Sunday, July 14, 2013

Logical fallacy: Shifting the Burden of Proof

Burden of Proof is a fallacy in which the burden of proof is placed on the wrong side. The lack of evidence of one argument is taken as evidence of the opposite.

"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!"
--Carl Sagan, Astronomer

The problem here is to define where the burden of proof actually rests. In some cases the burden of proof is set by the situation.

"One is innocent until proven guilty"

In debate the burden of proof is placed on the affirmative team.

In most cases the burden of proof rests on those who initiate a claim or those with an affirmative, positive statement.

Examples of Burden of Proof

Molly: "I think that we should invest more money in expanding the interstate system.
Dolly: "I think that would be a bad idea, considering the state of the treasury.
Molly: "How can anyone be against highway improvements?"

Bill: "I think that some people have psychic powers."
Jill: "What is your proof?"
Bill: "No one has been able to prove that people do not have psychic powers."

"You cannot prove that God does not exist, so He does."

Scully: "Your sister was abducted by aliens? Mulder, that's ridiculous!" 
Mulder: "Well, until you can prove it didn't happen, you'll just have to accept it as true."

"This is one case where I like to throw my opponent's arguments back at them. If he claims, for example, that the KJV (King James' version of the Bible) is the perfect and inerrant Word of God and challenges me to prove him wrong, I will say something like: "I am God. Prove me wrong." I have been berated for this approach, accused of blasphemy, chided for being stupid, and lamented for having sunk to such depths to make a point, and so forth. But what no KJV-onlyist has yet done, is prove I am not God. So I must be."
-- Xenu

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