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Proving Non-Existence

Description: Demanding that one proves the non-existence of something in place of providing adequate evidence for the existence of that something.  Although it may be possible to prove non-existence in special situations, such as showing that a container does not contain certain items, one cannot prove universal or absolute non-existence.  The proof of existence must come from those who make the claims.

Logical Form:

I cannot prove that X exists, so you prove that it doesn’t.

If you can’t, X exists.

Example #1:

God exists.  Until you can prove otherwise, I will continue to believe that he does.

Explanation: There are decent reasons to believe in the existence of God, but, “because the existence of God cannot be disproven”, is not one of them.

Example #2:

Sheila: I know Elvis’ ghost is visiting me in my dreams.

Ron: Yeah, I don’t think that really is his ghost.

Sheila: Prove that it’s not!

Explanation: Once again we are dealing with confusion of probability and possibility.  The inability to, “prove”, in any sense of the word, that the ghost of Elvis is not visiting Sheila in her dreams is an impossible request because there is no test that proves the existence and presence of a ghost, so no way to prove the negative or the non-existence.  It is up to Sheila to provide proof of this claim, or at least acknowledge that actually being visited by Elvis’ ghost is just a possibility, no matter how slim that possibility is.

Exception: If Ron were to say, “That is impossible”, “there is no way you are being visited”, or make some other claim that rules out any possibility no matter how remote (or crazy), then Sheila would be in the right to ask him for proof -- as long as she is making a point that he cannot know that for certain, and not actually expecting him to produce proof.

Tip: If you think you are being visited by aliens, gods, spirits, ghosts, or any other magical beings, just ask them for information that you can verify, specifically with a neutral third-party that would prove their existence.  This would be simple for any advanced alien race, any god or heavenly being.  Some ideas of things to ask for:

future lottery numbers (of course you will give all your winnings to charity)

answers to scientific problems that do have scientific answers, but aren’t yet known

exact details of major future events

But if these beings just tell you things such as:

passages / ideas from the Bible

whether you should take that new job or not

where you left your car keys

that they really exist, and others will continue to doubt you

that you should never question their existence

...or anything else which is just as likely to come from your imagination that is untestable and unfalsifiable, then you might want to reconsider the fact that your being of choice is really paying you visits.

References:

You Can Prove a Negative. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/believing-bull/201109/you-can-prove-negative



Registered User Comments

Miguel Lahunken
Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - 08:19:30 AM
That which exists has been differentiated. When it is totally undifferentiated back with its matrix, matching Planck's volume to Planck's volume, it no longer exists. It is nonexistent, and nonexistent eternally by the fact of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The exact series of Planck's volumes can never reassemble together again. That entity, that did exist, now, doesn't exist.

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Miguel Lahunken
Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - 08:29:30 AM
Differentiation has been graphed as a three dimensional curve, called the Ricci curvature. Take a rubber sheet, bunch it up. The bunches represent the differentiated, information. Let it go, and it will snap back to a flat sheet. The bunches have become nonexistent. So too, all informational entities, can become nonexistent.

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Brent
Friday, August 25, 2017 - 04:30:12 AM
I would challenge you to provide "decent reasons to believe in the existence of God." I know of none, and over the last 50+ years, people who have claimed they have one have failed to produce one.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, August 25, 2017 - 05:43:27 AM
I chose the word "decent" knowing it was ambiguous, and less strong than "good." Perhaps I should have worded this such that some reasons are better than others, and many reasons are better than this one.

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dmaker
Friday, September 01, 2017 - 08:53:46 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD:

There are any reasons to believe that God exists?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, September 01, 2017 - 08:59:31 AM
@dmaker: Of course. Flat-earther's have reasons they believe the earth is flat. The question is, how good are those reasons? Some are better than others, but as an atheist, I remain unconvinced.

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dmaker
Friday, September 01, 2017 - 10:34:35 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD:
Perhaps my point is semantic. If someone says the fact that their shoe came untied is a reason to believe that God exists, is their shoe now a reason to believe in God, albeit a poor one? Or is it only a reason for that person, and simply physics for others?

Saying that there are reasons, good or bad, to believe in God implies that there are still reasons to believe in God. This seems different than saying there are things that people perceive as reasons to believe in God. Like I said, semantics most likely.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, September 01, 2017 - 10:58:52 AM
@dmaker: It is semantics. I don't like telling people what is a reason and what isn't (a binary distinction) but I have no problem with making an argument as to why their reason is a poor reason.

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Brent
Saturday, September 02, 2017 - 06:04:59 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: I agree, there is a reason for everything, it's just that some people choose to attribute reasons without evidence, or with inadequate evidence. If I put a nice steak dinner outside my door, and it gets eaten overnight, it's possible that Angelina Jolie stopped by for a snack, and knocked on my door to thank me by fulfilling my lustful desires, and I just didn't hear her. I may choose to believe that's what happened because my lust compels me to believe it, but that's not a good reason, and it's far more likely it was eaten by raccoons.

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