Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Burden of proof

If one is (at least presumably) a person of good intellectual faith, the following statements do not require any proof other their utterance:
  1. I don't know what you're talking about
  2. I don't know why you would believe such a thing
A skeptic should ask the associated questions to anyone, from a theologian to a physicist.

A physicist will actually tell me what she's talking about and why she believes it. Funny thing: when she explains it, I can (with a bit of study) understand what she's talking about and, if she has good evidence, come to believe it myself.

The theologian, on the other hand, often bristles at these assertions. He can't tell you what he's talking about, and if he happens to say something meaningful (usually by accident), he can't or won't tell you why he believes it. Theologians will usually try to bury you in doubletalk and ambiguity, hoping you'll think it's all too complicated for your tiny little mind and just accept their authority. Newsflash: If you truly understand something, you should be able to explain it to a curious six-year-old, or, for the really super-complicated stuff like Quantum Mechanics, an ordinary college freshman (excluding those at Christian colleges, of course).

Atheism is not true just because Christianity bullshit, but Christianity is indeed bullshit. When atheists condemn theists (especially Christians and Muslims) for shifting the burden of proof, we're simply demanding they clearly answer the questions: What are you talking about? Why do you believe it? Anyone who tries to shake off the burden of proof does so only because they cannot or will not answer these simple questions.

5 comments:

  1. Joseph Scaliger6/3/09, 9:31 AM

    What theologians do you have in mind?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't condemn all theists, although I've never encountered an apologist with any intellectual honesty.

    We all have powerful intuitions that we are not brains in vats, that the external world exists outside our minds, and that other people have thoughts and feelings like we do.

    Now, it seems that for many people, that God exists is as intuitively obvious as that stuff. When someone tells me that, there is really nothing else to say. Certainly their intuition is no reason for me to believe. But it is a reason for me to not think them a total asshat.

    People can't choose what they believe. It's usually only when the believer makes bad arguments to justify his intuition that I feel the need to respond.

    For me, it's just so obvious that our best way to figure stuff out is by using the various methods of science. And if that's right then the conclusion follows from the evidence so far that minds are dependent on matter. But other people just cannot believe that. They think that there must be a mind lurking beneath it all. They cannot not believe it.



    Now, crucify me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. We all have powerful intuitions that we are not brains in vats, that the external world exists outside our minds, and that other people have thoughts and feelings like we do.

    These are not only powerful intuitions, they are (basically) scientifically supportable beliefs.

    I don't much care about other people's beliefs per se. If a theist doesn't want to justify his or her belief, that's fine with me. But if you not only can't but refuse to justify your belief, please keep it to yourself, or at least own it as an opinion, not a matter of truth.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Newsflash: If you truly understand something, you should be able to explain it to a curious six-year-old, or, for the really super-complicated stuff like Quantum Mechanics, an ordinary college freshman (excluding those at Christian colleges, of course)."

    You know, I'm pretty sure that a curious six year old would do better at grasping quantum mechanics than the average apologist would at understanding the real implications of the word "dinosaur." That may be why the apologist fails so fluidly at understanding the whole burden of proof idea.

    ReplyDelete

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