Sunday, March 30, 2008

Doggerel #147: "I Can't Prove it or Disprove It"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

One of the things woos like to say about anything remotely "supernatural," especially "God," is that questions about it will remain forever because no one can prove it or disprove it. They usually do this by trying to define their favorite thing as being immune to inquiry. Kind of makes you wonder why someone who's already decided argument can go nowhere wastes his time. Of course, woos want to have their cake and eat it, too: They want to argue that something has effects, but make excuses as to why we can't look at those effects to increase our knowledge.

Of course, all us skeptics know the core problem with all this: It's classic shifting of burdens. First, the person making the positive claim has to make it falsifiable: They have to know how they could disprove it if they're wrong. Making a claim of yours unfalsifiable is just showing off closed-mindedness. Second, you don't blindly assume everything you can't disprove is real. Lack of negative evidence alone doesn't make something more plausible. There has to be confirming evidence. Otherwise, we'd be forced to believe in everything, including ideas people haven't defined in meaningful ways, and ideas yet to be dreamed up.


Bachalon said...

As I've become fond of saying, "A lack of conclusive disproof doesn't make belief and non-belief equally reasonable."

If one is going to believe in something merely because it hasn't been disproven, then that person is going to believe a lot of strange and contradictory things.

Don said...

Quick Doggerel suggestion: "Left-brain/Right-brain." Ghislain's been pulling this one at my place and it's irritating as hell.