Thursday, 7 June 2012

Shifting The Burden

You see, if, in all seriousness, I claimed I have an undetectable hippo in my loft, challenged you to prove it didn't exist, and then claimed it must exist because you can't prove it doesn't, you'd probably think I was off my trolley and had lost my marbles.

Unless you're a religious fundamentalist that is.

If you are, you'd immediately recognise this argument as identical to the one you very probably use when confronted by Atheists. Almost invariably, you'll insist your god exists and challenge them to prove it doesn't, then claim it must exist if it can't be disproved.

If you're an honest religious fundamentalist, that is.

If you're a dishonest one you'll deny your argument is identical in logic to my silly hippo-in-my-loft argument and then try to bring in other arguments, change the subject and avoid dealing with the logical fallacy you've been caught trying to get away with.

Actually, it's not so much a logical fallacy as a dishonest tactic designed to overcome the fact that the perpetrator believe in something for which they have no supporting evidence. It betrays the fact that they know they have as much evidence for their god as they have for fairies, or I for my undetectable loft-hippo.

It's called shifting the burden. It's the tactic of making a claim you know you can't substantiate and then trying to divest yourself of the moral obligation to substantiate it. It's no different morally to going into court and claiming the accused is guilty, then challenging them to prove their innocence because you know you have no evidence. Another name for this tactic is 'bearing false witness'. It's implicitly claiming you have evidence for something for which you know you have no evidence.

Some examples of fundamentalists bearing false witness can be seen here:

For example, 18.How do we know the supernatural does not exist? The answer of course is that we don't. Dr Saunders is implicitly claiming it does and divesting himself of the responsibility of substantiating his claim, almost certainly because he knows he can't.


Here's the great Mat Dillahunty dealing with someone who's trying it on him:

To be fair to many fundamentalists, they probably don't realise they're being intellectually dishonest. They're probably just aping the tactics of the charlatan who fooled them with it in the first place and lack the intellectual integrity or ability to analyse the tactic and see it for the trick it really is.

You can see these unfortunate people almost daily rushing onto Twitter, Facebook, or other social media eager to try out their new killer argument having seen one of their heroes use it.

Hopefully, this article will help them see where they've been fooled and maybe come to terms with the fact that this is probably their best 'argument' for their god's existence and it simply serves to highlight the fact that they don't have one.

So, here's my top tip for fundamentalists who may be tempted to try this shifting the burden trick. If you can think of a logical reason why my claim to have an undetectable hippo in my loft isn't proven just because you can't disprove it, neither is your claim proven by me failing to disprove it. Your claim to have a god is only proven by you producing definitive, authenticated and indisputable evidence for it. Just because that is impossible for you does not excuse trying to fool people with a dishonest tactic and false witnessing.

If you ever feel tempted to try the shifting burden trick because you've been caught making a claim you can't justify, try changing the word 'god' or 'life after death' or 'sin' or 'soul' or whatever daft idea you're trying to get away with, for 'undetectable hippo in Rosa's loft' and see if it convinces you. If it doesn't, your trick won't fool normal people. It might fool another fundamentalist but that's kinda cheating. The tactic will simply betray your moral bankruptcy and the fact that you know you are making a false claim. The only way to escape that charge is to believe in my undetectable hippo, fairies, all the gods other people do or have believed in, pink unicorns and any daft notion you or anyone else can dream up because no one can prove a negative, which is why the trick is so beloved of religious apologists who need to earn a living somehow.

Of course, this will render you incapable of living a normal existence without close adult supervision but that's the price you may have to accept to avoid the charge that you tried a deception and failed to get away with it.


submit to reddit
Income from ads will be donated to charities such as moderate centre-left groups, humanist, humanitarian and wildlife protection and welfare organisations.

8 comments :

  1. Your "undetectable hippo" argument is not the same as outlining reasons for God.

    However, you've pre-emptively dashed any hopes I had of engaging in rational discussion with you by stating that such a stance is "dishonest" so I'm not really sure why I'm wasting my lunchbreak here.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I will, however, refer you to your own guidelines. "Whilst you are entitled to your opinion, you are not entitled to have it regarded as established fact needing no supporting evidence or justification."

