Re: “Making the leap – Why faith matters to everyone” (Nov. 12, page 10)

In response to Making the leap, published November, 11, 2010.

In his article “Making the Leap” what Jon Kornelsen neglected to mention is the burden of proof.

In cases where no unambiguous evidence is forthcoming, the burden of proof dictates the default position.

There are two possible default positions for belief in a proposition when evidence is absent: (1) believe every proposition until proven false; or (2) withhold belief until propositions are proven true.

The problem with the first option is that it is logically inconsistent. I’ll illustrate by way of example.

Proposition 1: “Leprechauns place a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow.”
Proposition 2: “Leprechauns do not exist.”

With no evidence forthcoming, option (1) forces you to accept both propositions, even though they are mutually inconsistent.

For this reason, we accept option (2), and conclude that the burden of proof lies with the claimant. If you claim that a deity exists and it created the universe, you bear the burden of proof.

I do not have “faith” that the universe came into being of its own accord. As philosopher Julian Baggini said, “I’m genuinely in the dark about how the universe started, whereas plenty of religious believers have that hole in their understanding plugged by their deity.”
To say “I don’t see how the universe could possibly have begun other than by divine decree” is simply absurd. It is an argument from ignorance, and a logical fallacy. Saying “I don’t know” is always more intellectually honest than pretending that you do.

Gem Newman
The Winnipeg Skeptics

– Gem Newman

Published in Volume 65, Number 13 of The Uniter (November 25, 2010)