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Burden of Proof: Who has it?

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posted on Oct, 20 2008 @ 09:21 AM
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Above Top Secret is probably the best and largest conspiracy site on the web. We are a large cross-section of individuals who have a wide variety of beliefs. With such a diverse collection of beliefs, there are bound to be plenty of debates. From 9/11 theories to Creationism, the skeptic’s chant is “PROVE IT!”

In order to prove one’s belief or position, that person must understand the definition of proof. Proof is simply the evidence one has that supports their position. In areas such as mathematics where, where the laws are clearly defined and unchanging, this is a simple task. Two plus two will always be four and never five. Scientific proof is not quite as easy. As our understanding of the world around us changes, so does our proof. Newton was the first person to seriously study gravity and came up with his theory of universal gravitation. Later Einstein redefined gravity to include information that was not understood during Newton’s lifetime. Spiritual proof is the most difficult. But if we understand that “proof” is the interpretation of evidence, we can shift from burden of proof to burden of support.

When making a claim, it is important to offer evidence to support your argument. The person making the claim has an obligation to the reader to offer support for that claim. The reader has no obligation to prove the claim wrong. The reader may simply believe or disbelieve and go about their business.

The burden of proof shifts when the reader becomes a poster and does not accept the evidence or support given by the original poster. It is now the poster’s obligation to show why the evidence or support is insufficient to corroborate the belief. Thus, it is the support or interpretation of the evidence that is to be proved or disproved. We fail to communicate any valuable information when we attack the poster or their belief.

When dealing with conspiracy theories, we must understand that proof is simply how we interpret the evidence. So then, proof becomes an opinion rather than a universal truth. One person’s truth is another person’s fairy tale. Most people do not believe things randomly. I have reasons why I believe certain things and am just as passionate about my beliefs as are those whose beliefs oppose my own.

When making a claim, keep in mind that there will be those who will not believe your claim. Offer your interpretation of the evidence and do not fall into the trap of answering those who attack you or your beliefs. The evidence and its interpretation should be the focus of the discussion. Always remember that even scientist and religious leaders disagree as to the accurate interpretation of evidence. Any one who insists that a claim is either untrue or irrational has an obligation to explain how and why. Understanding and following these guidlines can mean the difference between a serious discussion and a "bitchfest."




posted on Oct, 20 2008 @ 09:30 AM
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Well said and in a timely fashion darkelf. Thank you for your words.

I could not agree more. Hopefully we all will consider what you have stated and make ATS an even better place to be.

It good to hear a voice of reason. Thanks again.



posted on Oct, 20 2008 @ 10:02 AM
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Very well said, indeed!

If I might add something, for the kind of topics often found here, it might be helpful to avoid the word or concept "proof" altogether.

We'll never get real truth from the gov't about for example 9/11, so it does little good to claim "proof" of something.

Same with aliens (barring physical possession of an alien or alien technology).

Same in spades with spiritual matters... I highly doubt the existence or non-existence of God for example, will ever be "proven" in the way the 2 + 2 = 4 can be proven.

So a step back from claims of "proof" and towards presentation of evidence - as darkelf eloquently states - might also help raise the bar of quality.

No star, given the forum, but would if I could!



posted on Oct, 20 2008 @ 06:42 PM
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Having been a party to some of these "burden of proof" discussions, and an audience at others, I've pondered this question for a while, and here's what I think the real answer - not the right or correct answer, not even the fair answer, but the real answer - is. The burden of proof is always on the minority.

When you want to try to prove something true that the majority of people don't believe in, such as aliens or bigfoot, the burden of proof is on you.

When you want to try to prove that something the majority of people believe in is not true, such as the theory of gravity or that the Earth revolves around the Sun, the burden of proof is again on you.

If you think about this, I believe you will find that it is self-evident. When you are with the majority, you need only state your point - most people won't challenge it, and if someone does you need only link to numerous references that will be in your favor. When you are against the majority (against "accepted" truth), that is when you will be hard-pressed to prove your point.

If you think about this and come to agree that this is the reality, it then becomes somewhat obvious that the real purpose of "burden of proof" is to maintain the status quo. It is a function of conformity, of "groupthink." In order to prove any "nonconformist" idea to be true, you will need overwhelming proof, because the majority of people won't stray from the majority opinion until there is overwhelming proof.

Think about that the next time you're in a discussion where "burden of proof" comes up. It's not about what's right, correct, real, or factual truth - it's about what the majority of people believe. For example, back when most people believed the Earth was flat, they were wrong. People who started thinking that the Earth was round, they were right, but that didn't matter until they had undeniable proof because they weren't the majority. Thus they were considered to be crazy, stupid, and "wrong" - until the majority opinion changed.


