Quite a while back I made a comment talking about the Expelled movie where I talked about the “Burden of Proof” and where it lies. From there, I entered into a fascinating discussion on an atheist blog digging deeper into the topic. I learned a few things from this discussion, and I thought I’d share a few things with you.
What It Means
“Burden of Proof” is a legal term, and refers to the person bringing the complaint. The person bringing the complaint is the one that typically has to prove that his complaint is valid. When I said that the burden of proof was on the Atheist, I was perhaps a bit too simplistic.
Obviously, the scientific community is united behind a belief in TENS (Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection) and the Creationists are trying to prove that it’s not a tenable philosophy.
However, given one of my chief arguments– that TENS and YEC (Young Earth Creationism) both are worldviews explaining facts around them– in a Creationist perspective those that proclaim TENS also have a burden of proof on them. So, it’s a matter of perspective, and subject to the discussion.
Indeed, on my blog, YEC is the accepted truth and TENS must proof itself otherwise. Again, this may be a simplistic understanding, but I believe it holds itself in the bounds of the definition of the term.
The definition of Atheism is slippery– in that it has to change with the arguments placed against it to avoid being trapped. Whereas YEC always means the same thing (a person believing that God created the world in 6 literal days), Atheist may mean that a person believes that there is no god all the way to a person that should be better termed agnostic– I don’t believe there’s a god, so I assume that there is not one.
Here’s where the “null hypothesis” came into the discussion. Simply put, if the data point is unknown, a value must be assumed in order to make sense of other things. When it comes down to it, this value is placed there based on faith and what seems logical to the individual. Theists believe that the number is greater that 0, Atheists believe it to be 0.
So, Atheists avoid the untenable position of having to defend “in order to prove that there is no god, you’d have to know that in all of space/time there is and never was one” by claiming that it’s unknown and assuming it to be 0. A handy trick, and a rational thing to do, even if it’s just semantics.
Atheists like to play the evidence card. I found myself quickly inside a discussion that talked about there being no evidence for God. When pressed, it changed to a discussion about the quality of evidence equaling no evidence.
This is important.
The original statement read “I’ve seen no evidence.” The problem with this statement is that– to put it bluntly– it’s false. Most atheists have either read YEC sites, they’ve read parts of the Bible, or some other source– even if it’s just this blog. They may not trust the things they have read, they may not believe it, but it’s intellectually dishonest to say they haven’t seen it.
As for the “questionable or bad evidence = no evidence”, again, we’re not in a scientific realm but in a court room. All kinds of things are presented in a case to make the point– and it’s the final decision that should encompass all the evidence– and questionable evidence may be admitted.
One of the charges was about when the Gospels were written. I mused on this topic last week. But we won’t go into it now…
The point is, make sure that you realize that when you’re talking about evidence you’re not simply talking scientific evidence, but documentary and literary evidence. The atheist must come face to face with the question “if there is a god, would we expect him to communicate with us or not?” and “if they did, would everyone believe it happened?”
These are good questions, and things to think about. What I’ve learned is that there is still a lot to learn.