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Atheists and the Burden of Proof

For people who haven’t seen my video from long ago on burden of proof, scientific consensus and why the burden of proof for science is not the same as an epistemic burden of justification (or burden of proof).

My video is based upon Social Epistemology by Steve Fuller

“A typical case would involve proponents of one theory needing only to assert “O” as evidence for O because the truth of O is so well entrenched that mere assertion commands assent, while advocates of an opposing theory need to go through a great many arguments and experiments in order to persuade the scientific community that ~O is really the case: the mere assertion of “~O” may command little more than incredulous looks.”

This should not be confused with an epistemic burden of proof (synonymous for this purposes of this argument w/burden of justification)…and this often what I see some atheist doing…confusing evidential or empirical burden of proof with an epistemic burden of proof. An evidential burden of proof is a combination of the burden of production (what is min evidence require to challenge a claim or dispute it) and the burden of persuasion (the evidence to convince that the claim being made is true).

As I note in my video the evidential burden for someone promoting a claim against the scientific consensus requires a much higher degree of evidence than merely just asserting that the consensus is wrong. However, and epistemic justification is required for ANY belief that a person holds and that justification is not just to meet a burden of persuasion, but it is a burden one must meet to themselves to it considered to be a justified belief.

Atheist are often said not to have a “burden of justification” if they just “lack a belief” (which is as we know by now, is not philosophical theism), and epistemically that is true…”lacking a belief” doesn’t have a burden of justification to produce a burden of persuasion as one is not making a claim if they are merely just “lacking a belief”…however, I argue that doesn’t completely absolve them from having absolutely no “burden of justification.

Logically, as has been noted before “soft atheism” (“lack of belief”) has the same logical predicate structure as agnosticism: Both are ~Bp & ~B~p. However, as it also has been noted before, both have different epistemic reasons for being held as a position. While “soft atheism” is not a direct doxastic position towards the proposition of p=some god exists as philosophical atheism is (which would maintain p is False), it is still a position and to me still requires a burden of justification just as agnosticism requires a burden of justification as to why we believe those labels apply to us.

This to me seems self evident as if one is going to say they are an atheist (soft) over agnostic (given they are logically the same syntactically (logic)) then they have to have a reason make that epistemic distinction…and that has to be justified. So I am arguing that wouldn’t even atheists who merely “lack a belief” still have some type of burden of justification…even if just a trivial one.

Original post: https://plus.google.com/+SteveMcRae/posts/5mGByrXnY5K

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