A note on skepticism and burden of proof.

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Adicted2aa, Sep 24, 2007.

  1. I was reading an article that some one linked to from this forum, and before I even got past the introduction I had noticed a flaw. The author maintained that if some one were to put forth the argument that he never had to shave because a six foot bunny with razor sharp teeth attacked his beard every morning, the burden of proof would lie with him and if he didn't the skeptic should say its false. Now I agree that its pretty safe to say in that instance that the man is a fibber but when making a point about skepticism the statement is flawed. A skeptic would only be able to say from that example that he didn't know if it were true. Because to belief it was false he would need proof of that as well. He could probably find it easily, but thats not the point. The point is that, to a skeptic, the burden of proof rest on any one who makes a conjecture, wether it be that something is or something isn't. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
  2. I consider myself skeptical (although perhaps I'm not a textbook definition of a "skeptic") until I see *some* evidence -- I don't necessarilly have to see compelling evidence for every little thing in order for me to believe an event really happened or didn't for example.

    One aspect that I consider very valuable to sorting out controversial issues is figuring out whether the issue is likely or even possible to be true.

    For instance, it is possible that a man was born named George Washington who later became the first president of the US. I believe it is possible because humans exist, they reproduce, men are born, and some of them become leaders, there is a place called the US that has presidents, etc etc yada yada yada. I believe it is likely because of all the historical documentation affirming his specific existence and actions during his life. I have no trouble believing that it is possible George Washington lived and was the first US president. But he's dead now, I can't see him as president for myself, so I have all the evidence I'm going to have and will have to make my decisions based on what I have.

    But let's consider the assertion that tomorrow the sun will rise in the west and set in the east. For obvious reasons, I won't believe it is likely to be true and would have great difficulty seeing how it was even possible. We can't know for sure until we wait and see where the sun rises tomorrow. Science has shown why the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. I've witnessed many things happen repeatedly in the way science describes it should. I've seen the sun rise in the east and set in the west all my life so far.

    In each of these two scenerios who deserves the burden of proof?

    I'd say whoever asserts George Washington didn't exist or wasn't a US president has the burden of proof. I'd say anyone who asserts the sun will rise in the west has the burden of proof.

    Scenerio #3:

    Jesus was a man who was also God and had supernatural powers. He instantaneously healed many people, resurrected a few from death, and finally was resurrected from the dead himself.

    Just to be clear, I don't believe that I can know for sure.

    I do believe Jesus (the man) existed. I don't believe that Jesus was also God or had supernatural powers. I have seen nothing in my lifetime to suggest it is likely or even possible for a man to possess supernatural powers like the gospels claimed Jesus used.

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