Monday, October 15, 2012

debate lesson: burden of proof

Actual debaters at a Tournament but I don't know
who or what tournament.

I put up a piece on this blog on Jan 22, 2007 and this very day that piece drew fire from an atheist commenter. Before getting to the comment, I first explain the context. The reader can see the entire piece on Atheistwatch today as I put it up there under a different title; "Atheists Con fussed About the Nature of Presumption and Scientific World View."

here's an except from the article:

The problem is this kind of atheist fundi fools himself into thinking that eh as some real verification and objective demonstration of his world view, but he's only being fooled by a self induced con job. It works like this. First he imposes a self privileging ideology upon the world. He privies doubt, so in his mind doubt comes to equal truth. Then he orients his world view around a value of accepting "only empirical evidence." He cons himself into thinking that he only accept ideas that are proven with empirical scientific evidence. Then attaches such importance to this concept that he is able to make a leap of faith and pretend that somehow valuing induction proves the materialist conclusions that he leaps to. So he think just because he wants all of his positions to be proven with empirical evidence, they must really be so. And of course he convinces himself that the task of science is to protect form religion and then science becomes his get out of hell free card. Let's review these steps.

(1)Impose ideology privileging doubt
(2)accepts value of empirical data only
(3)leap of faith from value of empirical data to assumption of empirically based conclusions
(3) sanctions with the aura of science.

Of course he has no such data. There is no data that God doesn't' exist or that there is nothing beyond the material world.He has no of proving this at all. But that's OK he says because it's having a scientific way of life that counts. At least his over all view is supported by his love of "objectivity" so that sanctions his conclusions even if logic doesn't' sanction them.

The truth is he has no such proofs and his bold scientific way of life is a sham because he has many assumptions upon which his world view is predicated, the basis of which cannot be supported by science. I've made lists like this before, they include all the basic epistemic assumptions:
here's the comment


Anonymous said...
Atheists are not supposed to provide evidence for the existence of god. You can't argue on negatives. Proof has to be offered by the person who makes the clam. Atheists make no claims. I can't give you evidence for a giant teapot at the other side of the universe and you can't ask evidence for that. It is the same thing. the burden of proof lies on theists.

This comment illustrates a great deal of confusion that atheists are inflicted with quite a bit. Many, not all of cousre, but many, think that their world view is guaranteed some kind of magic lionization or privilege just because they wish it was based upon scinece. What they are really getting at in real debate (by "real" debate I have reference to the rules of National Forensic League--high school Debate in the United States, and NDT, "College Debate" or the major arm of college debate in U.S.). There are other organizations* for debate now days and other rules but all of them basically assume the concept "presumption."

Presumption in debate is similar to the legal concept of being innocent until proved guilty. Its' the assumption that the status quo is right until it is proved wrong. It's the basic concept that one is innocent until proved guilty. In debate the concept is that the status quo is assumed to be fine until proved otherwise. To prove that there should be a change the Affirmative team has to present a prima facie (PF) case. Prma facie means "on face value" that says the case as presented before there's any refutation appears to all reason and logic to be a valid case. When a team meets he PF burden presumption is overturned.

Extrapolating to God arguemnts, I take this partly from Toulmin who talked about rational warrant for an argument, setting forth a logically valid reason to believe a concept would be rational warrant, which meets the PF burden. At that point presumption turns over, it then becomes the negative team's burden to show that the Affirmative has not made a PF case. Now the original argument this guy responded to is not about what happens when one presents a God argument. It was talk about the original presumption of atheist belief. Atheists don't get presumption merely becuase they want to dub their views "scientific." They may wish they were taking their ques form science, but they have no more privilege to assume their view of doubt is proved by scinece than a Christian does to assume that God is proved by science.