[edit on 20-10-2008 by Heike]



posted on Oct, 20 2008 @ 08:05 PM
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My imaginary inside source knows all and is above reproach.



posted on Oct, 20 2008 @ 10:54 PM
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The OP really does not make any sense. The burden of proof is on whoever is proposing the theory, the end. It doesn't magically shift, the burden remains on you when you propose something.

It is, however, the responsibility of the person disagreeing with you to demonstrate how your proof is in invalid, however they dont have to "prove you wrong." They only have to show the evidence you offer is not enough to prove your theory.

There is a reason why its that way, its to stop people from creating non-falsifiable theories and then screaming at everyone else to prove them wrong.

[edit on 21-10-2008 by LowLevelMason]



posted on Oct, 20 2008 @ 11:48 PM
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The burden of proof should be on the person who makes the claim.

One of my pet peeves is the person who says "Prove that it didn't happen!".



posted on Oct, 21 2008 @ 12:29 AM
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I was under the impression that ATS is an alternative topics discussion board, not just conspiracy theories. There are some great topics in the aircraft and weaponry forums!

That said, and on the topic, if you claim something to be a truth, no matter what it is, you need to back it up. If you can't do this (and this by no means you are wrong, absence of evidence etc) then you can expect people to jump all over.

As an example, there was a post in the aircraft forum that I know is wrong, 100%. Can I provide proof? No. So I apologised and moved on. I know I wasn't wrong, but I couldn't prove it, so why should I expect people to believe me? I like to think I have some credibility on this forum, but at the end of the day, cold hard facts will win every time.



posted on Oct, 21 2008 @ 09:03 AM
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Originally posted by LowLevelMason
The OP really does not make any sense. The burden of proof is on whoever is proposing the theory, the end. It doesn't magically shift, the burden remains on you when you propose something.

It is, however, the responsibility of the person disagreeing with you to demonstrate how your proof is in invalid, however they dont have to "prove you wrong." They only have to show the evidence you offer is not enough to prove your theory.


Thank you for responding. You actually said the same thing I did. The problem with using the word “proof” is a semantic one. There are so many situations where claims cannot be proven, but evidence can be offered to support a claim. Burden of proof or burden of support is never static. If I make a claim, then yes the burden of proof is on me to include supporting evidence. The person who disagrees with me does not have to “prove me wrong.” They do, however, have an obligation to show how and why my evidence is lacking. It is the evidence that is “on trial” and not the “claimant’ or their belief. This is especially true in the spiritual, paranormal, crypto, and UFO forums. These are the gray areas where interpretation of evidence is often simply an opinion.


There is a reason why its that way, its to stop people from creating non-falsifiable theories and then screaming at everyone else to prove them wrong.


Anecdotal stories are difficult to support. This is why a poster’s integrity and reputation are so important. If over time, I have maintained a favorable posting history, I have a better chance of being believed should I post an outrageous anecdotal story. If on the other hand, I have a reputation of hoaxing, picking fights or trolling, my outrageous claims may not be believed whether true or not. These stories are difficult to “prove” and supporting evidence may be non-existent. Although some may be entertaining, they often lend nothing to this site.

Even the most outrageous theory should be welcome as it opens doors to more options. It can open the mind to ponder “what if” scenarios. Please keep in mind; it is not the theory or the poster that should be challenged. We are only debating the validity of the evidence and its interpretation.



posted on Oct, 21 2008 @ 09:21 AM
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reply to post by Willard856
 



Originally posted by Willard856
I was under the impression that ATS is an alternative topics discussion board, not just conspiracy theories. There are some great topics in the aircraft and weaponry forums!


You are correct. I am just not as familiar with the alternative topics as I am with the more conspiratorial.


That said, and on the topic, if you claim something to be a truth, no matter what it is, you need to back it up. If you can't do this (and this by no means you are wrong, absence of evidence etc) then you can expect people to jump all over.


Agreed! But beware the poster who makes these claims. Often it is a ploy to garner points, troll, or perhaps they just don’t understand how to communicate the evidence that supports their claim. I seldom respond to threads where no supporting evidence is offered to back a poster’s claim. I will, however, ask for the evidence.

I once read somewhere that other than math and alcohol, there is no such thing as proof.



posted on Oct, 21 2008 @ 11:40 PM
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There are no set rules. I think it depends on two different approaches/perspectives:

If you are a "Fighter" you are usually looking for a debate/argument, from this view i can see an expectation for the OP to back up their claim. The prize being that there is a winner and looser... in substantiating "proof".

