I received another thought-provoking series of comments from tildeb on the topic of burden of proof, and I thought the ideas warranted another entry. Below are my direct responses to some quotes from tildeb — I appreciate tildeb’s contribution to the discussion, as well as the content of the ideas presented therein. My thanks! (more…)
Hello makagutu, and Happy New Year!
First, a point of clarity: Reading your entry, I get the impression that you took from my post that I was trying to divert the burden of proof away from the theist and onto the atheist. This is not the case; rather, I was pointing out that those who claim definitively that God does not exist also have a burden of proof to back up their statement with evidence. Just because their belief is founded on the rejection of something’s existence does not mean that their position does not require defending.
Secondly, I think we are suffering somewhat from a disparity of definitions — namely, your definition of “atheism” is more in line with what I would call “agnosticism”. When I think of “atheism”, I am referring to those who claim that God does not exist, not to those who have simply yet to see compelling evidence for God’s existence. If your definition of atheism adheres more closely to the latter, then I would agree with you — the atheist (by this definition) has no burden of proof whatsoever, because his opinion on the matter is largely one of inconclusiveness. Furthermore, if an atheist is simply one who believes in no gods by default because none have yet to be proven, then for the sake of clarity I think another term should be chosen to denote those who have come to some kind of definitive conclusion that the evidence supports a universe with no gods better than a universe with gods (or God). I think there is a significant difference between these two worldviews, so lumping them under the umbrella of “atheism” I think muddies the waters when it comes to clear discussion.
Now, on to your counterpoints: (more…)
In my experience of discussing the question of God with people, there seems to be a recurring attitude that I often encounter among atheists that I think deserves some scrutiny, for I regard it as a mental sand trap that can hang people up and prevent them from having a forthright discussion about God’s existence. Now, I am not at all generalizing here in saying (or even implying) that all atheists fall into this trap, and whether it is a trap at all would have to be determined on the merits of my points that follow — I could, after all, be completely mistaken. But, if we value candid discussion here (which I hope we do), we have to start somewhere. So here we go.