Saturday, September 1, 2012

Burden of Investigation

Chipmunk Not Amused
I argue a lot with people on pretty much any topic, whether I'm right or not.

I came across some nutball who was calling atheists hypocrites because were so harsh on theists not meeting their burden of proof that we weren't meeting our "Burden of Investigation".

Burden of investiwha?
Although atheist have no burden of proof, one can argue that there should be some “burden of investigation”. Since the religious claims are both potential threats and potential opportunities they shouldn’t be just ignored by atheists, but investigated. So a passive atheist, who just waits for believers to deliver him proofs is not a good way to approach things. And a standard burden of proof approach may be mistaken for such passivity by some people. Spending some time to learn and check, verify some religious promises seems to be a better way.
Basically, this guy is unhappy that atheists aren't concerned enough with theists' various lunatic claims, that he's proposing that atheists actually do have a burden to look into those claims.

I'm going to skip a lot of the discussion since it's sort of scattered - I'll hit the points that make it more cohesive.


Here was an analogy of his, of an example:
The second analogy is when someone goes to the police and tells them he overheard two men talking about planning a bank robbery. If police throws him out because he didn’t meet his burden of proof, then they wouldn’t do their job well.
What I pointed out was that this was a massive category error.

If, instead, I go into a police station and start babbling about how Xygorg, the Intergalactic Space Watermelon is going to destroy Manhattan Island with his Mental Rays of Doomz, they would rightly throw me out. But if the police don't investigate, they could accidentally let Manhattan Island be destroyed, so they should spend taxpayers' money to investigate the claim, right? Assign that police officer!

Why would I be thrown out? Because the claims have to have at least some correlation to reality. Assertions like souls, afterlives, etc, have no basis in reality. They are unevidenced and undemonstrated. They fall more into the "Xygorg" category of extraordinary claims than the mundane category of humans hurting humans.

That's a point he was having a considerable problem understanding.

He said we should investigate because what if our souls were in danger of hellfire? So apparently we are adding in fallacies, like Appeals to Consequence into it, making his argument a thinly veiled Pascal's Wager.

His argument slowly changed into "well, you really should investigate because it would be a good idea to try to debunk religions because they're dangerous" - which is quite different from discussing an epistemological framework.

This is my latest response, which, as you will note, is at a point where my temper is at full steam. I actually was looking up thesauruses to find new insulting words.

I lost my whole lunch break to this guy.

Sorry about the weird colors - trying to find a way to keep clear who is saying what.


Your series of responses was one of the worst cases of shifting the burden of proof on yourself. You have made the following claims:

(on religious beliefs) “they’re undemonstrated unevidenced baseless claims that do not correlate to reality in the slightest.”


... which is the defalut position for all claims. They haven't demonstrated their claims and fulfilled their burdens of proof yet, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation.

“They have nothing else other than logical fallacies and previously-refuted-a-thousand-times arguments.”

“the pure insane nature of the religious claims.”

“They’ve spent so much time carefully engineering their god to be unprovable, and insisting that we’re being closed minded by not believing unprovable claims.”

“In fact, the god claims are typically uninvestigatable by design.”

(intelligent design vs. evolution of gods?)

” theists decided to believe something insane and indefensible.”
(you made youself to proof not only that religions are insane, indefensible, but also that theists DECIDE to believe).”

“The existence of souls, let alone those souls being in any harm’s way is, as far as we can tell, pure fantasy.”


Yep - and? I shared with you my opinions on why I don't accept the claims. I haven't gone into depth with evidence for those claims - and thus you aren't required to accept them. Nor are you required to investigate my claims - or are you?


“On top of that, if theists actually had evidence, they’d be presenting it. It’d be their #1 thing they’d be bellowing at the top of their lungs.” (my answer – the example of secret cults).


And that's their problem. If they want me to believe it - they need to meet their burden of proof.

“The claim has to be at least somewhat sane before it’s considered.”


That's basic scientific epistemology - something you're not familiar with.

“our position is absolutely rational, adhering to the standards of science and evidence”.

which by your own standards you have to prove… In the future I’d avice everyone to second-check their posts for such imperfections. Besides, while using certain names of patterns, to check if they match with the text.


