Friday, February 7, 2014

Answering the “you cannot prove a universal negative” gauntlet

It has been a few days since my last posting, having been under the weather and resting up. However it is time to get back to “the real issue” of addressing another atheistic gauntlet. 

Let's suppose that you're in a conversation with an atheist when all of a sudden the person says to you, “You cannot prove a universal negative!” How do we respond to this objection?

In this post I want to address this, since it will sometimes come up as an objection, particularly with one who is a little more aggressive than the cordial atheist. By the way, when I am using the term atheist, I am using it in the context of one who believes that God does not exist. 

But the statement “you cannot prove a universal negative” carries an aire with it much like the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidences” dilemma. Why is this a dilemma? Because it assumes that there is a burden of proof somewhere on the participants in the discussion.

Can the atheist prove the non-existence of a being (i.e., a universal negative)? Sure they can! In all actuality this is really a horrible argument for usage on both sides of the debate. Allow me to demonstrate on why one should not use it.

What if I were to say that there are no brachiosaurues living on earth today? Or are there any purple  tigers? While these questions are easily sayable, they are also difficult to disprove on a universal scale, because no one has exhaustive knowledge of the universe. Thus the claim cannot be disproven.

In all actuality, it is really easy to prove a universal negative or the non-existence of anything;
particularly if it does not exist, like purple polk-dotted jack-a-lopes. All one would need to do is show the logical contradiction within the universal claim. So what is it that is left for this claim?

It is really quite easy to prove a universal negative or the non-existence of something. All one would need to do is demonstrate the logical impossibility of God (to prove a universal negative). How would an atheist do this? Honestly I don't believe that they can prove an inherent contradiction in the existence of God. But that is not
the Christian's task, it is the atheist's burden of proof to prove to the theist. 

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