I wrote this some time ago and never published it. It's pretty simple but I hope that it helps to get the point across.
How We Evaluate Claims
When we are presented with a particular claim, regardless of the content, we go through a process to determine whether or not the claim is true.
If we can find nothing with which to justify the claim, we can simply stop there. There is no need to accept a claim which has not been positively justified.
We certainly can go on to search for disconfirming evidence, something which would show that the claim is not true; however by this point it isn’t necessary to do so in order to reject the claim’s truthfulness.
However, time and time again, we see and hear people making the argument that ‘you can’t prove that it’s NOT true’. We don’t have to. It is never reasonable to accept a claim based on the non-existence of disconfirming evidence alone. Bertrand Russell demonstrates why this is so with his teapot analogy.
I recently shared a link to a great little article by The Atheist Advocate on patheos.com in which Christians are challenged to wear an Atheist t-shirt for one week, in order to learn about what persecution means, due to the apparent misunderstanding which is often spread by Christians.
Pretty good idea, no?
Now, I know that '____ Challenge' is currently extremely cliche, but would a good name for this be 'Persecution Challenge'? Too emotive maybe?
I may have found a taker, and I think it would be a really great experience, probably for both of us. You see, she's a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
I would be required to wear a Mormon t-shirt for one week, while she would be required to wear an Atheist t-shirt during the same time.
If we both agree on this, how should we document everything? I'm thinking that…
I am going to make a bold statement."For all practical purposes, it is always irrational to assign a supernatural cause to an event observed in the natural world."
Now I am going to attempt to back up that statement.
The only reason (of which I am aware) to assign a supernatural cause to a given event is the following: "I do not currently understand the details and outcome of this observation given my current state of knowledge and understanding of the natural world."
Also, I suspect that many of you would prefer to add the caveat "And the details and outcome of this event are consistent with a particular supernatural belief or belief system", but that is clearly an example of circular reasoning and cannot be a valid part of this discussion. The supernatural belief or belief system is, in fact, the item in question, or to be more accurate, the observation cannot be assigned a cause which has not been demonstrated, it can only be assigned a hypothesized c…