...says the person who pushes the sheer idiocy of "Burden of Investigation".

No, I don't. It's the default position. It's irrational to believe something without evidence. Since no evidence has been provided to me to believe the claims, my position is rational - it's definitional. What you'd be requiring of me here would be to prove a negative - that I haven't been provided with any supporting evidence - which is dumb.

This is an awesome change of subject, by the way - a complete red herring as to whether I have an inherent burden to investigate any moronic claim that anyone happens to make, while continuing with ongoing assumption that religious claims are somehow special and deserving of any kind of respect or consideration in the first place, as though they're more important than the guy claiming he astral-projected to Jupiter.

And no, if half the planet started saying they astral projected to Jupiter, that wouldn't make the claims important.

Going bac to the topic – yes, you can argue that a person doesn’t have a burden of caring for his health, or a burden of managing money. One can legally be a 300kg, cancer-ridden bankrupt person. The same way you can argue that an atheist doesn’t have to be active in investigating religions, but can just sit on his lazy ass. Both cases don’t lead to optimal results though, so in practice we can assume that there are some burdens.


You've just conceded your whole argument. Thanks.

When it comes to the burden of proof, the idea is that no one else is required to take your claims seriously and/or accept them until they've met your burden to demonstrate it. Your moronic "Burden of investigation" was saying that we have a burden to investigate whatever claims the religious were making - that we're being hypocrites for requiring theists to demonstrate their claims, but we won't make any effort to investigate those claims, because of your magical "Burden of Investigation" that has no rational basis when it comes to extraordinary claims (we're not talking about mundane claims).

You've now devolved into discussion whether it's beneficial or a question of laziness to not investigate whatever wacky crackpot claims people happen to contrive.

The dangers of religions are great. Religious freedom as interpreted today means people can believe in whatever they want. “Destroy the world” commanding god – OK, thats allowed, “kill the infidels” god – compatible with religious freedom, “beath the women” also. Therefore the potential danger is there, a need for vigilance is strong. You cannot just passively wait until next-something-like-Taliban cuts your head.


This wasn't a discussion about benefits and things that would be nice if we addressed. This was a discussion about basic epistemological standards and practices - otherwise, the "Burden of Investigation" is a nonsense term borne of someone who doesn't like the burden of proof.

Besides noone values an ignorant, passive person who doesn’t even bother to investigate such influential institutions as religions. On the other hand knowing religions weak points you are respected even by them, even if it is as a formidabble enemy.


Let me clue you into some basic facts about reality, because you seem utterly clueless as to why the burden of proof is the way it is.

Do you know why we're not bothering investigating the "influential" insanity of religions? Because we're too busy investigating REALITY. To waste time on ridiculous unevidenced claims would only slow us down in making actual progress at learning about the real world. We're too busy discovering medicines, new technologies, etc, to actually improve the lives of humanity, while the religious are on their knees talking to their imaginary friend trying to get him/her/it to grant a raise, or whatever.

We only have one life that we have any evidence for. Out of those 10000 claims that people make to us, where only 1 is actually true - who are we going to assign to investigate those claims? Who is going to pay any related bills for transportation, lost time, etc? Who is going to take the time? Because, according to you, someone has to investigate it, since we, at least collectively, have a "Burden of Investigation" to investigate any idiotic claim anyone makes, no matter how absurdly asinine and lunatic the claim is - because, according to you - we're supposed to take them seriously enough to investigate with zero evidence presented - since that's what this discussion is about.

Here's why the burden of proof makes sense:

1) The person making the claim is the one who supposedly would have access to the evidence.

2) The person makign the claim is the one who supposedly has experience with the phenomenon.

3) It establishes a clear process for peer review.

4) It puts people to work more on actually investigating reality instead of putting out little fires investigating every moronic claim that's ever made - it cuts through the noise and clears the way for actual progress.

5) It pressures people into actual evidence-based investigation - which is actually a demonstrably effective method for consistently and accurately learning about the world, unlike religions that sit around and make shit up and call it true.

6) If the claimant is wrong, and decided to push a claim that had no suporting evidence, then instead of idiotically wasting the one and only life we know we have of other people, only this idiot's life is wasted. Better the idiots' lives are wasted than those who are honestly and appropriately actually investigating reality.