If you are a "Scholar" you are usually interested in proposing your ideas/theory on a subject... in such an open ended discussion there is a cooperative effort to contribute to the collective. The prize being a deeper understanding of a subject.

Often i think people assume that just because a thread is covering a controversial subject matter that it's an invitation to debate... when this is not the intention at all.


[edit on 21-10-2008 by The All Seeing I]



posted on Oct, 21 2008 @ 11:45 PM
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Ah yes the burden of truth.. Something I am learning to deal with on a daily basis.. I found this that I will share in this thread, I think it will make some sense in here...


The Dragon In My Garage
by
Carl Sagan
"A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage"
Suppose (I'm following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you'd want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

"Show me," you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle--but no dragon.

"Where's the dragon?" you ask.

"Oh, she's right here," I reply, waving vaguely. "I neglected to mention that she's an invisible dragon."

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon's footprints.

"Good idea," I say, "but this dragon floates in the air."

Then you'll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

"Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless."

You'll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

"Good idea, but she's an incorporeal dragon and the paint won't stick."

And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won't work.

Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I'm asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.

The only thing you've really learned from my insistence that there's a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head. You'd wonder, if no physical tests apply, what convinced me. The possibility that it was a dream or a hallucination would certainly enter your mind. But then, why am I taking it so seriously? Maybe I need help. At the least, maybe I've seriously underestimated human fallibility.

Imagine that, despite none of the tests being successful, you wish to be scrupulously open-minded. So you don't outright reject the notion that there's a fire-breathing dragon in my garage. You merely put it on hold. Present evidence is strongly against it, but if a new body of data emerge you're prepared to examine it and see if it convinces you. Surely it's unfair of me to be offended at not being believed; or to criticize you for being stodgy and unimaginative-- merely because you rendered the Scottish verdict of "not proved."

Imagine that things had gone otherwise. The dragon is invisible, all right, but footprints are being made in the flour as you watch. Your infrared detector reads off-scale. The spray paint reveals a jagged crest bobbing in the air before you. No matter how skeptical you might have been about the existence of dragons--to say nothing about invisible ones--you must now acknowledge that there's something here, and that in a preliminary way it's consistent with an invisible, fire-breathing dragon.

Now another scenario: Suppose it's not just me. Suppose that several people of your acquaintance, including people who you're pretty sure don't know each other, all tell you that they have dragons in their garages--but in every case the evidence is maddeningly elusive. All of us admit we're disturbed at being gripped by so odd a conviction so ill-supported by the physical evidence. None of us is a lunatic. We speculate about what it would mean if invisible dragons were really hiding out in garages all over the world, with us humans just catching on. I'd rather it not be true, I tell you. But maybe all those ancient European and Chinese myths about dragons weren't myths at all.

Gratifyingly, some dragon-size footprints in the flour are now reported. But they're never made when a skeptic is looking. An alternative explanation presents itself. On close examination it seems clear that the footprints could have been faked. Another dragon enthusiast shows up with a burnt finger and attributes it to a rare physical manifestation of the dragon's fiery breath. But again, other possibilities exist. We understand that there are other ways to burn fingers besides the breath of invisible dragons. Such "evidence"--no matter how important the dragon advocates consider it--is far from compelling. Once again, the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the dragon hypothesis, to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.



posted on Oct, 21 2008 @ 11:53 PM
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Thanks OP. I was just thinking about how I really hate what I think of as "Do my research for me" threads in which the poster starts a thread, makes a claim, and then says something like "Just look around and you'll see!" or "All you need to do is Google this!"

I think I see it most in CiR which is more annoying... because there is no proof in religion, just opinions, so the implication is not just do my research, but "if you do my research you'll most certainly come to take my point of view."

A theory without proof, or at least one that doesn't follow reasonable plausibility, is nothing. Offering one has got to be the thing I would consider most in bad form on this board.



posted on Oct, 22 2008 @ 03:26 AM
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Originally posted by LowLevelMason
The OP really does not make any sense. The burden of proof is on whoever is proposing the theory, the end. It doesn't magically shift, the burden remains on you when you propose something.

It is, however, the responsibility of the person disagreeing with you to demonstrate how your proof is in invalid, however they dont have to "prove you wrong." They only have to show the evidence you offer is not enough to prove your theory.

There is a reason why its that way, its to stop people from creating non-falsifiable theories and then screaming at everyone else to prove them wrong.

[edit on 21-10-2008 by LowLevelMason]


You realize their are two types of BoP?

The Scientific is not the same as the court of law



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