Burden of Proof

Burden of Proof

What about the burden of Proof?  There seems to be three definitions for what the burden of proof means. There is the philosophical definition that is used in debates where the burden of proof is on the person making a claim for something. Then there is legal definition that varies from country to country. In the United States, the legal burden of truth is on the prosecutor. Then there is, what you might call the agreed-on  burden of truth where two people holding opposite views agree on each taking turns to affirming a proposition with the other taking the negative. The latter form of the burden of truth is what is practiced tacitly in a normal discussion.

It could also be argued that if one is challenging a recognized consensus of a culture or a discipline, the burden of proof would be on the challenger. For instance, if a person challenges a theory of science in which there is a consensus that a theory is correct the burden of proof would be on the one challenging the consensus, e.g. the big-bang theory. The scientific community does not accept that it has the burden of proof to prove to every individual in the culture that what it says is, in fact, the truth. The burden of proof is on the one questioning the consensus.

One fallacy of the skeptic is that many of them seem to believe placing the burden of proof on the believer in some fashion wins the debate, as though the one who has a so-called non-belief has nothing to prove. If the believer makes a positive affirmation, he has no burden of proof until someone questions the truthfulness of his statement. If the questioner offers evidence for his doubt, he also, then shares in the burden of proof in proving his evidence against the affirmation.

Let’s assume that atheism is a non-belief, would it not follow that if you had no obligation to support it or prove it, that it would be equally hard to speak about it in any way negative or positive. This would infer that the atheist, if consistent, should not spend a lot of time talking about a non-belief. Yet, we find them writing books and articles about their non-belief all the time, attempting to support and establish it by an appeal to philosophy and science. How in the world can you support something that does not exist, i.e. an non-belief? One man has said that to claim that atheism is not a belief is like saying anarchy is not really a political position.

Let us again, assume that atheism is a non-belief as the atheist often asserts. What if someone simply asked them if they believe in a God and they responded, “No, I’m an atheist”. The person who questioned them could simply respond naturally by asking the question, “Why are you an atheist?” According to atheism, the right response should be “I don’t have to answer it because atheism is a non-belief.” Who has the burden of proof?

Now if we reverse this line of questioning and have someone ask a believer “Do you believe in a God?” and the believer says, “Yes I do”, this response would then put the burden of proof on the believer, especially if the person in turn asked “Why?” This is an example of the agreed on burden of proof, which is just a part of ordinary conversation.

It would also seem rational if the atheist used science or philosophy  in an attempt to prove his worldview or his atheism. He must accept the burden of proof in regard to his arguments from science or philosophy for he has shifted the burden of proof from his non-belief to those beliefs. So the great emphasis that atheists put on the burden of proof and atheism being a non-belief seems to be a lot of twaddle.