Anyone interested in me explaining the burden of proof fallacy?

I've seen quite a few questions and answers telling atheists that they have to prove God doesn't exist. Allow me to explain why this is flawed.

Let's say the police stop you on the side of the road one day. I point you out and say "He took $100 from me." You know full well you never took that money from me, but you just happened to have $100 in your pocket.

You're arrested, and taken to trial. At trial, you show your ATM receipt for $100, and the film footage of you at the ATM. However, because you cannot prove that the $100 bills you have are the same ones that you took from the ATM, you're convicted and charge guilty.

Does that sound fair to you? After all, you know you didn't take $100 from me, but I still accused you of taking the money.

That's the same logic you're using when you claim it's the atheists that have to prove god. You're telling atheists that we took your $100, even though you can't prove it. It's a logical fallacy.

So next time you think about asking an atheist "prove God doesn't exist," think about the $100 bill.

Are there any other fallacies that need to be explained?


Mark Delivers.

Mark, you see. By me asking you to prove that God exists is the exact same thing as me saying to you "Prove to me that I stole your $100 bill."

You see? See how natural that is? You make a claim, you have to back it up with evidence. The default position is to say I didn't take your $100 bill. I don't expect you to understand.

Update 2:

@NoltAll: I can actually throw a mound of evidence on you talking about how fallible eye-witness testimonies actually are. And, did you just suggest that you saw god? That sounds a lot like a delusion. Of course, personal testimonies aren't considered evidence either, as they are not verifiable.

Update 3:

@Doctor: Nice try, but you're committing the same fallacy. There is no evidence of a designer. The null position would actually be a naturalistic explaination.

Update 4:

@LoveLaceIn Your Face: Fallacy - Appeal to Tradition. Just because something is tradition does not constitute evidence.

Humans strive to understand. They strive for knowledge. The Argument from Ignorance pretty much ruled man-kinds thoughts since the begining of our species. When we didn't know, we assigned that phenomena to some gods. Now we have a falsifiable, self-correcting method to discover the natural world.

Update 5:

@Dark: We're discussing the neutral position of lack of belief. Those that make the claim that a god exists, must show evidence of it. If they cannot, it would be fallacious to think there was on there word alone. The default position to take is a lack of belief. If I make the claim that you stole my $100 bill, I would have to show evidence of that. If I can't, it's assume that I did not steal the $100 bill.

As for circumstantial evidence, I can verify my own funds (as I have done so with the receipt). This is enough to disqualify his circumstantial evidence. However, in bizarro-wacko world where you are guilty until innocent, I cannot prove that the $100 bill I have is separate from his alleged stolen $100. Normally, I would be innocent because he cannot prove that my $100 bill is HIS $100 bill.

It's a flawed analogy, as all are. However, it best explains the idea of Burden of Proof.

Update 6:

@LoveLace: Again. Burden of Proof. You're claiming that personal testimony. Unless you have evidence this actually happened to you, it's unverifiable, and can be dismissed. I'm fairly certain there is something more definitive to explain personal testimony.

"Delusions" are thoughts of things that do not exist in reality. A deity would be such a thing. The religious generally believe in deities.

Appeal to Ignorance: Just because you can't explain the phenomenon, does not automatically make it the work of a deity.

21 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    There is no 'burden of proof fallacy'. There is overwhelming proof of the existence of a 'Supreme Being', or whatever other designation you wish to give God, so stop sounding so high and mighty will you, you're not doing your 'cause' any good.

    Blimey! I've just read your profile! 'I'm a smart and educated \college student who seems to know a lot more than I should'. LOL: CONCEITED MUCH?!!

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  • 3 years ago

    Burden Of Proof Fallacy

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  • If that was a real case in a court of law, it would be thrown out. The defendant is always presumed innocent until proven guilty. The testimony of the accuser would not be enough to convict them, especially if there was evidence which suggested reasonable doubt. Pictures of the person at an ATM and an ATM receipt would suggest reasonable doubt. No jury would convict under those circumstances.

    If you accused me of stealing $100 from you, you would have to prove that you had the $100 in the first place. You would also have to prove that the $100 in my pocket actually had belonged to you (forensics should be able to match the smudges on the bills to your fingerprints if the money had belonged to you). You would have to point out exactly where you were and where I was when the money was taken. I would have to be placed at the scene. Et cetera, et cetera.

    Now, the way the burden of proof has ALWAYS worked is like this: The burden of proof falls on the person making the absolute claim, no matter what the claim is. Period. You say that there absolutely is no God, prove it. If I said there absolutely is a God, it would be up to me to prove it. That is the way it is. Don't like it? Don't make absolute claims, otherwise you can be called upon to prove it.

    Source(s): Civics, criminal justice
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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Jared is correct. You need to research 'argument from ignorance' as a fallacy.

    But let me add...

    You would have to prove jou were robbed still, just 'saying so' does not constitute proof. You could always help your case by proving you have never lied with testiments to your character, but it would still be hearsay.

