Religious attempts at Shifting the Burden of Proof

It is interesting to observe how thoughts tend to ripple into communities, but perhaps not a surprise. As various groups interact and meet on the Internet, ideas are debated; the result …some proposals are rapidly quashed while others survive and so take root and often get repeated. Perhaps what we are seeing is akin to natural selection for ideas.

So what happens when belief comes face-to-face with non-belief? You might be tempted to think that belief rapidly gets quashed, it does to a degree and yet belief persists, so why is that? What you need to realise is that beliefs, the variations we have today, are here because they have been naturally selected and refined over millenia, so they are the variations that have proven themselves to be robust by simply surviving when in competition with other beliefs.

OK, a quick aside, just to be 100% transparent, I’m not in any way suggesting that the survival ability of a belief implies it is true, but rather that it has imparted some survival advantage to those that adopt it. Take Islam as an example, the religion of “peace” (and yes I’m being ironic when I use that term), will rapidly embrace any and all, but those who then decide it is not for them merit a death sentence. It also claims to be the only truth and so it deems all other variations of belief to be false beliefs that must be eliminated. In simple terms, if you don’t embrace this aggressive belief you die, and so those that do, or are at least prepared to pretend they do, survive.

So in essence, the beliefs we have today are here because they are tough cookies and do not generally tolerate alternatives.

When debating belief, you will usually be presented with daft claims regarding the reality of a god. Specific beliefs will also often promote some truly strange thoughts, for example I’ve been advised that Jinns are real because they are mentioned in the Quran, I’ve also been told that the proof of Islam is that the Quran is a book of science and contains things unknown at the time it was written so Allah must have done it, oh and let us not forget the claim that evolution is a lie. Do all Muslims think like this? No, you can never generalize like that, but I find that many do.

OK, let us (very briefly) look at some of the above…

  • Jinns! or to use the western term “Genies”, the entities that grant three wishes, are real… seriously!! … apparently yes. The problem is that if you believe the Quran to be true then you need to also buy into this concept. (Link here to 72.1-2 in the Quran). Such crazy thinking is not unique to Islam, remember that the bible has stuff like this as well … angels for example.
  • If hearing about the Quran being a book of modern science, there are lots of variations, forexample claims that it mentions an expanding universe, modern embryology, etc… The evidence presented will often be a slick YouTube clip, but the actual verse will turn out to be some vague poetical phrase that has been quote-mined out of context. Funny how the modern science only gets discovered in the Quran after real science has done so. Its a trick of course, you can do this with any ancient text. (As an example, here is somebody doing exactly the same with that well-known holy text … Moby Dick – How could have Herman Melville (PBUH) known these scientific facts? Unbelievers will tell you that it is all by chance, they are too blind to see the miracles !!)
  • As for the “evolution is a lie” claim .. yep 99.98% of scientists are complete idiots and some religious nut has the right answer, but no actual evidence … that is oh so credible – not.

When faced with religious claims the most obvious question to ask is, “And your evidence that this is true is what exactly?“. Believers are now being challenged with that to a degree not seen before because of the Internet, and so while the “evidence” is stuff such as the supposed miracles of modern science in the Quran or similar, when you drill down, what you actually discover are incandescent vapors and reflective surfaces (that’s smoke and mirrors to you and me), and so this apparent “evidence” is itself just a belief and is not objective empirical evidence at all.

If you keep pushing … demanding evidence … none appears because they don’t have any. Those that are honest will admit that it is actually “faith-based” and not “evidence-based”.

As another quick aside, it is interesting to note that belief has tricked many into thinking that “faith” is a virtue and that doubt is wrong. Faith, in simple terms,  is accepting something at true without any evidence at all … now that is quite frankly insane, and yet is also apparently socially acceptable because it is quite popular.

Shifting the Burden Of Proof

So how has “belief” responded when shown it has no justificable reason for it’s assertions?

One interesting reply is that I’ve started to see some attempts to shift the burden of proof. Here is a typical example … Mr Ghilan argues …

In circumstances in which the great majority hold a belief of any kind, what the dissenting voice must do is bring forth their case and prove it. In other words, rather than the accused being innocent until proven guilty, they become guilty until proven innocent …

The proposition that the believer must provide evidence for God, and until then we should remain either atheists or agnostic is problematic when we have had, since the beginning of history records, humans having engaged in some form of religious rituals and having acknowledged the existence of God. This is not an appeal to antiquity or to popularity. It is simply a pointing to a fact of life. It does not establish the truth of the claim that God exists, nor does it point to the fallaciousness of the claim that God does not exist. All this fact does is put the burden of proof on the atheist rather than the believer since he is the one dissenting from the great majority.

In other words, he claims that because belief is really popular, it is up to the non-believers to prove it is wrong. It is perhaps worth pointing out that there has never been a universal “god” concept, instead we have been faced with a considerable degree of diversity. I also note that his specific god concept is not the most popular variation, instead the Christian trinity alternative is, and he appears to be quite happy to reject that one as false.

Nope, you don’t get the shift the burden of proof like that, reality is not something we vote on, the only criteria for something being true (or not) is evidence (or lack of it), popularity does not alter that. Lets illustrate that, Astrology is really popular, even today all our daily newspapers print horoscopes, so the burden of proof is on us to debunk? Nope, those who truly believe cannot avoid the burden of citing credible evidence if they wish to assert the claim. Those making claims don’t get to say what is and is not acceptable, instead those that need to be convinced do.

What we do learn from this attempt to shift the burden of proof is that this is a confess that they do not have any credible evidence. If there was, then why resort to such tactics, just present it. So does Mr Ghilan present any evidence? Nope, none, he simply waffles on about types of “evidence” and that apparently no matter what evidence he presents to “science-worshipers”, they reject it. That is of course because his supposed “evidence” consists of daft claims.

He also proceeds to argue that we don’t believe because … (prepare to face-palm) …

…it is more about an attachment to a hedonistic lifestyle where the caprices and desires are fulfilled without restriction, combined with a hubristic vision of their intellectual capacities and human abilities, than it is being about the actual question of God’s existence

This stance reminds me in many ways of the Christian claim that Atheists don’t exist and that we are all secretly believers and are simply angry at God.

What is clear is that those ensnared by the psychological trick of belief are unable to come to terms with the implications of a lack of evidence, and so they claim alternative motivations for such a skeptical stance. In this case we are apparently committed to being members of some gang of atheists who stalk the countryside raping and pillaging. Oh and his evidence for this claim? Yep, you get it … none at all. Those Muslims who wish to assert this crazy claim need to first consider a few facts …

If Mr Ghilan wishes to make claims regarding morality, he might like to first consider the idea of citing some evidence for his “we are truly good and you are evil” claim, because clearly the facts revel his claim to be false.

Belief may indeed be trying here to adapt when confronted with the complete lack of evidence by attempting to shift the burden of proof and also by claiming alternative motives for non-belief. Are any of these new thoughts credible? Nope, not for the non-believers, but such thinking may indeed help to keep the believers locked in and imprisoned.

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