If the claimant wants, he or she can hire some helping hands, and at least the employee get some pay out of it. But for the rest of us, our lives are too valuable to waste on endless insanity. We need to be given good cause to spend more than a second on bizarre crackpot insane beliefs.

The scientific method produces results because it works in this way.

Someone is going to do the investigation. Placing that burden on those who are making the claim is demonstrably effective, but you are so desperate to shift that burden onto others to see that.



Actually, I have a followup post from the next day....


It’s you who lives in the world of fantasy, where religions care about atheists so much to bother delivering atheists proofs of religious beliefs.


Please cite where I said anything even remotely like that. What I have been saying is that if they do want us to believe them, they have a burden to meet.

In reality what they want to deliver are sentences for blasphemy or apostasy. This is what you will get if no active investigation of religions is done, but just passive waiting for their actions.


I agree. However, that does not entail a "Burden of Investigation". We take legal actions when the cross lines, regardless of whether we've investigated whether their batshit insane claims are true or not. If a group is pushing to teach that our souls are being eaten by soul-eating wasps, we don't have to spend a single second investigating. The act is banned until they can meet their burden of proof.

It’s religions that are one of the dominant forces in the world, not atheism,


Irrelevant. Science operates the way it does because that's the best way we've found for it to work. The rules don't vanish because a large group of people like to throw their weight around.

the world revolves around them and it will be that way as long as they are powerful. It’s not “Argument from popularity” but a simple evaluation that if something is big, powerful, extremaly common, influencing many things – then yes, it deserves to be investigated.


It's not not an Argument from Popularity merely because you say so. Something isn't true or valid or respectable because I bunch of people say so. If the claim is not backed up by evidence, and even is in violation of what we already know about reality, then no. It doesn't deserve a microsecond of consideration, let alone insisting that someone WASTES HIS OR HER LIFE on stupid shit.

Did you even read the reasons why the burden of proof is the way it is? If you don't mind wasting what life you have investigating stammeringly stupid moronic insane delusional assinine that come out of the woodwork in droves, be my guest. The rest of us have no obligation - not until the individual makign the claim has met a bare minimum of his/her burden of proof.

It doesn't matter if one person makes a claim, or a thousand people, or a billion people, or an octillion people. Unless they have evidence, the claim is dismissed until they have evidence with zero obligation by anyone else to look into it.

By analogy – if you lived in a world dominated by the big dinosaurs, then their claim that they are dangerous (made by loud roars or whatever) is to be investigated by you. Don’t wait for the proof from them!


You have a staggering inability to grasp the category error you keep making. You keep utilizing mundane claims to make your point, when what you're insisting that we have a burden to investigate are extraordinary, claims of unprecidented and unevidenced things.

Dinosaurs were real. Dinosaur-like things could exist. This doesn't break laws of physics. This isn't in violation of everything we know about the fundamentals about reality. Creatures eating/hurting other creatures is boringly mundane. If we grant this scenario where we're living in a world of dinosaurs, the one and only unknown in relation to this context is whether they are dangerous - which requires little to no investigation, especially since we would have grown up within this world, and it would be difficult to not notice these things.

A more accurate analogy would be someone claiming that invisible indetectable dinosaurs are eating your disembodied invisible indetectable mind in a parallel universe and if you didn't spent at least an hour a day meditating and imagining that you are fighting them, otherwise your parallel universe mind is in danger! This deserves at least some investigation!

If you didn't know that I just made that up, by your own insistence on this "Burden of Investigation", you would now be obligated to investigate this claim.

Or, you can do what rational people do, and dismiss it as insane until I've met by burden.

That's the category of claims you believe we have a burden to investigate - disembodied parallel dimension minds (souls), invisible universe creating pixies (god), our disembodied parallel dimension mind duplicate operating after our biological bodies die (afterlife). How would you even investigate these in any kind of coherent way?

The minimum requirement for me to care about even bothering to think about investigating something is if it's already something grounded in reality - like your dinosaur analogy, or the bank robber report to the police.

Your analogies simply amount to one big whopping Equivocation Fallacy.

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