With Will Ross
Meaning of Life
Sadly, there are many people in this world who will try to deceive you and take advantage of you. Politicians, salesmen, advertisers, preachers and psychics all employ devious means to get you to believe their tales. Fortunately, you can protect yourself from their skullduggery and nonsense. These two simple steps will help you avoid being sucked in and ripped off.
Politicians, salesmen, advertisers, preachers and psychics all make claims. A claim is an assertion that something is true or factual. Claims are always positive i.e., they assert that something is true, they don’t assert that it’s false: “There is a dog in my backyard” is a claim; “There isn’t a dog in my backyard”, is not a claim, it is the denial of a claim.
The Burden of Proof
That the burden of proof falls on the claimant is an established principle in law and science. In criminal proceedings, the prosecution has to demonstrate that the defendant is guilty. The defense has nothing to prove. Similarly, a drug company must prove the efficacy and safety of a drug before it is released onto the market. Without the safeguard of placing the burden of proof on the claimant, we would all be at risk of being sentenced for crimes we did not commit, and of ingesting unsafe medicine.
Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence
But what if I said that I had a dinosaur in my backyard? What would it take to convince you of that? You know that Sixty Minutes sometimes airs hoax stories; you know that your friend could be pulling your leg to go along with my claim. Before you believed my story, you would need very convincing evidence. In fact, you'd be crazy to believe me unless you had watertight evidence that my dinosaur actually existed.
And so it is with all claims. Everyday claims (such as "I have a dog") don't require very stringent forms of evidence to be accepted. But as we move up the chain of improbability, we need more and more stringent evidence before we accept a claim as true.
Proof for a claim needs to be independent. A company brochure is not a reliable source to backup a claim. Nor are colleagues of the person making the claim.
Suppose an evangelist tells you that there is a God in Heaven who loves you. It certainly sounds good, and it would be great if it were true. Many people believe for that reason alone; they want it to be true. But how does it stand up to our two principles?
Firstly, the burden of proof is on the evangelist. Being unable to prove that God does not exist is insufficient reason to believe that he does exist. Unless the evangelist can prove what he’s saying, you would be wise not to believe him.
Secondly, the claim that there is a god is far more out of the ordinary than the claim that I have a dog, so it requires much more stringent proof. The company brochure (in this case the Bible) is not proof, it is merely a repetition of the claim. Despite numerous attempts, by many believers, over many years, this claim has never been proven. Therefore, it is unworthy of belief.
Many people say that they have seen UFO’s, or spaceships from another planet. Many other people regard these claims as false. The burden of proof is on the claimants, those people who claim to have seen the UFO’s. The doubters have nothing to prove. Spaceships are not everyday items, so you would be wise to wait until you have extraordinary evidence before you believe the claimants.
If you decide that, from now on, you will keep these two principles in mind whenever you consider claims, you will be unlikely to be sucked in or ripped off.
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