"You can't 'prove' something doesn't exist..." Why do people keep saying that when it clearly isn't so?
They keep saying it because it IS so.
Prove to me there's no pink elephants. By providing proof.
I personally don't "cling" to atheism - it's simply a conclusion I've come to, based in part on evidence of purely natural processes to explain virtually everything in my observations, and in part on the lack of evidence of a deity or magic or spirits .
Honestly, like any scientist (or honest person for that matter), if sufficient evidence came forward for the existence of spirits or gods or magic (or even mundane things, for that matter) and it was validated by various reputable people using the scientific method - I'd believe it - in much the same way I believe in cars and aircraft and gravity, etc.
I personally doubt that such evidence will ever become available.
"As to your challenge, why would I attempt to prove there are no pink elephants?"
By not addressing my point you've shown you can't do it or you have simply not found someone on the internet who can ...
... and that's because this IS the point. There is no way to do this.
As to "Why would you assume I disbelieve in pink elephants?" , but you're an atheist? Right? Have I go that wrong?
You don’t believe in God, do you? But you can’t say you don’t believe in Pink Elephants?
"Willa, please name a single professional logician who believes that you cannot prove a negative."
Sorry, here's two:
Here's one -> Bertrand Russell – and he did this explicitly in his celestial teapot argument.
Here’s another -> Peter William Atkins – said it when he spoke about Russell’s teapot.
You’ve heard of “Russell's teapot”, haven’t you Burden of proof argument? Teapot orbiting sun argument. Can’t prove it’s not there, etc.
Hopefully you're well enough read for that.
So ... er ... enjoy.
Sorry - you're disproving a positive, not proving a negative.
Volcano's exist. Eruptions exist. They simply can't occur in your "hotel room". They nevertheless exist - and making a statement about their non-occurrence has no influence on their existence....
Proving the non-existence of that for which no evidence of any kind exist - this is the point.
Proof, logic, reason, thinking, knowledge pertain to and deal only with that which exists. They cannot be applied to that which does not exist.
You can apply the rules of logic to non-existence and infer some things - but it is speculation - but that's all.
Ultimately, any positive statement that's even based on facts that have been erroneously interpreted can be refuted - simply by exposing the errors in the interpretation of the facts.
That's all it takes.
Willa, when one proves a positive, one also proves any number of negatives. If you prove that you have eyeballs in your orbital sockets, you also prove that they do not contain golf balls, hail, moon rocks, black holes, neutron stars, or any number of other orbs.
If I state that there are no moon rocks in your eye sockets, you can prove that handily, right?
You are asserting something completely different however. You are asserting that one cannot prove or disprove a claim where evidence is unattainable. I would agree with you with one change: one cannot prove or disprove a COHERENT claim where evidence is unattainable. It isn't merely the negative that one cannot prove in such a case, but also the positive. Yet people don't wander the internet claiming that you cannot prove a positive.
However, in the case of the existence of a creator of existence, an omnipotent omnibenevolent deity, or any other oxymoron, they disprove themselves by contradicting themselves and, thus, cannot actually exist. Proving such negatives is child's play.
Joel, as much as I'm sure we all appreciate you walking us through the pond of black swans... again... you are very much mistaken. My argument is not an example of induction.
Your example is disingenuous in that you surely realize the poverty of the comparison. Swans are real things. In a pinch, I could even paint one black or purple or even plaid if I had money riding on it. "Swan" is also a word with a coherent definition.
"God" is not an actual word in that it doesn't have a coherent definition, even though it has myriad connotations. Your assertion that some day some one might dream up a coherent definition is neither reasonable, nor even a reasonable cause to doubt the existence of all previous attempts to define a being who, if he was somehow real, has had all eternity to make the scene as it were.
I can save you trouble and define God as a black swan. There. coherent and existent and we can all go to church and pray to it and take pictures of ourselves praying to it and post that on the wikipedia page.
But that isn't how it works. If I make an irrational assertion, you need not have doubt in my assertion while waiting for me to completely redefine my terms so that they might somehow make sense. You see, we aren't really debating over whether or not the being's name is "God." We are debating whether or not there exists a creator of existence... which said creator would not exist to create... but that's neither here nor there... literally. We are debating whether or not said creator is also the ultimate authority of said existence, prescribing morality and taking names and kicking ass and passing out twinkies.