    Also, it is not a fallacy.

    What I am getting from your 'explanation' is that you have missed a key point, or are at least edging towards it. The fact that the burden of proof is with the source, doesn't prove there is no god. It is possible that every fallacy in the book is being used to convince us of God, but it doesn't mean there is no god, just that it is not provable or likely.

    You still have a burden of proof, but it doesn't necessarily mean it isn't true.

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  • 1 decade ago

    It's really quite simple. Theists claim that there exists a force outside of space and time*, personified, allpowerful, etc. etc.

    The position of the atheist is "fine, what's your evidence".

    The burden of proof is on the one making a claim, not the one disbelieving it. Atheism on it's own does not make a claim, it merely disputes the claim of theism.

    *) ignoring for the time being what this claim does to the definition of "exist"

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  • 1 decade ago

    Good example! Burden of proof is with the claimant.

    If someone claims there's a god, it's up to them to prove it, otherwise they can't expect anyone to believe it. If someone claims there are no gods, equally they would have to prove that.

    As there is no evidence for any gods so far, it would be impossible to prove or disprove their existence. Intellectual honesty demands an absence of belief without positive evidence, otherwise we could believe in anything far-fetched and fanciful, such as unicorns, pixies and giant invisible flying tomatoes.

    Thus the present level of evidence demands a lack of belief in gods.


    @Mr. china 2009-

    <<christains don't have to prove god to you. we stand firm in our faith, however its in your long term interest to seek after Jesus>>

    Why? I have no reason to do so. I have no evidence to indicate that there would be any reason to do so. If you think so, can you provide such evidence?

    That's the point being made here. Would you accept my telling you that it's in your long term interest to seek after Zeus?


    @I tell you whut-

    <<There is overwhelming proof of the existence of a 'Supreme Being'>>

    OK, where is it? Post a link?



    <<Since a designer is the null hypothesis, you must present evidence against it >>

    No, the reverse. That is a claim, not a null hypothesis. If you claim there is a designer, it is up to you to provide the evidence. Do you have any? If I claim there are 12 designers and 3 of them are blue, is it up to you to disprove that? That would be a nonsense. You make the claim, you prove it.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    That's called circumstantial evidence, and it's used to falsely convict people all the time. Also, it's not the same as proving a negative.

    Negative proof is also called "argument from ignorance." Perhaps you should look that up on Wikipedia for more information.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Ah, but the Fundamentalists will see your mystical $100 thief* in Hell.

    Catholics will see the $100 thief in Purgatory.

    Why don't we place this bet and see who dies first? Loser dies first, winner gets the $100. No murder now, that's not fair play.

    -------------------blah blah blah--------------

    PS. What religion would you choose? Protestants have actually removed part of their Bibles (called the Apocrypha...)... weird, huh?

    Pope John Paul II "Better to think of hell,’ he explained the next week, ‘as more than a physical place, as the state of those who freely and definitely separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy.’ "

    The pope was describing instead what Catholics consider the core essence of hell: knowledge that you failed to choose salvation in God. But to Protestant fundamentalists in the United States, who prefer the physical burning pit described in the Bible, any suggestion that hell is simply an abstraction is a dangerous, even blasphemous notion.

    * (Oh, and throw in the Judge too, and the wrongful accuser, the liar, the jury?.. anyone else who does not believe ... just random folks as well...) ... just kidding.... sort of.... All religious groups sometimes seem so judgemental & self righteous to me. (I feel alienated by my own Catholic faith and my own Catholic Mother...,sometimes! ~ sighs)

    Source(s): (I'd skip the words and scroll down to the easy list) Colorful graph depicts the original branches of Christianity I'd rather be a part of the main tree trunk,than just a mere branch. read my answer?;_ylt=At... I'm not a perfect God-like being. I am a sinner who "suffers" from lustful lesbian fantasies. I will be punished for my sins ("if there is a God" adds my Atheist husband... bad boy he keeps encouraging my lesbian fantasies! which are for ME not HIM, darn it.) Who amoung mankind has not sinned? Lots of men suffer from lust. Why is so strange that a woman should suffer from the sin of lust as well? Weirdos. I'm surrounded by a bunch of weirdos! Hypocrites, probably a better word!
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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I think the important lesson we have learned is that Christians are complete idiots. By the way, someone prove to me that Santa Claus doesn't exist. I want my $100.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit.

    edit: Ugh. Apparently you don't understand. Look, you make a claim, you prove it. You claim God exists? You prove it. You claim God doesn't exist? You prove it. Anything posited without evidence can be dismissed without evidence...including negative beliefs.

    For example, if I were to say "I don't believe you're really cognizant." -- This is an incredible statement that requires evidence, even though it is a statement of negative belief.


    Edit again: Ah well, arbitrarily redefine ancient maxims as you please to suit your paradigm. I don't care. The maxim's original use won't change.

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