So if you follow me on twitter at all, you have probably figured out that I’ve been cramming for the GRE (test to get into grad school). I’m taking the test tomorrow morning, so I’ve been reviewing one of those study guide books. I’m not too nervous, but I figured reviewing can’t hurt, especially since I haven’t done any math other than plugging in numbers for about three years (yay Purdue’s science curriculum).
I think I’m pretty much golden on the writing section. The first part you have to be able to express an opinion, and the second part you have to analyze an argument and find errors in their reasoning. Yeah, I think I’m pretty good at the whole being opinionated and criticizing faulty reasoning. Regardless, I started reading the section of Logical Fallacies…and found this:
Shifting the Burden of Proof
It is incumbent on the writer to provide evidence or support for her position. To imply that a position is true merely because no one has disproved it is to shift the burden of proof to others.
Example: Since no one has been able to prove God’s existence, there must not be a God.
There are two major weaknesses in this argument. First, the fact that God’s existence has yet to be proven does not preclude any future proof of existence. Second, if there is a God, one would expect that his existence is independent of any proof by man.
Are you kidding me? This is in the section on how to think logically? My only gripe is that the sentence says “must” – I would lower it to “most likely” or “probably” because yes, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But regardless, the explanation they give is itself illogical. One, the burden of proof should lie on those who make claims. An absence of something extraordinary isn’t a claim – it’s a null hypothesis. If you have absolutely no proof, what is supporting your argument? Secondly, it’s effectively impossible to prove a negative (that something doesn’t exist), which again leaves the burden of proof with those making the claims. Three, future proof doesn’t hold any ground in current arguments. If I said that I might potentially eventually have proof that unicorns exist, would anyone take me seriously? If I said one day scientists may find that a diet of nothing but chocolate is good for your health, should we all eat nothing but chocolate? No, because it’s not real evidence. And finally, the last sentence about God’s existence being independent of any proof of man is a logical fallacy I like to call “Making Shit Up.” Why is God’s existence independent of any proof of man? What reason do you have to think that other than conveniently and arbitrarily defining God that way? Why God and not gods, or goddesses, or aliens, or fairies?
Logical fallacies when trying to teach logical fallacies. Thank you, book.