View Full Version : Proving A Negative
14th April 2009, 07:01 AM
When asked to prove that God exists, theists often respond with, "You prove he doesn't..." They do so because they assume it is impossible to prove a negative and the atheist is therefore doomed to fail (so maybe God does exist after all).
But not according to Professor Steven Hales in this article:
He says "...you can prove a negative, and it's easy..."
In another article on the same subject,
A.C. Grayling writes: "For a simple case of proving a negative, by the way, consider how you prove the absence of pennies in a piggy-bank."
None of this will impress the theist who is sure to say that the atheist cannot prove there is no god until he has travelled to every part of the Universe and checked every possible hiding place - but I thought they were interesting.
14th April 2009, 07:21 AM
Thankyou, youngmoigle, a very interesting read.
I've always believed that the burden of proof lies squarely with the theist anyway, since they are making the initial positive claim. These articles will provide me with further ammunition should I need it!
14th April 2009, 07:23 AM
Whereas this is really interesting and reading it over lunch, I still think the easiest and best way is to have the person making the claim provide the proof. Otherwise every conspiracy theory has to be 'proven wrong' etc etc etc, doesn't make sense to approach things like that. will comment again after reading :) good stuff
14th April 2009, 09:37 AM
I think I've said all I can throughout other threads on who has the burden of proof :) But good reads nonetheless.
14th April 2009, 12:34 PM
14th April 2009, 04:45 PM
Don't misunderstand me, I wasn't suggesting we shift the burden of proof and start proving negatives. In fact I begin religious arguments even further back than most people. I don't accept any "proof" for god's existence until the theist has given me a full (non-contradictory) description of his god - otherwise we won't know what we're talking about will we?
As an aside: You would be amazed at the number of times a Christian has flounced away after declaring that God is the sunset, or God is a baby's smile (and atheists hate children).
No, I posted because so many people say "It is impossible to prove a negative" as if it was a rule of logic. The articles make it clear that this is not true.
14th April 2009, 05:01 PM
Don't misunderstand me, I wasn't suggesting we shift the burden of proof and start proving negatives. In fact I begin religious arguments even further back than most people. I don't accept any "proof" for god's existence until the theist has given me a full (non-contradictory) description of his god - otherwise we won't know what we're talking about will we.
I often use that tactic as well. It's amazing how much trouble some theists have trying to answer such a basic question about their beliefs. Once you've established which particular version of god the theist favours, it's normally pretty easy to defeat them. Trouble is, you can beat their arse like a gong all day and they'll never concede.:D
14th April 2009, 05:24 PM
"...beat their arse like a gong"
I like your style.
14th April 2009, 07:43 PM
Interesting article, a little confusing but it's certaintly a well thought out idea. I wouldn't necessarily use that as a definitive argument against believers, mainly because they can use the same argument for their beliefs, it's the same old story, but the fact is, things like religion and myths and stuff like that should be taken with common sense, not JUST proof and evidence. Noone believes that unicorns exist because of it's absurdity and yet the same people will believe in a supernatural sky daddy. Arguments on these types of things always seem to throw logic out the window, they will never learn.
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