #72 on: March 28, 2013, 09:15:06 AM »
Well, of course Awake is about Spider-Man.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #73 on: March 28, 2013, 09:25:03 AM »
Well, of course Awake is about Spider-Man.

Okay, well now you're just being silly.
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Offline hefdaddy42

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #74 on: March 28, 2013, 09:30:31 AM »
The burden of proof is on you, not me.
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Offline bosk1

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #75 on: March 28, 2013, 09:38:36 AM »
But...but...  :mrlol:
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Offline Ħ

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #76 on: March 28, 2013, 11:35:55 AM »
In my opinion, this is largely a discussion of semantics, which makes it somewhat pointless, because nobody ever agrees on semantics.  Especially not on the internet.  But, for whatever it's worth, I'm going to drop my two cents on the table. 

The burden of proof is on whoever is trying to prove something.  To me, it's that simple. 

It doesn't matter what it is they're trying to prove.  It doesn't matter what their position is.  It doesn't matter if they are a theist, an atheist, a strong agnostic, a weak agnostic, a gnostic agnostic, a gnostic theist, and agnostic theist, an agnostic unicornist, or whatever else - what matters is that you're trying to prove something, so prove it.  If you're trying to prove that God exists, prove it.  If you're trying to prove that God doesn't exist, prove it.  If you're trying to prove that we do not or cannot know whether God exists, prove it. 

On the other hand, if you're not trying to prove anything, you have no burden of proof.  Because... you're not trying to prove anything. 

Again, just my perspective.  But if you want to establish burden of proof, my opinion is that you should first establish who it is that's actually trying to prove something.  And that depends on the context of the discussion, not the nature of the positions being discussed. 
Spot on.

Also, I'd like to point out that there seems to be a bit of conflating between two concepts. The statement "I don't believe God exists" is logically inequivalent to the statement "I believe God does not exist." For example, an agnostic doesn't believe that God exists, but he also doesn't believe that God does not exist.
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Offline hefdaddy42

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #77 on: March 28, 2013, 12:03:26 PM »
How do you prove a negative, that ANYTHING doesn't exist, whether it be Sasquatch, unicorns, God, or Atlantis?
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Offline Ħ

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #78 on: March 28, 2013, 12:42:10 PM »
Dude we talked about this a billion times. You prove a claim by providing positive evidence for the claim. You prove Zeus doesn't exist by showing that there is no one at Mt. Olympus, no remains of an ancient council of gods or anything. You prove Santa Claus doesn't exist by showing that there is no one at the North Pole or flying around on Christmas Eve on a sleigh. You prove there is no elephant in the room you are in because you appeal to the lack of evidence that should be there if an elephant were in the room.

"But wait, I want a mathematical proof!" What a ridiculously tall order. Very very few things can we know or prove with mathematical certainty.

And let me turn the question back to you. How do you prove that something DOES exist? You can't do that with certainty. There's always a sneaky way out, an ad hoc explanation. What if you're a brain in a vat, and virtually everything you see doesn't really exist? Prove to me that you're not!
"All great works are prepared in the desert, including the redemption of the world. The precursors, the followers, the Master Himself, all obeyed or have to obey one and the same law. Prophets, apostles, preachers, martyrs, pioneers of knowledge, inspired artists in every art, ordinary men and the Man-God, all pay tribute to loneliness, to the life of silence, to the night." - A. G. Sertillanges

Offline rumborak

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #79 on: March 28, 2013, 12:51:44 PM »
Pointing to solipsism can hardly be a proof for God. There's still that thing called common sense, where one rejects things that have no more substance than figments.
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Offline Ħ

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #80 on: March 28, 2013, 12:53:05 PM »
Who's using solipsism to prove God? He must be an idiot.
"All great works are prepared in the desert, including the redemption of the world. The precursors, the followers, the Master Himself, all obeyed or have to obey one and the same law. Prophets, apostles, preachers, martyrs, pioneers of knowledge, inspired artists in every art, ordinary men and the Man-God, all pay tribute to loneliness, to the life of silence, to the night." - A. G. Sertillanges

Offline Jaffa

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #81 on: March 28, 2013, 01:03:31 PM »
You prove Zeus doesn't exist by showing that there is no one at Mt. Olympus, no remains of an ancient council of gods or anything.

