The Burden of Proof (aka: Should We Presume A God's Existence?)
I always am confounded when theists assert that the burden of proof is on atheists, rather than theists themselves. That is, theists often claim that a god’s existence should be presumed, rather than a god’s non-existence. This, of course, despite the fact that there is absolutely no hard, scientific evidence to support the contention that any gods exist. Belief in gods is based upon faith, rather than hard, scientific evidence. Yet, in the opinions of many theists, the burden of proof remains on the non-believer. This is very curious.
I frequently use the following analogy, to which I've never received an adequate response.
Should a woman have a double mastectomy because she presumes the existence of cancer cells, sans hard evidence? Of course not. She assumes the non-existence of cancer cells, until presented with substantial evidence that cancer cells are present. In my view, presuming the existence of a god and acting accordingly would be exactly the same as presuming the existence of cancer cells and having surgery accordingly. When presented with something questionable, one always should assume non-existence, until presented with hard, scientific evidence supporting the contention of existence. Even then, one must decide whether that hard evidence is compelling enough to warrant belief.
This especially is true for an extraordinary claim, such as the existence of a god. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, as the brilliant Carl Sagan reflected. An omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent deity certainly would be extraordinary, in that such an entity never has been observed in nature. Therefore, in fact, it would be much more rational to presume—sans evidence—one has cancer (and act accordingly) than to presume—sans evidence—a god exists (and act accordingly).
An evidence-deficient god claim actually is more comparable to an evidence-deficient claim for unicorns, leprechauns, banshees or zombies. Much like in the case of a god, testable nature never has laid its eyes upon any of those colorful creatures.
Extraordinary claims necessitate extraordinary evidence. By believers’ own accounts, gods are accepted by faith rather than by scientific evidence. Faith does not meet the high standard of extraordinary evidence; on the contrary, faith is what one uses to prop up beliefs for which no evidence exists.
The burden of proof is on you, theists. Present extraordinary evidence for a god – hard evidence that is testable in the scientific sense. Presuming a god, in all seriousness, absolutely is no different from presuming invisible goblins creeping through my backyard.
Forget about “Where’s the beef?” Where’s the evidence?