Atheists frequently claim they do not believe in God due to a lack of evidence. They will tell you such things as God is “a hypothesis,” “unfalsifiable,” “not empirical,” and so forth.
And yet, almost all of these same people believe in fairies. Or at least one fairy: The Burden of Proof Fairy. They keep telling me that this fairy is sitting on my shoulder. And that the fact that she is morally obligates me to do things they desire me to do, which I never agreed to.
Now, when someone tells you that you have to obey them because there’s an invisible fairy sitting on your shoulder, which somehow magically places you under a moral obligation, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask them for evidence of this. And so I do.
I get the strangest answers from atheists about why the Burden of Proof Fairy exists. At least, I find them strange, because I know they wouldn’t accept any one of these as evidence of the existence of God:
“It’s obvious that the Burden of Proof Fairy exists.”
“You are stupid if you don’t believe in the Burden of Proof Fairy.”
“The Burden of Proof Fairy exists by definition.”
“Lots of authorities say that there is a Burden of Proof Fairy.”
[Addendum: a new proof of the Burden of Proof Fairy, courtesy of Josh Randolph:
“She’s just there.”]
And my favorite,
“You have to believe in the Burden of Proof Fairy—or else the You-Have-To-Believe-Everything Monster will come and get you!”
(The You-Have-To-Believe-Everything Monster is some kind of mythical monster that has the power to morally obligate you to believe everything anyone asserts without evidence—the only thing that can cancel this moral obligation is to believe in the saving power of the Burden of Proof Fairy, confess she is real and sitting on your shoulder, and accept her moral commandments. To me, this sounds like trying to sell me a made-up cure for a made-up disease, but many of them do seem to sincerely believe in both the monster and the fairy)
What’s amazing is the sheer blind faith atheists have in the Burden of Proof Fairy. It frequently gets in the way of discussions about God. Many atheists simply won’t have a discussion about God unless I will first agree to accept their faith belief in the Burden of Proof Fairy. They just cannot accept that I won’t, and they’d rather end a conversation than proceed without my credal confession that the Burden of Proof Fairy exists. I am unaware whether there are different denominations among atheists depending on variant dogmas concerning the Burden of Proof Fairy. I assume that there are, but it seems to be nearly universal atheist orthopraxis to invoke the Burden of Proof Fairy against theists.
Amazing again is the sheer indignation with which I’m met when I ask for evidence of the existence of the Burden of Proof Fairy. I swear I think most atheists would prosecute me under some kind of blasphemy law if they could for daring to question the existence of the Burden of Proof Fairy. And yet, these are the very same people who endlessly demand and command you to produce evidence that God exists.
Why are they not aware that God exists? They usually claim that there is “no evidence”—which is nonsense of course, given the couple dozen cogent metaphysical demonstrations, the experiences and testimony of literally billions of human beings, and of course the general consensus of the human race, being at least minimally aware of the divine reality as most of us are. What they really mean is “there isn’t evidence which subjectively convinces me“—which I tend to view more as problem with the me than the evidence.
Back to the Burden of Proof Fairy. She’s invisible, undetectable by any empirical or scientific means, immaterial, and alleged to have a moral power to obligate persons to obey her. And atheists absolutely, fanatically, believe in her. Or should I write Her?
If you don’t believe me, try asking an atheist for evidence that the Burden of Proof Fairy exists. You’ll be amazed at the reactions you get.
I made a guide to understanding the Burden of Proof Fairy for you all. With cartoons! Enjoy.
“For since the creation of the world the Burden of Proof—its eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
—Sources, sources, sources. Numbers. (Is this working?)
Honestly (and sadly) this was probably the strongest case anyone made.
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On the other hand, unaware self-satire tends to outclass the intentional stuff. But I did my best. Thanks!
Can you prove that the burden of proof fairy doesn’t exist?
No, but since I don’t believe in her, I have no burdens at all in the matter. Only her believers are obligated by their faith to take up these mythical burdens. I don’t mind if your religion obligates you to certain rituals, but leave me out of them.
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“I don’t mind if your religion obligates you to certain rituals, but leave me out of them” said ever nonreligious and religious minority ever as Christians once again attempt to be the worlds morality police
Why on earth does not believing in the burden of proof fairy relieve you of any burden of proving she doesn’t exist?
The same reason you suppose that not believing in God exempts you from obeying God’s commandments. I don’t believe in your mythical, magical, invisible, unverifiable burdens. I don’t need to be “relieved” of something that doesn’t exist. Your faith belief that I have a burden doesn’t mean I do, nor is it any reason for me to think I do.
The burden of proof belongs only to the one who asks another to agree with them.
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Why should I believe this? Your say-so isn’t sufficient as evidence.
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Strawman fallacy. You’re attempting to twist the burden of proof into something it’s not, then demanding evidence for it.