True.  I can go to Mt. Olympus and look around to see if there are any gods living there, and if there aren't, there's my answer.  But I don't really have that same option when it comes to your concept of God, do I?  Your concept of God exists outside of time and space.  I can't just go outside of time and space and check to see if anybody's hanging around out there. 
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Offline Scheavo

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #82 on: March 28, 2013, 01:04:12 PM »
The statement "I don't believe God exists" is logically inequivalent to the statement "I believe God does not exist." For example, an agnostic doesn't believe that God exists, but he also doesn't believe that God does not exist.

Which is one reason why agnostics don't have a burden of proof in regards to God. They have a burden of proof regarding their claim to knowledge in general, but that is not God. It should also be the "default" position, for this reason.

Offline Ħ

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #83 on: March 28, 2013, 01:15:09 PM »
You prove Zeus doesn't exist by showing that there is no one at Mt. Olympus, no remains of an ancient council of gods or anything.

True.  I can go to Mt. Olympus and look around to see if there are any gods living there, and if there aren't, there's my answer.  But I don't really have that same option when it comes to your concept of God, do I?  Your concept of God exists outside of time and space.  I can't just go outside of time and space and check to see if anybody's hanging around out there. 
This brings us back to how God's existence can't be known scientifically. Neither theistic nor atheistic arguments rely on going outside time and space. They're arguments from inference.
"All great works are prepared in the desert, including the redemption of the world. The precursors, the followers, the Master Himself, all obeyed or have to obey one and the same law. Prophets, apostles, preachers, martyrs, pioneers of knowledge, inspired artists in every art, ordinary men and the Man-God, all pay tribute to loneliness, to the life of silence, to the night." - A. G. Sertillanges

Offline hefdaddy42

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #84 on: March 28, 2013, 01:33:08 PM »
Dude we talked about this a billion times. You prove a claim by providing positive evidence for the claim. You prove Zeus doesn't exist by showing that there is no one at Mt. Olympus, no remains of an ancient council of gods or anything. You prove Santa Claus doesn't exist by showing that there is no one at the North Pole or flying around on Christmas Eve on a sleigh. You prove there is no elephant in the room you are in because you appeal to the lack of evidence that should be there if an elephant were in the room.
That's a pretty crappy answer, and the elephant has nothing to do with existence, just presence.  You can't prove something doesn't exist, the most you can say is that you have found no evidence of its existence.  And I would imagine that is exactly what most atheists would say about God.

"But wait, I want a mathematical proof!" What a ridiculously tall order. Very very few things can we know or prove with mathematical certainty.
Who asked for a mathematical proof?  Those only really work in a classroom, and I don't live in a classroom.  I live in real life.

And let me turn the question back to you. How do you prove that something DOES exist? You can't do that with certainty. There's always a sneaky way out, an ad hoc explanation. What if you're a brain in a vat, and virtually everything you see doesn't really exist? Prove to me that you're not!
WTF are you smoking?
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Offline Ħ

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #85 on: March 28, 2013, 01:37:22 PM »
Dude we talked about this a billion times. You prove a claim by providing positive evidence for the claim. You prove Zeus doesn't exist by showing that there is no one at Mt. Olympus, no remains of an ancient council of gods or anything. You prove Santa Claus doesn't exist by showing that there is no one at the North Pole or flying around on Christmas Eve on a sleigh. You prove there is no elephant in the room you are in because you appeal to the lack of evidence that should be there if an elephant were in the room.
That's a pretty crappy answer, and the elephant has nothing to do with existence, just presence.  You can't prove something doesn't exist, the most you can say is that you have found no evidence of its existence.  And I would imagine that is exactly what most atheists would say about God.
In the days when we didn't have evidence of other galaxies, by your axiom we should therefore believe that there are no other galaxies. That's nuts.