    In my experience you rarely adhere to them yourself, but I am an optimist. There's a first time for everything and all that. Please explain why you think that denying that Christianity is identical in logic to your silly hippo-in-the-loft argument is automatically dishonest. You made the claim, and the onus is on you to substantiate it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. >Please explain why you think that denying that Christianity is identical in logic to your silly hippo-in-the-loft argument is automatically dishonest. <

      Certainly, once you've explained why you felt you had to pretend I had made a point I never made.

      Or would you like me to do it for you to illustrate once again how dishonest you need to be to retain your infantile belief in magic?

      In fact, I'll cut straight to the chase and do that now by repeating the paragraph you tried to misrepresent in order to avoid the issue:

      If you're a dishonest one you'll deny your argument is identical in logic to my silly hippo-in-my-loft argument and then try to bring in other arguments, change the subject and avoid dealing with the logical fallacy you've been caught trying to get away with.

      Q.E.D.

      Delete
    2. This is a month later, so no one will see it; hence, I'll be brief. Rosa's point is simply that "extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence." No one will get excited if you claim that there is no hippo in your attic; they might as well take what you say at face value. The claim that you do have a hippo in your attic is much more extraordinary, and hence needs more extraordinary evidence to support it. Hence the unicorn cartoon.

      Now, if any god exists, it certainly is not obvious. The claim that no god exists is the default position, simply because there is no obvious evidence for it. That does not mean that we would not accept the existence of a god if the necessarily extraordinary evidence were forthcoming. For specific religious claims that are far, far outside of the normal human experience, such as dead people getting up and walking around again, flying on horses up to heaven, or deflowering 50 virgins in one night, the weight of the evidence would have to be that much more convincing before a rational person would accept it.

      Tell me that you eat vanilla ice cream, and I'll accept your statement. Tell me that you shit vanilla ice cream, and I'll demand evidence in proportion to the claim. Tell me that you are vanilla ice cream, and I'm afraid that the evidence will have to be that much incontrovertible before I will accept it as true.

      Delete
  3. I stated that your "undetectable hippo" argument is not the same as outlining reasons for God. In other words I am denying that my argument is identical in logic to your silly hippo-in-your-loft argument.

    I inferred from the paragraph which you so kindly repeated for me that you will thus put me in your "dishonest" category (regardless of any explanation I might offer), and you claim that this inference misrepresented you.

    So the choice is yours. Do you think that I can* make the claim I did without being dishonest, or were you lying when you accused me of misrepresentation?

    *note that I said "can," not "did." Whether you think I am personally dishonest in this case is not the issue at stake.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So you're skipping any attempt to explain why you tried to misrepresent what I'd said and going straight into the traditional smokescreen of quibbling, eh?

      BTW, the word 'Christianity' never appeared once in this blog. Is that cap you've picked up and plonked on your own head fitting snugly? It's got a nice big 'D' on it. LOL!

      As I said earlier:

      If you're a dishonest [fundamentalist] you'll deny your argument is identical in logic to my silly hippo-in-my-loft argument and then try to bring in other arguments, change the subject and avoid dealing with the logical fallacy you've been caught trying to get away with.

      Q.E.D.

      Delete
    2. OK, so I had made the assumption that - as a Christian - you had put me in your "fundamentalist" category. Evidently I was wrong and I am therefore sorry for reading in to what you had said.

      Delete
    3. And so your point is....

      Or do you now accept that your argument for the existence of a god is identical in form to my 'argument' that I have an invisible hippo in my loft, and therefore the burden lies with you to prove your claim, just as it would lie with me to prove my loft hippo is real, and that the reasonable position is therefore one of disbelief until so proven?

      Or do you believe in my invisible loft hippo too? If not, why not?

      And perhaps more pertinently, why not believe in all the other gods, in fairies, in leprechauns, in jinns, in unicorns and trolls and all the other folkloric myths and monsters, all of which have exactly the same supporting evidence as my loft hippo and your favourite god?

      Delete

Obscene, threatening or obnoxious messages, preaching, abuse and spam will be removed, as will anything by known Internet trolls and stalkers or by known sock-puppet accounts.

A claim made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Remember: your opinion is not an established fact unless corroborated.

ShareThis

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Web Analytics