This “article” is debunked. Have a nice day.
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You have in no way proven that the Burden of Proof Fairy exists. I don’t believe things just because you assert them without evidence. Only the caricature of an ARGUMENT can be a strawman. There is no argument for the Burden of Proof Fairy, just assertion.
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So you dont believe that people who make assertions are obligated to back up (ie: prove) their assertions with evidence if they want to be taken seriously?
How do you evaluate people’s claims?
If someone wants to show me a demonstration of something I am interested in, I examine it, to see if it is cogent or not.
That has nothing to do with me or anyone else attempting to impose moral obligations on others against their will.
Ummm… If you make an extraordinary claim, then it’s up to you to provide sufficient backing. That’s just good argumentation. Objective evidence is the standard here.
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Well, this is an extraordinary claim, since you are trying to place obligations on others. So it’s up to you to provide objective evidence that it is true. Please do. I don’t believe in your Fairy.
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Yes I agree, if you presuppose that everything is evidence for god, you’re bound to find plenty of it. Unfortunately, here in the real world, that’s called circular reasoning and it doesn’t quite cut it. And execution for violating blasphemy laws? Nah, that’s more your lot’s thing.
Tell me, if a random stranger came up to you claiming to be your long lost brother, or something equally implausible, you would require some concrete evidence to believe it, wouldn’t you? And if his attempt at proving his relationship to you was to say “well, if you presuppose that we’re related, you’ll find plenty of evidence,” you’d probably think he was insane, and you probably wouldn’t be particularly swayed by some rando saying “oh yeah, I believe in him being your brother.” But an atheist applies the same thought process to internally-inconsistent mythology and suddenly it’s unreasonable and christian persecution? Give me a break.
This argument is silly, since it can be applied to anything at all. Whatever claim is supposed to be demonstrated, one can always say “Yes, but you *presupposed* the kind of evidence you’d need to demonstrate it, so *of course* you found it, which is circular reasoning.”
By your argument, *all reasoning* is invalid, because *all reasoning* is circular reasoning.
Here, I’ll just make the general form for you, to save time: All argument presupposes the validity of rational argument, but this cannot be proven, since this would require an argument, which would be circular. Hence, the validity of rational argument is merely a question-begging presupposition. Therefore, all argument is invalid. Rational proof is impossible.
So therefore, applying the same method to the fairy herself, your disbelief of the burden of proof fairy puts the burden of proof of its non existence on you, and furthermore because (contents of this post) *sheer indignation* *fanatically* *stupid* *a cartoon!* she is real.
The burden is on the positive claim because it is impossible to prove a negative. “Does a fairy exist?” is rendered true by finding a fairy (does not require omnipresence). “does a fairy not exist?” is not rendered true by not finding a fairy (would require omnipresence). Therefore, as limited beings, the first claim is what must be evaluated as a necessity of finding a truth value.
This is the most basic of epistemology.
“it is impossible to prove a negative.”
That’s simply false. Every positive claim can be made a negative claim by changing “true” to “not false” or “false” to “not true.” If it’s impossible to prove a negative claim, it is impossible to prove ANY claim at all, and since that’s false, so is this.
You’d know that if you’d read around more
and here: https://lastedenblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/you-cant-prove-a-negative-part-2/
The fact you believe this silly, silly bit of folk logic shows that you aren’t really versed in “basic epistemology.”
“The burden is on the positive claim…”
This is a positive claim. So PROVE IT! Prove your Fairy exists. I don’t believe in her.
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Uh… what? Is this satire? The burden of proof isn’t about fairies, nor any magical beings. If someone makes a claim (like: God exists), then it’s their job to prove that their claim is true. It’s that simple. It would be no different if someone claimed that God does NOT exist. They would have to prove their claim, or it can be rejected as unproven. Most atheists I know don’t go around claiming to KNOW that God doesn’t exist… they simply haven’t been convinced by the unproven claims that he does exist. That isn’t a problem with THEM, it IS a problem with the evidence.
This whole article reads like an attempt to weasel out of providing proof for one’s claims. I don’t know what “metaphysical demonstrations” are, can you demonstrate one right now? “The experiences and testimony of literally billions of human beings” don’t count for much when all those testimonies contradict one another an describe something different each time. Do you believe in EVERY god, spirit, angel and genie that anyone has ever claimed to have experienced? I don’t know for sure, but I bet you don’t.
If there is no burden of proof, then I guess we’re all just expected to take every claim we hear as true, without a single shred of evidence, without any fact-checking, without a drop of skepticism. To me, that sounds like a foolish way to live.
The burden of proof is not a fairy, it’s a burden (Hence the name. It doesn’t need any magical add-ons). The burden is taken on by anyone who makes a claim which they hope will be believed. Prove it first, THEN it can be believed.
