The burden of proof – There are zero gods


I was discussing the “burden of proof” the other day. I lost the discussion, but I learned some things.

The burden of proof is a philosophical concept where, whoever asserts something (anything), has to support the claim with evidence. For instance, if you say you own a race-horse, somebody would want to see you with the horse.

Atheists, all over the world, are cautious when discussing the existence of gods. Usually, we say that we reject the claim of gods until there is evidence in favor of gods. That is, the theists will claim there is a god, and the burden of proof lies on the theist.

Atheists, normally, do not say 'there are zero gods', because, then, the burden of proof lies on the atheist to prove there are none, which seems impossible.

As I don't mind making a fool out of myself, I will claim that there are no gods. This means the burden of proof is on me.

What is a god?

My claim relies on the basic concept of gods; they are supreme beings and have supernatural powers. The supernatural is defined as being 'beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature'. Meaning there either is a 'god of the gaps' or the laws of nature do not apply to gods.

The idea of a 'god of the gaps' is not compatible with supreme beings. The gaps in scientific knowledge are getting smaller. Besides, I don't accept that 'not understanding' something means it's 'supernatural'. If it can be repeated and investigated, it will be understood sooner or later... and it will turn out to be natural. “I don't understand therefore supernatural” is a non-sequitur logical fallacy.

The idea of a being that defies the laws of nature is more in line with my idea of what a god should be. In other words; a god, if he exists, should be capable of affecting the natural world in such a way that the laws of nature do not apply while the god doesn't want them to. Levitation, the suspension of gravity, would be a good example of that... only scientists have already developed a method of levitation using lasers.

The only way for a god to demonstrate his existence is by deliberately altering the laws of nature... in a controlled manner. Something that has never been scientifically documented.

The supernatural is “beyond the laws of nature”. That could also mean that gods simply are beyond our scope of observation. Science only observes the natural world. The supernatural world cannot be observed... by definition. What I mean is that, the supernatural, if it exists, will never be observed, as it's beyond any possible future method of observation. The goal-post will move ever away from us. We can observe the atoms on a pinhead, but gods will always elude us.

And that's it. Either gods exist, but can't or won't show themselves. Or gods simply don't exist.

Some people will argue that the possibility of gods still exists, and they are right, but nobody doubts that Harry Potter is fantasy... There is the possibility that Harry Potter is real. You can't rule that out applying the same logic.

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[Update]
Other fantasies that need debunking as rigorously as Harry Potter are the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot or Ice Giants (this list is near endless, just like the list of gods).

Another view on the god doesn't exist argument, by a philosopher, so expect long words :-) No, no worries, this is really readable.

Comments

  1. Except that my understanding of the current consensus in philosophy, which seems to be supported by the "Russel's teapot" wikipedia article, is that negative claims of existence don't necessarily shift the burden of proof against you.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your input. I think you are right, but I can't seem to convince anybody of that :-/ I used to say: "There are no gods, proof me wrong" Of course, I'm not Russell either, so ...

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  2. Gods either exist in some assumed supernatural realm separate from the natural one, in which case they can't interact with the natural world so can't influence anything natural or be influenced by it, including our thoughts and words, or they CAN interact with the natural realm, and so are part of it and should be detectable by the effects they have on matter.

    Theists try to have it both ways simultaneously.

    Absence of evidence for gods is thus evidence of their absence because, if they have the powers their followers claim, there SHOULD be detectable evidence.

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    Replies
    1. More eloquent than my own ramble. Thanks Rosa!

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    2. rosa, i think i literally love you.

      i will put this in my logic gun and keep it handy next time one of the religulous should happen to wander across my path!

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