Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Burden of Proof

People engaged in or looking for a debate often make a big fuss about who has the burden of proof. Atheists say that theists exclusively have the burden of proof, and theists say either that atheists shoulder all the burden of proof or at the very least share it. At least some do. Either way, it often seems that no one on either side is ready to come out and say, “Yep, the onus is all mine.”

Now, I’m sure I could go research any number of authorities on the subject of who owns the burden of proof in debate, but not every exchange is a debate, and going around to everyone who makes any kind of statement saying saying “Oh yeah? Prove it!” strikes me as rather untoward, anti-social, even childish. Perhaps the issue is not so much who has the burden of proof, but when is the very notion of a burden of proof even relevant to begin with. Dwelling on who has the burden of proof in a discussion (rather than a debate) can be anticlimactic and even counterproductive to the goals of a discussion. Contention for contention’s sake will only close doors that would be better off if left propped open. So some wisdom is certainly due here.