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Summary in 400 words or less:
The Burden of Proof (BoP) is the idea that an individual who makes a claim is responsible for supporting it. This makes debate flow more smoothly and prevents people from making claims for which they have no support. If, for example, someone said that studies demonstrate that pancakes inhibit nose hair growth, they would be expected to provide said studies. If instead their opponent is sent down the rabbit trail of the Internet and does not find the studies, that could mean they don’t exist, but it could also mean that their opponent didn’t look in the right places. So, in addition to making logical sense, it is functionally valuable, and prevents people from burning a lot of cycles responding to arguments they do not know the content of.
In the discussion of religion, the burden of proof is brought up often, and there are many misconceptions about it. You will hear that you cannot prove a negative – this is false. The distinction between a negative claim and a positive claim is linguistic, not logical. Furthermore, even if it was true, the burden of proof does not go away if you cannot support your claim. The burden of proof exists to prevent you from making claims you cannot support. So it would not make sense for it to not apply in cases where proof cannot be found.
If someone says, “There is no god,” the burden of proof is on them. If someone says “There is a God,” the burden of proof is on them. The BoP can be a huge asset or a huge weight, depending on how conscious you are of it when you debate. Only make claims you are prepared to support, and watch out for other people trying to make claims that they have not supported. Many people throw away debates by making claims beyond what are necessary and for which they have no support. Do not be that person.
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Collaborators: Max Mills
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