“If there is no burden of proof, then I guess we’re all just expected to take every claim we hear as true, without a single shred of evidence, without any fact-checking, without a drop of skepticism.”
See? Just like I said, you are telling us if we reject the Fairy, the Monster will get us! But I don’t believe in the Monster, so I don’t need the Fairy to save me.
“If someone makes a claim (like: God exists), then it’s their job to prove that their claim is true.”
This is a claim. So it’s your job to prove it is true. Please prove your Fairy exists!
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What is all this about monsters and fairies? Are you just THAT unreasonable? Attempting to have a conversation like this is ludicrous.
Do you, or do you NOT, think that we should believe any claim which comes along? Because I don’t. I think that if a person claims that some magical being or realm is real, then I am justified in not believing it until they prove that what they’re talking about is an actual thing.
Is there the possibility of a grown-up debate on the subject? Or are you happy to anthropomorphize everything into fairies in order to avoid a sensible discussion? This is like talking to children… “Nuh uh, YOU believe in fairies!”
No “monster” will get you. The only thing that will happen is people will stop taking you seriously, and think that you make things up without caring if they’re true.
“I think that if a person claims that some magical being or realm is real, then I am justified in not believing it until they prove that what they’re talking about is an actual thing.”
And this is exactly what I am saying about the Burden of Proof Fairy. I don’t believe in her, and I won’t until someone proves to me she exists.
I don’t know why you keep talking about “fairies” and “monsters”. This is a childish avoidance of the subject.
When you make a claim (especially one which is fantastic and unlikely), if you expect anyone to believe you, then it’s important to provide proof and evidence to support that claim. Otherwise, the “believers” that you’ll attract will only be the most gullible and intellectually dishonest people, with the poorest critical thinking skills. To negate the idea of burden of proof is to say that you don’t CARE if those are the people you are attracting.
I don’t even understand the point of your article. Why are you trying to villainize the idea of providing evidence? Don’t you care if people believe the things you say? Don’t you care if the things you say are confirmably true? Are you just trying to distract from the fact that there IS no evidence to support your own claims? This is all such a transparent dodge, a shout of “Look over there!” when someone asks (quite reasonably) for proof. Of all the things you should be trying to discourage, making outrageous supernatural claims with no proof should be high on the list. Instead, you’re seeking to protect such snake-oil salesmanship.
I assume you support such concepts as truth in advertising, or honesty under oath. Surely you wouldn’t be so facilitating if a drug manufacturer wanted to claim that their product cures any disease, or if our criminal justice system tried to convict people with no attempt at proving their crimes. I don’t know why you’d scorn the burden of proof in ANY arena of life. Is that how you’d like the world to work?
Heck, even your claim of a “burden of proof fairy” can’t be taken seriously WITHOUT the burden of proof.
Perhaps an analogy might help you. Consider these two scenarios:
Scenario A: I ask you to lend me $100.
Scenario B: I inform you that you have the Burden of Lending, and that you are OBLIGATED, that is you MUST, whether you want to or not, lend me $100.
Is there any difference between A and B?
I would say Yes, there is. In scenario A, I am asking you to do something that it is within your power to do, should you choose to do it. In scenario B, I am attempting to coerce you to do something whether you choose to or not, by telling you you have an OBLIGATION or BURDEN to do the thing that I am demanding you do.
The problem in scenario B, besides its discourtesy, is that I am attempting to exert a moral RIGHT or PRIVILEGE over you, that I do not, in fact, possess.
To express this is terms of Hohfeldian rights (see https://lastedenblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/02/hohfeldian-rights/) I would be attempting to elevate my LIBERTY RIGHT to ask something (for a loan, or for an account of one’s reasoning) to a POWER RIGHT that would give me the power cancel your LIBERTY RIGHT (of use of your property, or of freedom of speech) and assign you a DUTY TO DO which you cannot rightfully refuse (to grant a loan, or to engage in a certain kind of speech).
But in truth, no one in ordinary discourse has a Hohfeldian Power Right to cancel their interlocutor’s Liberty Right to answer (or not) as they deem fit and assign a Duty of Speech. This is exactly parallel to the loan example. The fact that someone has a Liberty Right to ask for a loan does not entail that they have a Power Right to obligate someone else to loan.
You are advocating a pseudo-“right” to coerce others into certain kinds of speech acts. I deny you or anyone has any such “right.”
There is no “right” of coercing-others-to-speech; and I am exercising my Hohfeldian Liberty Right to freedom of speech when I point out that there is no right to coerce-another-to-speak; and I will further continue to exercise my Hohfeldian Liberty Right to freedom of speech by consistently refusing to comply with any and all attempts to coerce either my belief that anyone in ordinary discourse has such a Hohfeldian Power Right, or to coerce me into whatever speech they desire on the basis of such a specious right.