You don't look at lack of evidence to infer nonexistence; that's backwards. You look at positive evidence to infer nonexistence. You look at positive evidence to infer any kind of truth at all, which is the whole point of the OP.

Quote
And let me turn the question back to you. How do you prove that something DOES exist? You can't do that with certainty. There's always a sneaky way out, an ad hoc explanation. What if you're a brain in a vat, and virtually everything you see doesn't really exist? Prove to me that you're not!
WTF are you smoking?
I'm saying that for whatever argument you use to say "You can't prove X doesn't exist," you can run a parallel argument to say that "You can't prove X does exist."
"All great works are prepared in the desert, including the redemption of the world. The precursors, the followers, the Master Himself, all obeyed or have to obey one and the same law. Prophets, apostles, preachers, martyrs, pioneers of knowledge, inspired artists in every art, ordinary men and the Man-God, all pay tribute to loneliness, to the life of silence, to the night." - A. G. Sertillanges

Offline Jaffa

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #86 on: March 28, 2013, 01:40:03 PM »
You don't look at lack of evidence to infer nonexistence; that's backwards.

But all you're doing with any of your examples is looking at lack of evidence.  Lack of evidence of Zeus on Mt. Olympus, lack of evidence of Santa Claus at the North Pole, lack of evidence of any elephant in the living room. 
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Offline hefdaddy42

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #87 on: March 28, 2013, 01:43:50 PM »
In the days when we didn't have evidence of other galaxies, by your axiom we should therefore believe that there are no other galaxies. That's nuts.
In the days when we didn't have evidence of other galaxies, why in the world would anyone have believed that there WERE other galaxies?
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Offline hefdaddy42

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #88 on: March 28, 2013, 01:46:31 PM »
BTW, if my post came off as hostile, I apologize.  Wasn't my intent, but sometimes things come across differently than they are intended.
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Offline Ħ

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #89 on: March 28, 2013, 01:46:44 PM »
You don't look at lack of evidence to infer nonexistence; that's backwards.

But all you're doing with any of your examples is looking at lack of evidence.  Lack of evidence of Zeus on Mt. Olympus, lack of evidence of Santa Claus at the North Pole, lack of evidence of any elephant in the living room. 
No. Understandably, it's confusing due to the number of seeming double-negatives. But think of it this way. The fact There is no one on Mt. Olympus is a positive assertion. It's just as much a positive assertion as There is someone on Mt. Olympus. Both are positive statements about the world.

Because of the positive fact There is no one on Mt. Olympus, and because If Zeus were to exist, I would find him on Mt. Olympus, I can correctly infer that Zeus does not exist.
"All great works are prepared in the desert, including the redemption of the world. The precursors, the followers, the Master Himself, all obeyed or have to obey one and the same law. Prophets, apostles, preachers, martyrs, pioneers of knowledge, inspired artists in every art, ordinary men and the Man-God, all pay tribute to loneliness, to the life of silence, to the night." - A. G. Sertillanges

Offline Ħ

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #90 on: March 28, 2013, 01:47:18 PM »
In the days when we didn't have evidence of other galaxies, by your axiom we should therefore believe that there are no other galaxies. That's nuts.
In the days when we didn't have evidence of other galaxies, why in the world would anyone have believed that there WERE other galaxies?
They shouldn't have believed either. They should have remained agnostic: "We don't know if there are other galaxies or if there are no other galaxies."
"All great works are prepared in the desert, including the redemption of the world. The precursors, the followers, the Master Himself, all obeyed or have to obey one and the same law. Prophets, apostles, preachers, martyrs, pioneers of knowledge, inspired artists in every art, ordinary men and the Man-God, all pay tribute to loneliness, to the life of silence, to the night." - A. G. Sertillanges

Offline Cool Chris

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #91 on: March 28, 2013, 01:54:06 PM »
Because of the positive fact There is no one on Mt. Olympus, and because If Zeus were to exist, I would find him on Mt. Olympus, I can correctly infer that Zeus does not exist.

