mikeinnaples, on 14 June 2012 - 12:03 PM, said:
No you haven't... not once.
What a drag. I am tired of this.
1. Definition of Atheism.
2. Atheism isn’t a belief so needs no evidence.
3. You can’t prove a negative?
4. The Burden of Proof Is not on the Atheist because they don’t believe in anything.
Another familiar strategy of atheists is to insist that the burden of proof falls only on the believer. If that’s right, it may allow the Atheists to avoid evidentialism’s requirements, and rationally maintain atheism without evidence. But is it right?
You can see Atheists play the why game most of us learned as children. All you have to do is ask a version of “why,” any time any theist makes a statement about God. Does the Atheist also get to play? No because Atheists clame they don’t believe anything and have no burden of proof.
The concept of ‘burden of proof’ (Latin, onus probandi) originally goes back to classical Roman law, and it remains important in legal theory. Who has the burden of proof, and what it consists of, is determined by a judge or by established rules which vary across legal systems. The same is true of formal debates which occur in a variety of formats. The idea of ‘burden of proof’ also has application in non-formal settings; for example, in academic disputes or public controversies. However, without a judge or rules to determine who has the burden and how it is to be discharged, it becomes unclear how the concept is to be applied, or even whether it has clear application.
Yet although the concept of burden of proof in informal settings is ill-understood, that does not stop many from confidently proclaiming how the burden of proof should be assigned. The most egregious mistake is to think that it is a matter of logic. Rather, the burden of proof is a methodological or procedural concept. It is, in Nicolas Rescher’s words, “a regulative principle of rationality in the context of argumentation, a ground rule, as it were, of the process of rational controversy” (Dialectics, 1977). Another error is to presume that the burden falls on whoever is making the grammatically positive statement. However, positive statements can often be translated reasonably faithfully into negative statements, and vice versa: the statement ‘everything happens for a reason’ can be expressed as ‘there are no coincidences’, and ‘there is nothing supernatural’ can be restated as ‘reality is wholly natural’. A third problem is that to be taken seriously many negative statements – ‘there are no atoms’, ‘there are no coincidences’ – require evidence, whereas the corresponding positive statements do not.
It is sometimes said that one acquires a burden of proof if one’s statement runs counter to received opinion, and it does seem that burden of proof often falls in this way. But this proposal has problems too – one being that a person can legitimately take on a burden of defending a widely-held position to those who are ignorant of it or its defense (teachers do this, for example). It may be that the best we can hope for is something like the following: in situations in which participants to a discussion are expected to take seriously the claims made by other parties, all participants bear a burden to provide support for their claims, if asked (see James Cargile’s paper ‘On the Burden of Proof’ in Philosophy 72, 1997).
The concept of burden of proof in informal settings is too complicated to sort out here in this post, but fortunately, we don’t have to, because the question of which side has the burden of proof in an argument is largely independent of the question of what evidence is required to rationally believe any of the positions. Suppose for example that someone claims that there are no electrons, and that person bears the burden of proof. It’s not the case that so long as their burden hasn’t been discharged people can rationally believe that electrons exist without evidence. On the contrary, as evidentialism says, evidence is required for the belief to be justified even if there is no burden to defend the belief. This means that even if the burden of proof never falls on the atheist in disputes with theists (something we have so far found no reason to believe), it does not follow from that fact that atheists can rationally believe without evidence that there is no God or other divine reality. Consequently, the concept of burden of proof is also of no use to the Atheists in avoiding the demands of evidentialism. Where is the evidence?
What about Ockham’s Razor, the principle of parsimony associated with the medieval philosopher and monk, William of Ockham Is Atheism the simplest answer and God is something made up like the Spaghetti Monster? The simplest answer is to be preferred?