I Can Prove a Negative Easily. But Who Has the Burden of Proof About God?

I can prove I'm sitting at my computer, that I have children, that I have a wife, and that I wrote a book. I can prove all sorts of negative claims with regard to these things. I can prove I am not sleeping or playing ball right now (negative claims). I can show you I'm not doing these things by having an online chat right now on my computer. I can prove I am not childless. If you ask me to prove I'm not childless, then birth certificates and DNA evidence should do the trick. I can prove I am not single. If you ask me to prove I am not single I can show you my marriage certificate, and my wife. I can also prove I am not a non-author (notice how I phrased it?). That is, I can prove a negative, plenty of them, easily.

Of course, I cannot prove anything with certainty, but that's not what I was ever called upon to do anyway. All I need is counter-evidence. And therein lies the rub. There are some negative claims I cannot produce counter-evidence. I cannot prove I was never in Hawaii, or that I was never a Buddhist, or that I was never a pimp, even though I've never been in Hawaii, or a Buddhist or a pimp. So unless I can document my whole life with receipts of all my bills, 24 hour video surveillance, or a continual stream of witnesses of my life then there's always a chance that I was in Hawaii, or a Buddhist, or a pimp.

Nor can I prove that Sasquatch or a unicorn or a Hobbit do not exist. The reason why is because there is no counter-evidence I can produce to show they don't exist. What would that kind of evidence look like, since if these things don't exist I must examine and document every inch of the earth to prove they don't? To ask someone to offer counter-evidence to some kinds of claims is simply asking way too much. That's why the person making these kinds of claims must provide evidence on behalf of them. That's why they have the burden of proof.

In a like manner, theists ask me to prove that no supernatural being exists. The problem with such a request is that this is the type of negative that cannot be proven. The reason why I cannot prove this type of negative is the same reason I cannot prove I've never been a Buddhist, or a pimp. I'm being asked to prove more than what can reasonably be expected of me, or anyone. For I cannot search the whole universe nor am I omniscient to know there isn't such a being. Here then the burden of proof must rest on the theist who claims that a supernatural being exists in the same way the burden of proof is on someone who claims I was once in Hawaii. This is the case even if I completely disregard the principle that "extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence when we have reason to expect the evidence to be there." The theist has the burden of proof to produce evidence that their God exists, period. So without sufficient evidence reasonable people can be non-believers even if they cannot prove there isn't such a being.

While there is a great amount of debate about the burden of proof let me meet theists on common ground here. Surely we can agree on this point, can't we? Theists have the burden of proof precisely because asking a skeptic to prove such a negative is asking more than can reasonably be expected.

Even though we can meet on common ground I still think I can prove God does not heal amputees, nor answer prayers in any noticeably objectively verifiable way. And I think I can prove there is no God of the Bible, although this is a more complicated case demanding more by way of evidenced based reasoning. This is something I do everyday, even if it doesn't always convince believers.

But my point is that I don't have to do this. Theists must put forward the evidence.

This has been shown even though I did not appeal to the principle that "extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence when we have reason to expect the evidence to be there." But how much more is it the case when I do.

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