Thatís an assumption, though. Stretching this a bit, but what if he left? Just because he isnít where you thought he would be doesnít mean he doesnít exist. 
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Offline hefdaddy42

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #92 on: March 28, 2013, 01:54:49 PM »
In the days when we didn't have evidence of other galaxies, by your axiom we should therefore believe that there are no other galaxies. That's nuts.
In the days when we didn't have evidence of other galaxies, why in the world would anyone have believed that there WERE other galaxies?
They shouldn't have believed either. They should have remained agnostic: "We don't know if there are other galaxies or if there are no other galaxies."
How can you be agnostic about something of which you are completely ignorant?  There would have been no reason to even know the concept of what a galaxy is before there was evidence of it.

BTW, your statements about Zeus are seeminly just semantics.  You are using two positive statements:

1) There is someone on Mt. Olympus
2) There is no one on Mt Olympus

I would imagine that the correct way to word it would be a positive and a negative.

1) There is someone on Mt Olympus
2) There is not someone on Mt Olympus

Existence is binary.  It exists or not.  It is there or it's not.  It's on or it's off.  Except for Schrodinger's Cat, which is both.
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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #93 on: March 28, 2013, 02:00:48 PM »
No, both (1) and (2) are positive statements about the world.

Anyway, everything can be worded in a negated way. Take proposition P. It's positive. Take ~~P. It's logically equivalent to P, but it's negated.
"All great works are prepared in the desert, including the redemption of the world. The precursors, the followers, the Master Himself, all obeyed or have to obey one and the same law. Prophets, apostles, preachers, martyrs, pioneers of knowledge, inspired artists in every art, ordinary men and the Man-God, all pay tribute to loneliness, to the life of silence, to the night." - A. G. Sertillanges

Offline hefdaddy42

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #94 on: March 28, 2013, 02:04:42 PM »
What, in your view, would be a negative statement about the world?
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Offline Jaffa

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #95 on: March 28, 2013, 03:30:25 PM »
No. Understandably, it's confusing due to the number of seeming double-negatives. But think of it this way. The fact There is no one on Mt. Olympus is a positive assertion. It's just as much a positive assertion as There is someone on Mt. Olympus. Both are positive statements about the world.

Because of the positive fact There is no one on Mt. Olympus, and because If Zeus were to exist, I would find him on Mt. Olympus, I can correctly infer that Zeus does not exist.

Sorry, but no, I'm not confused.  I simply disagree with you.  You aren't establishing positive evidence that Zeus does not exist, you are merely refuting positive evidence of his existence.

"If Zeus were to exist, I would find him on Mt. Olympus."  Meaning that if you find Zeus on Mt. Olympus, you have established positive proof of his existence.  And if you don't find him on Mt. Olympus, you have refuted that positive proof of his existence.  But you haven't established any positive proof of his nonexistence.

To use your own terminology, you've established absence of evidence, not evidence of absence. 

Maybe Zeus left the mountain.  Maybe the dragon in your basement is invisible. 
« Last Edit: March 28, 2013, 03:37:25 PM by Jaffa »
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Offline Scheavo

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #96 on: March 28, 2013, 07:02:30 PM »
I'm saying that for whatever argument you use to say "You can't prove X doesn't exist," you can run a parallel argument to say that "You can't prove X does exist."

Only by resorting to solipsism and other scenarios that absolutely no theory can do anything about on logical grounds. It's not a very good analogy

Offline theseoafs

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #97 on: March 28, 2013, 08:28:53 PM »
Here's something interesting:  Goofy and Pluto are both dogs, but Goofy is sentient, and Pluto isn't.  Pluto's just a regular pet dog.  What's going on there?