"Proof" is for mathematics. Just in terms of world views atheism is not the status quo. Atheism would actually be making the change thus they must prove that a change is warranted by demonstrating that belief in God is not warranted. The thing that gives atheists their idea that there's some reason why they should have a privilege, they thing about which they are right, is that when one ties to prove the existence of God the burden of proof is on the one who would prove. In that case the atheist assumption has presumption, becasue then, and only then, is it the status quo (in other words, he who asserts an argument must prove it and the doubter is not trying to prove the argument). Aside from the case in which a believer has made a positive God argument atheism as no basic presumption just because it's a lack of belief.

In this case it really matters what the claim is. If one says "God is proved becasue..." he has a burden to prove the argument. If one says "my personal conviction is that God exits" that person has no burden of proof becasue he's only discussing his habit (his belief--not trying to prove anything). The atheist has no privilege to assume that scinece offers presumptions against belief in God. That is purely a matter of personal conviction and all personal convictions have neutral and equal status in terms of privilege until the argument is made. Because while we are debating (theoretically) we are not dealing with government policy but with personal belief.

Some atheists are even more confused becasue they think that all beliefs are wrong and they mange to talk themselves into thinking that if atheism is the absence of a belief then scinece guarantees a factual world views so not believing is not a belief and thus is sanctioned by science. That is true only to the extent that one doesn't' try to gain privilege for it over other views. The reason is because absence of a belief functions as a belief in comparison to other convictions. The atheist is still working on conviction and a conviction is a belief. The belief is the belief that there's not enough proof to be compelled to believe that's still a belief.

Recently on my boards one of the most confused atheists I've seen (on carm) came over to Doxa forums and tried to contend that he had no beliefs. The discussion was sort of like, "so you believe you have no beliefs?"
"Isn't that a belief?"
"no it's a fact"
"Isn't it a fact that I believe in God"
"yes, and that 'tupid cause no proof"
"you believe that?"
"then you have a belief."
"no that's a fact"
"it's it a fact that I believe in God?"
"so my belief is a fact"

Yes, I know it's just a whimsical trick. His position is no less ridiculous obviously the notion that there's no God is a belief in comparison to the reality that there's no proof there's no God. then the unwary atheist will fall back upon the bromide "I don't need proof I have no belief." They are just confusing the two different senses of the word belief. That whole mess can be fixed up by just understanding the nature of presumption. One does not have presumption for one's doubt of another person's belief until and unless the other person is trying to prove something. In the neutral public square when one is merely deciding what to believe (or yes what not to bleieve) there is o privileged "scientific" views. Presumption only comes into play when proof in argument emerges from discussion.

I've seen atheists try really dumb things like saying "I assert that Christians are all insane, you have to prove they are not becuase you have the burden of proof." That's just making an assertion with no support couched as a negative (in a not very cleaver way--rather transparently) merely to play off of the misunderstanding about presumption.

No view has presumption unless one if trying to prove something. Religion has presumption in society in the fact of anti-religious attacks because it's the status quo. Atheists take on the burden of proof when one of two conditions are the case: (1) when the seek state assertively and positivity "there is no God" (2) when the God argument meets prima facie burden of it's own.

The orignial comment was not speaking about the status of presumption in a God argument but the position of doubt and belief before the argument when one is making a Dickson about one's convictions. Thus the criticism of the comment dose not apply. The point is atheist do have proving to do before the can assert privilege for their views.

*Debate Organization

The oldest organization for college debate in America is the debate fratenity Pai Kappa Delta. The older high school organization is National Forensic League. Before those (1920s) debate in U.S. schools war organized by states. The highest championship one could win up to 1948 was the state championship, although they had national topics since the 1920s.

National Debate Tournament began in 1848 and created national championship for college debate although before that there was Pi Kap but you had to be in the fraternity. In 1980s CEDA was created as another form of cross examination debate for both high school and college. Parliamentary debate always exist but in the last few decades it has gotten popular, In my day (70s) it was not on the radar for most debaters. In all of these forms the rule is that the negative has presumption in defending the status quo. I don't know how they do it "Parli" as it's called. The form of debate I participated in and am discussing is called "policy" debate, or "poly." There is also the National Urban League and the YMCA that have debate organizations but they are not nearly as popular as NFL and NDT. There is a debate organization for homeschools.

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