Now see, why couldn’t THIS have been the basis for your blog post, instead of going on about monsters and fairies? This is much more mature, and reasonable.
Nevertheless, your analogy is wrong. It doesn’t correctly describe the situation. When people use the phrase “burden of proof”, they aren’t trying to “coerce” you into doing something you don’t want to do. Your analogy is missing a very important concept, one which I’ve already mentioned above.
Anyone is free to make any claims they like without ever providing evidence or proof. The “burden” of proof only appears when … and this is the important part… when you expect to be believed. If you don’t care about THAT, then there is no burden on you. Say anything you like, no one will stop you. But if you want to be taken seriously, if you want other people to think that you are saying TRUE things, then they have every right to expect evidence before accepting your claims. In vetting a claim before accepting it, they are doing the right thing by asking for evidence. For reasons I don’t understand, you seem to be trying to make them look foolish or arrogant for asking.
No, people can’t FORCE you to give them money, any more than they can FORCE you to give them evidence. But a correct analogy would work this way… if someone wants to borrow money, and you expect to be paid back, then you have a right to ask for collateral. If you are making claims, and you expect to be believed, then your listener has a right to ask for evidence before they give you their belief.
God has a divine nature and eternal power. Burden of proof is simply an agreement that can be made to make discussion shorter. A rule in a contest.
Though both can be clearly visible, the entering into is vastly different. We have been entered into the universe without consent. We enter into an agreement with mutual consent.
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If you do not believe in ” the burden of proof” Why do you need proof to believe, if burden of proof is not real then you don’t need it so you should believe, if you believe then you should fulfill the obligation. What do you need to be convinced of the existence of burden of proof.
I don’t believe in things without what I judge to be sufficient evidence. What I’m talking about is OBLIGATIONS. See what you did? You told me I SHOULD BELIEVE. In other words, you are trying to place a MORAL OBLIGATION ON ME TO DO SOMETHING, WITH NO JUSTIFICATION WHATEVER.
Your “argument” (such as it is) is one I already refute in my post: You say if I don’t believe in your made-up burden of proof fairy, then I MUST, I AM MORALLY OBLIGATED, to believe in other things. In other words, you did what so many atheists do: you claimed that if I refuse the divine protection of the fairy, the MONSTER will get me.
But I don’t believe in the MONSTER either. I don’t know why you don’t get this. It would be exactly like a Muslim telling you that “you must” believe in Allah, or else Allah will send you to Hell, seemingly unable to realize that one who does not believe in Allah probably doesn’t believe in the Muslim account of Hell either.
Look at every place you wrote “you should” and then remind yourself, you have no right to obligate me to do anything.
Eve, isn’t the real issue here not that the use of the burden of proof needs to be by agreement but rather the cognitive failure to properly raise it in the context of inductive, deductive, and abductive reasoning? After all, where the form of an argument is valid, the burden of proof has been met. Right?
Not always. Sonetimes even sound arguments fail to prove its conclusions. That because although the premises are true the person does not accept them as true.
Proof in philosophy as in many other areas like law is subjective. What is considered proof by one person doesn’t always suffice for another.
[…] of proof. This is something of a pet peeve for my friend Eve Keneinan, who has a hilarious post on The Burden of Proof Fairy and the You Have To Believe Everything Monster. The topic under consideration is usually phrased, “the person making the claim has the […]
This is not a “straw-man” as much as its a reductio ad absurdum, the fact that its conflated with fairies should have been a giveaway. (which is a valid way to argue) A strawman is a misrepresentation of another persons position. The person who wrote this article could have done a better job of articulating what they are really addressing. Ignorant people often fail to use the strawman argument correctly. Strawmen fallacies typically deal with misrepresenting individuals arguments. It is better to use that label when you are in a back and forth, and the other person is misrepresenting you, and not someone else. To misuse strawman as “misrepresenting a definition or concept” actually assumes words or concepts (like burden of proof) have inherent truth meaning. (which atheists tend to deny) Again, strawmen are more directed to misrepresenting a persons position and NOT misrepresenting a concept.
This is why people who aren’t stupid don’t throw around that label.
The fact of the matter is many atheists do in fact, on one hand deny they hold any positions at all.
Oh the other, they assert a position that the burden of proof is absolute and objective.
The writer of this article used fairies to try and show the “ridiculousness” of this hypocrisy.
It is in this way that its not a misrepresentation of those particular atheists.
Ironically to say that this “twisting the meaning of burden of proof” Is actually a misrepresentation of the person who wrote the article.
The articles meaning and intent was to show this hypocrisy, and could easily swapped “the definition of atheism as a lack of belief fairy” with “burden of proof fairy” and the point would have been the same.
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[…] burden of proof is a notion harmful to clear thinking. My first post about it was here. And here is a blog from someone who thinks very much the same way. Here I will try to score some further […]