Our server costs ~$56 per month to run. Please consider donating or becoming a Patron to help keep the site running. Help us gain new members by following us on Twitter and liking our page on Facebook!
Current time: November 29, 2020, 3:01 am

Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
You cant prove a negative!
#1
You cant prove a negative!
I've seen this statement repeated by theists as though it were a logical weapon of mass destruction, capable of ending any argument proposing the non-existence of god. I've also seen "polite atheists"? repeat this sentiment when attempting to explain their position. The statement is actually incomplete, it should be stated (if you wish to make this statement) that "you can't prove a universal negative."

The problem with this statement, in both forms, is that it is inherently false. consider the following:

"There are no planets between Venus and Earth"
This is a singular negative, and it can be proven.

"There are no prime numbers whose square root is a rational number"
This is a universal negative, and it can be proven.

The method one employs to prove this particular universal negative is proof by contradiction, itself a form of reductio ad absurdum. Strong Atheists sometimes employ this argument to show that a god with any set of contradictory characteristics cannot exist in the known world. If one wished to wholly avoid this argument being applied against their proposition, one could formulate an argument such as

God cannot be defined
That which cannot be defined cannot be dis-proven
God cannot be dis-proven.

We do in fact see this argument[/i] in debate after debate. Completely ignoring the issue that this statement is factually meaningless, there is still a problem with this argument. Stating that god cannot be defined is in at least one respect defining god; as a concept belonging to a set of concepts which cannot be defined, which is subject to proof by contradiction.

This is one of the reasons that apologetics continue to be refined. That people attempt to prove the existence of god with logic is unsurprising to me, that people continue to assert that a negative (singular or universal) cannot be proven is.

As a side note. I'm a high-school drop out, and I can wrap my head around these concepts. This leads me to believe that anyone can do the same, some are simply unwilling.

Late edit: Claiming that logic can support the god proposition and yet is simultaneously powerless to defeat it is dishonest.

Ten cats and twenty chickens, say something.
Reply
#2
RE: You cant prove a negative!
Actually, if you look at certain topics on this forum it has been repeated quite a lot not to use "you can't prove a negative" as it is obviously false. It is more difficult to prove a negative in some cases while in other cases it is even quite easy.
Best regards,
Leo van Miert
Horsepower is how hard you hit the wall --Torque is how far you take the wall with you
Pastafarian
Reply
#3
RE: You cant prove a negative!
Oh I've definitely seen it touched upon. Nothing wrong with giving the subject its very own (recent) thread, besides, up to this point I've mostly been posting myself up on the rooftop of other posters threads. Don't want to make it a habit of hijacking other posters threads without posting anything myself.
Ten cats and twenty chickens, say something.
Reply
#4
RE: You cant prove a negative!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_teapot

Quote:In an article titled "Is There a God?" commissioned, but never published, by Illustrated magazine in 1952, Russell wrote:

Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them.* This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.[1]

*I can think of a couple of shitwits on this forum who employ such idiocy on an almost daily basis.
Reply
#5
RE: You cant prove a negative!
You know, you can find t-shirts and messenger bags, but I don't think there's an actual teapot that gets marketed.

(if anyone runs with this please remember me when you're reimbursing your investors...lol)
Ten cats and twenty chickens, say something.
Reply
#6
RE: You cant prove a negative!
Quote:God cannot be defined
That which cannot be defined cannot be dis-proven
God cannot be dis-proven
What an absurd argument. Can you show me an example?

Speaking about the Christian God: God can be and is defined; God can be known; All of God can't be known: these are important distinctions often toyed around with for weak effect.

The attributes of God are logically defensible, as past discussions on this forum have proven.

God doesn't exist just 'in the known world', so we shouldn't be surprised that descriptions of him include the metaphysical.
Reply
#7
RE: You cant prove a negative!
I agree, its an absurd argument.

I am absolutely okay, by the way, with any argument for the existence or definition of god that circumvents any proof by contradiction. Statements or definitions formulated for the purpose of playing a game of logic erode the idea of what it means, exactly, to be a god. I would even argue in favor of a proposition that isn't internally inconsistent. I'm just practical like that. If you have some definition or list of gods attributes that doesn't pose a logical contradiction let's hear it.

Happen to have links for the threads that prove the descriptions of gods attributes are logically defensible btw? I'm a compulsive reader.
Ten cats and twenty chickens, say something.
Reply
#8
RE: You cant prove a negative!
(June 30, 2011 at 2:15 pm)Rhythm Wrote: Happen to have links for the threads that prove the descriptions of gods attributes are logically defensible btw? I'm a compulsive reader.

[ARCHIVED] - The attributes of the Christian God exhibit logical contradictions.

Obviously, proving a negative is impossible except for statements like "The sun doesn't exist" or "The moon is not made of cheese" because those are facts which do not enter into the realm of the metaphysical.

Logic alone cannot prove God because from the perspective of mathematics, as demonstrated by Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, there are inherent limitations in essentially all mathematical systems, with the exception of a few trivial ones, because they are contingent upon certain axioms within a system that have to be assumed to be true in the first place without any proof (which may or may not be true). Hence logic is "incomplete" when you get to it's deepest level.

It would be more helpful to mention what constitutes as a "proof" of anything. The word can mean either "persuasive (though not necessarily infallible) evidence" or "absolute verification of something, impossible to deny". Either way, the idea relies more on our own subjective acceptance or agreement with something instead of objective fact and ignores the fact that there is quite literally nothing whatsoever a human mind cannot deny while still thinking it's only the mind itself being rational about the subject.
Reply
#9
RE: You cant prove a negative!
Thanks for that Rayaan. The gentleman in favor of the position was very eloquent. Not sure I would have taken the same route in forming the argument against the proposition. Nevertheless a good show. I would have to respond to you Frodo, that the attributes argued for in that position could definitely be said to be logical, thankfully for the opposition the god of the bible is given so many more attributes.
Ten cats and twenty chickens, say something.
Reply
#10
RE: You cant prove a negative!
Well, I actually went into further detail about this argument not too long ago.
I was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad.

[Image: 161109-WlllQ6UaSpqY.png]

Trump 2017: We're all nihilists now.
Reply



Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Prove honesty is virtuous! Mystic 15 1068 May 30, 2018 at 7:51 pm
Last Post: Brian37
  You can't prove to me you are an atheist. Knowledge of God 129 11120 June 29, 2014 at 4:12 pm
Last Post: Whateverist
  Negative thinking is better then positive thinking Gooders1002 6 1575 May 7, 2013 at 5:26 am
Last Post: KichigaiNeko
  You can't prove a negative (parody) Mystic 33 13844 April 10, 2013 at 4:56 pm
Last Post: Godscreated
  Morality, Justice, Greatness - do these things prove God? Mystic 25 8662 March 5, 2012 at 1:20 am
Last Post: AthiestAtheist
  Proving The Negative little_monkey 1 979 October 14, 2011 at 9:15 am
Last Post: Epimethean
  'Prove claims' question. Edwardo Piet 38 12218 December 17, 2008 at 1:06 pm
Last Post: Edwardo Piet



Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)