Logical Fallacy Lesson 9: Shifting the Burden of Proof

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Logical Fallacy Lesson 9: Shifting the Burden of Proof
Category: Religion and Philosophy


Samuel Thomas Poling, Blog 137, Logical Fallacy Lesson 9: Shifting the Burden of Proof

LFL1: Argumentum Ad Hominem
LFL2: Red Herring
LFL3: Non Sequitor
LFL4: Bald Assertion
LFL5: Ad Hoc
LFL6: Argumentum Ad Nauseum
LFL7: Appeal to Faith
LFL8: Appeal to Emotion
And Now LFL9: Shifting the Burden of Proof

A logical fallacy is an error in logical reasoning. Stupidity - to put it bluntly. As a matter of fact - how frequently you make logical fallacies pretty much is what determines how stupid you are. If you a logical fallacy prone I will start referring to you, and correctly, as an idiot.

I have a series instructing people on how to recognize common acts of stupidity. These are the logical fallacies. And they are well documented and recognized in the world of debate and logic. In courts and science debates they are also recognized. If you do not know all the logical fallacies in Latin, that doesn't mean you're stupid. Labeling the fallacies is just a convenient way or organizing your refutations while arguing with someone. So if you are intelligent, and you argue a lot, I strongly urge you to read up on your fallacies.

Today I'll be explaining the common fallacy "Shifting the Burden of Proof." But in order to do so I must first explain the idea behind what arguing is. Some idiots just don't know.

In every argument, formal or informal, there are two positions - an affirmative and a negative. The affirmative is the person making a claim. The negative is the person challenging that claim. All the debate is about is seeing if the affirmative can prove, beyond the negative's ability to question it, the claim they are asserting. The negative does not have to prove the opposite, although they can if they want to (what better way to refute the affirmative, eh?). For example, if you are debating whether or not there is a God, the affirmative is saying "there is," the negative is NOT saying "there isn't." The negative is only saying, "You can't prove that." All the negative has to do is prevent the affirmative from proving what they assert. If the question is left unanswered, that's fine, just as long as the affirmative didn't prove their claim. If the negative asserts "there is no God," then the negative goes into an affirmative position himself, and the affirmative is then the negative, questioning that claim. And that is a different debate.

If you think of arguing as tug-o-war, in order to win the affirmative must be able to pull the negative into the mud in the middle. But in order for the negative to win, all he has to do is stand his ground. If the affirmative can't pull him into the mud, he wins. The negative does not have to pull the affirmative in the mud. But if he can then it'd be overkill on the affirmative.

The person making the claim (the affirmative) has to prove the claim, elseif the knowledge of the parties involved remains the same, and the negative wins - for the affirmative has done nothing of value. He has done nothing to change knowledge.

This leads me to the logical fallacy. Some affirmatives think they can deny this reality of argumentation. They think they can win, i.e., they think they can prove their side by appealing to the fact that the negative didn't prove the opposite. They can start the game of tug-o-war, fail to pull the negative into the mud, and they say "well, you didn't pull me into the mud either, therefore I win! I proved my side!" This is the logical fallacy of Shifting the Burden of Proof.

The negative does not have the burden of proof.
The negative only has to keep things the same, be it keeping the law the same, or keeping knowledge the same, all they have to do is challenge the affirmative to make sure the asserting person actually knows what they're talking about. So why should the negative have to prove otherwise? They aren't making any claim. Why should you have to prove a claim you didn't even make?

This is fallacious because you don't have to prove a claim just to challenge another! How screwed up would human knowledge be if that were the case? You could prove anything by just appealing to the fact the negative can't prove otherwise!

You could prove anything. The flying spaghetti monster, for example.
Affirmative: "A flying magical spaghetti monster created the universe."
Negative: "Where is your proof?"
Affirmative: "Where is your proof he didn't?"
Negative: "Well, I don't have any."
Affirmative: "Hah! I win! The flying spaghetti monster is proven!"

You can do this with anything. Anything at all. I can prove myself God if you do not believe Shifting the Burden of Proof is a fallacy.

And yet people still make this fallacy.

Affirmative: "A magical God exists and made the universe."
Negative: "Where's your proof?"
Affirmative: "Well, no one's ever disproved God! Can you disprove God?"
Negative: "No..."
Affirmative: "Well then that means God exists!"

They do that. I've heard them.
"No one's ever disproved God!"
Anyone who uses that as justification for the affirmative "God exists" is a logically fallacious moron. And show it to them, by using their same reasoning to prove the flying spaghetti monster, their mother a demon from hell, and yourself a God as well.

"I'm a God who transformed himself into the shape of a human and who momentarily gave up his super powers."
"No yer not! Yer crazy!"
"Can you disprove it? No? Then by your own reasoning I'm God. Deal with it."

The challenger does NOT EVER have to prove otherwise to the affirmative. You do not have to prove the opposite of the statement in order to challenge the statement. That's bullshit. You can challenge someone's claims all you want and not make any claims of your own.

This logical fallacy, Shifting the Burden of Proof, is also known as Argumentum ad Ignorantium - Appeal to Ignorance, although that fallacy is slightly different. Appealing to ignorance is a little broader. Shifting the Burden of Proof is a specific kind of appeal to ignorance.

Appealing to ignorance could also be saying something does NOT exist because it hasn't been proven true; not just saying something is true because it hasn't been proven to NOT exist. Argumentum ad Ignorantium can also be an argument from personal incredulity - saying that you don't understand it so it cannot be so. But just because you fail to grasp what someone is saying doesn't mean it's false. So as you see, Argumentum ad Ignorantium is a little broader.

Anyways, to summarize:

The burden of proof is always on the person asserting something. Shifting the burden of proof, a special case of Argumentum ad Ignorantium, is the fallacy of putting the burden of proof on the person who denies or questions the assertion. The source of the fallacy is the assumption that something is true unless proven otherwise.

Just because I can't prove gray aliens haven't taken over the minds of the US Government officials doesn't mean that gray aliens have taken over the minds of US Government officials.

If you think it does...

You are retarded.

Oh, and gray aliens have taken over your mind.
Prove otherwise.

Samuel Thomas Poling, Blog 127, Logical Fallacy Lesson 9: Shifting the Burden of Proof