Thursday, July 5, 2012

Argument from Ignorance

I have heard this term quite often lately and I thought I understood it but decided to do a little research just to solidify in my own mind that I am correct. Although it may sound like an insult, saying that something is an argument from ignorance it is not calling someone ignorant. It is saying that because you cannot prove something (you are ignorant of the facts) that the claim is being argued out of ignorance, not being able to prove it.


Arguments of this form assume that since something has not been proven false, it is therefore true. Conversely, such an argument may assume that since something has not been proven true, it is therefore false. (This is a special case of a false dilemma[i], since it assumes that all propositions must either be known to be true or known to be false.) "Lack of proof is not proof."

For example, since you cannot prove that ghosts do not exist, they must exist. We can substitute almost anything for ghosts and have the same effect. Or another example, since scientist cannot prove that global warming is happening, it probably isn’t. Since I cannot prove that gods do not exist, they must exist.  I hear that one a lot.

This is what happens so often in debates and discussions about the existence of God. The person arguing that god does exist will attempt to shift the burden of proof to the non believer. I cannot prove that god does NOT exist so therefore he must exist.
In a court of law this kind of assertion would be laughable.  Circumstantial evidence is well known in the courtroom as being very weak evidence, if evidence at all. Yet in daily life it is used with impunity. Scientists largely assume something does not exist until it is proven to exist, which is the base position in any premise. i.e. innocent until proven guilty. So, where the burden of proof lie? In a court of law it is with the prosecutor.  

Therefore, until a believer can provide proof of the existence of god I will remain an atheist. I have no burden of proof and one cannot prove  that something does NOT exist.

For the top ten arguments for the existence of god see


[i] A limited number of options (usually two) is given, while in reality there are more options. A false dilemma is an illegitimate use of the "or" operator.
Putting issues or opinions into "black or white" terms is a common instance of this fallacy. i.e. You are either for me or against me.


rick b said...

Interested said Therefore, until a believer can provide proof of the existence of god I will remain an atheist. I have no burden of proof and one cannot prove that something does NOT exist.

Here is the problem as I have said before. No matter how much evidence someone provides, it will never be enough for a person that simply does not want to believe. Simply put, enough is never enough or good enough.

Interested said...

The real problem is the definition of evidence.

The evidence I can accept is tangible and demonstrable. Evidence that stands alone without faith.

rick b said...

Their is lots of tangible and demonstrable evidence for the Bible, But even with that, people who dont want to believe wont.

Plus it's funny, many people might say or think the same way you do when you said
The evidence I can accept is tangible and demonstrable. Evidence that stands alone without faith.

But then still believe certain things with out that tangible and demonstrable Evidence, Like when it come to the Big Bang. It cannot be proven, it cannot be reproduced in a lab, we cannot see it, taste it, touch it, yet many people believe By faith with out any evidence that it happened. So people do believe what they want despite any evidence.

Interested said...

@Rick I was not speaking of evidence for thr bible. I'm sure there is some truth in the bible but even if it were completely true it still would not be evidence for a god.

This is the problem we run into when theist and atheist debate. There is a huge difference in the understanding of basic ideas.

As for the big bang, I am not qualified to defend it and it may be false but it still doesn't prove that a supernatural power created the universe. your assertion is an example of argument from ignorance. i.e. if the big bang didn't happen then god must have done it.

rick b said...

Interested said . i.e. if the big bang didn't happen then god must have done it.

First off, I never said, If the Big bang did not happen then God must have did it, while I do believe that, and if I did say it, it was not in this topic.

Second, I guess their are lots of Atheists arguing from Ignorance.
You saw the Movie, Expelled. You might not agree with it, but let me remind you of a few things.

Ben stein Is not and has never been a Christian. He is a Jewish Atheist.

Atheists Write Blogs and argue that the Bible is Cruel and Unfair, Yet These same atheists never blog about things people do now a days that are cruel and unfair, only things in the Bible that took place 1000's of years ago.

Ben on the other hand, is going after people that treat Believers unfairly while not being a believer himself.

He was arguing that these Scientists have no evidence for what they believe, are pushing an agenda of firing people that dont believe what they believe or teach.

And back to Ignorance issue, many of these scientists said stuff like, It was either God, the Big bang or aliens that planted us here, They simply choose to believe it was the big bang while admitting they cannot prove it.

Then we had some scientists say, we came on the back of turtles by way of crystals or aliens planted us here.

You might say I argue from ignorance by saying if it was not the Big bang, then it must have been God, but it sure seems ok for scientists to say, it was not God so it must have been the big bang. This means they also are arguing from ignorance and that means you are following a lot of really ignorant scientists, but thats ok.

Then when I stated (and many scientists also believe this also) their is only 3 ways we might have gotten here, Big Bang, God or aliens, This begs the question, if it was aliens, how did they get here? A big Bang or God? Or a third way? No scientists that I'm aware of have ever issued a forth possible way, If they have, please tell me.