We are not debating whether or not someone might decide to define "God" as a largish weasel or a high-top table or a cup of hot coffee. Any definition still has to render a deity capable of the impossible, which, by definition is still incoherent. Do you not understand that it is logically impossible to define such a being as would qualify it as God without resorting to oxymoron? It isn't just that such a definition is waiting to be found, cuddled up no doubt in a nest of black swans, but that any definition that would identify the being as a deity is, necessarily, irrational.
By your logic, I need only insist that the definition of swan is "a purely white water fowl" and your precious black birds wouldn't qualify and I could happily assert all the livelong day that there are no black swans. But that isn't how we do business here in semantics land now is it?
We aren't talking about induction here, Joel. I appreciate how hard you had to work, what with consulting wikipedia and the example of the swans right there on the page and all, but you are embarrassingly guilty of false analogy here. Swans and definitions of God don't have enough in common to warrant the comparison in the first place. That took some serious contriving on your part so that you could falsely assume induction.
In the second place, the atheist position of 100% disbelief in God is multi-pronged. It consists not only of checking premises and not allowing oxymoronic definitions up until now and the impossibility of the attributes necessary to describe the supposed being, but the simultaneous prohibition of traits that might make it possible. It consists further of real world evidence that contradicts the supposed qualities of the being and the existence of a being with those qualities.
So you see, in order to honestly recognize the possibility that God exists, it isn't even that you must come up with a coherent definition, you must alter reality and create this being from scratch so that he can rationally have the traits necessary to qualify as God. Of course, if you possess the power to actually manufacture from scratch an actual God in the real world, you might try out for the title yourself. But, I doubt you'll find the recipe on Wikipedia.
Joel Potter: You don't need to explain.
You've probably heard the Pope call people cowards for believing in "moral relativity", and implying that there is no such thing as moral gray areas or ambiguities.
You and I know there is - any mature person whose had a modicum of life experience knows this, but thanks for the point. It's much appreciated.
Therefore, it is up to the person making a claim to prove it. Similarly, a Theist making a claim of a Deity should be required to produce the proof, not the Atheist to disprove it by checking for the Deity under every rock or nook or cranny. It's about logistics not logic.
The burden of proof lies with the one who makes these claims and the standard is evidence. All you can say is that I have reviewed the evidence and it is insufficient. I'm open to the possibility but there is no evidence.
(Although I think christianity is on a downward turn, I'd like to say the following)
I've been thinking about the above types of arguments that are always found in Atheist forums. And I would like to say they have no substance. Sitting back and listening to an argument/proof about god and then giving a YES or NO about the 'proof', and not the topic, is meaningless.
proof: theistic rhetoric
People who believe the lack-of-evidence/burden-of-proof-argument is enough to get by on, and see no need to take the god issue any further are the beginning of the end of proactive thought. To dismiss a christians 'proof' about gods existence is meaningless unless you yourself think about god and come to a conclusion about god for yourself.
If you can think by yourself and make your own decision about God, based on your own thoughts and your own 'proof', then there is something you must use in order to do this. And that something is your brain. But you are not using your brain at all, especially in regards to the God myth, if you believe it is only up to the person making the claim.
Many atheists use the 'burden of proof' statement the same way chistians quote verses from the bible. They use it as a standard come back that they have learnt by heart. But there is a problem with the 'burden of proof' statement, in regards to God, in that it stops you from thinking critically about God. And lack of thinking is the very thing many atheists accuse christians of.
Another thing I often hear atheists say is, 'we need to teach our children critical thinking because christian dogma stops them from thinking for themselves'. But atheists also say 'I haven't seen enough evidence about it so I won't waste my time thinking about it'. Can you see what is wrong here? Many atheists want their own children to think and I assume make decisions after thinking, but when it comes to God, many atheists don't want to think about it and don't want to make a decision about it.
Atheists can make decisions about god and it only takes a few seconds. And it is easy.
For example: my decision is; there is no god, there never has been, there never will be.
Don't be passive and leave you brain blank/unused in regards to gods existence. Use your brain and make a real decision.
TV personalities like Dawkins are professionals at playing with words and making things sound intelligent. But that doesn't mean you have to copy them. Just using the 'I have not seen sufficient evidence/the burden of proof lies with you' statement, on its own, is a meaningless statement. It is an excuse to intellectually run away. It is an excuse to leave part of your brain blank and unused. It is intellectual laziness.