Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Burden of Proof

Often in discussions, one side doesn't want to have to put forth any effort to defend their position. They use terms like "burden of proof" or start invoking formal fallacies in order to step back and put all the work on their opponent's shoulders. The fact is, the burden-of-proof meta-argument is just an excuse people use to pretend that they can make their case without having to defend it. Invoking formal fallacies is usually a substitute for thinking. It makes no sense to make rules about who only has the burden of proof in an argument. You want to know who has the burden of proof? The claimant. Except that both sides are the claimant, since they each claim a specific, if opposing, view. One claims something, the other claims the opposite. Being a 'skeptic,' or not believing something to be true is also a claim.

You can be skeptical that the Earth is round, so it's really not about who's the skeptic, per se. Also, whether a fact is phrased in a positive frame (is, does) or a negative frame (is not, does not) is incidental and often interchangeable. And yes, the people who are claiming the Earth is round are also claimants. Imagine that, two sides both having the burden of proof. The burden of proof really isn't even about who's making the claim; it's about who feels the necessity to convince the other of their position. Think about it.

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