That's a tough question.  I can't pretend to have the answer, but here's my best shot.  It's just racism.  That's all.  Keep in mind that in October 1930, the same year that Pluto was created, tensions between China and the West were just developing, as the Chinese Communist Party was founded.  Pluto being colored yellow is obviously a somewhat bigoted reference to China.  Of the original "big five" Disney characters created during that timeframe (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto), Pluto is the only character that is yellow and is also the only character that is portrayed as less than human and unable to speak.  Coincidence?  You decide.

A good interpretation, that one, and I wouldn't put it past Disney given some of the other stuff they've put out.

I, on the other hand, think it's this:  Goofy and Pluto are of the same species, and are alike in every other way, but Pluto's got a crippling mental disability.  Mickey keeps Pluto as a pet because he does not have the linguistic capability to protest, but in reality, Pluto's happy-go-lucky animal facade masks his silent, internal cries for help.

Offline rumborak

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #98 on: March 28, 2013, 09:06:35 PM »
Nice theory. Except for one fatal flaw: Pluto isn't a planet.
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Offline theseoafs

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #99 on: March 28, 2013, 09:22:54 PM »
^Prove it.

Without resorting to solipsism, of course.

Offline rumborak

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #100 on: March 28, 2013, 09:45:48 PM »
I actually have a really good argument, problem is that it exists outside space and time and thus I can't prove the existence of the argument itself. Useful though since nobody can refute it that way. It's a bit like an imaginary friend, only I can talk to it. Trust me though, it's there.
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Offline Orthogonal

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #101 on: March 29, 2013, 01:02:05 AM »
Sorry if I'm bringing it back to my original definition of existence, but this is a salient point.

All of the main arguments posed in this thread revolve around a third-party proving, failing to prove, believing, not believing in the existence of X. The main problem with this is that it is not an objective criteria. All these arguments are basing the existence of God on a third parties experience, logic, argument, evidence etc. It implies that if people were not here, God would not exist because no one can prove, believe, argue for God which obviously doesn't make sense. Clearly, any argument For or Against the existence of God is meaningless.

An Objective criteria is one where the existence of God is based on independent criteria. The definition I proposed for Exist: Physical Presence, meets the objective criteria because the existence God or Unicorn's or any other thing you can think of is no longer tied to someone proving, not proving or believing their existence. They exist by definition if they meet the criteria of Physical Presence.

Offline theseoafs

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #102 on: March 29, 2013, 07:21:00 AM »
I actually have a really good argument, problem is that it exists outside space and time and thus I can't prove the existence of the argument itself. Useful though since nobody can refute it that way. It's a bit like an imaginary friend, only I can talk to it. Trust me though, it's there.

Oh, you. :heart

Offline Scheavo

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #103 on: March 29, 2013, 07:34:34 AM »

All of the main arguments posed in this thread revolve around a third-party proving, failing to prove, believing, not believing in the existence of X. The main problem with this is that it is not an objective criteria. All these arguments are basing the existence of God on a third parties experience, logic, argument, evidence etc. It implies that if people were not here, God would not exist because no one can prove, believe, argue for God which obviously doesn't make sense. Clearly, any argument For or Against the existence of God is meaningless.

This is impossible. We can't even prove that the objective world would be here without us to observe it. It's still possible to say that it wouldn't

Offline Orthogonal

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Re: The "burden of proof" and how it pertains to the God question
« Reply #104 on: March 29, 2013, 09:52:09 AM »
This is impossible. We can't even prove that the objective world would be here without us to observe it. It's still possible to say that it wouldn't

What? If humans weren't alive then the Universe wouldn't exist? Did the planet Neptune not exist until someone saw it through a telescope? Did deep sea creatures not exist until someone dove deep enough to find them?

Proof is a methodology human's have developed to convince or persuade other people of a theory. The existence of some thing is independent of our ability to prove it exists.