Who Has the Burden of Proof? Apparently Not the Christian. (2 of 4)

Who Has the Burden of Proof? Apparently Not the Christian. (2 of 4) January 20, 2020

In part 1, we looked at a couple of arguments from popular Christian apologists with a deceptive view of the burden of proof. Let’s look at two different definitions of “burden of proof.” As with the different definitions of “faith,” Christians cloud the issue for their benefit, perhaps knowingly. It helps to see these definitions and know when they’re being used.

Burden of proof definition #1

First, it can be the concept taken from a criminal trial. Here, we begin with a presumption of innocence for the accused. The prosecution can’t present merely an argument as compelling as that from the defense; they must overcome it to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

Returning to the Christians’ argument (see part 1), this beyond-a-reasonable-doubt burden is what the supernaturalist has. We start that debate with the assumption of a natural explanation because we have no good evidence of any supernatural causes of anything. Wallace would love to have parity for his God hypothesis, but it doesn’t work that way. Naturalism is the default, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Imagine someone thinking, “I have no idea for the answer to this problem. I’ll just put down . . . I dunno, 7. Well, that’s either right or wrong, so that gives me a 50/50 chance. I like those odds!” A child can be forgiven for that analysis, but we have higher standards for adults.

Take the Purple People of Pluto as an example of something that none of us have any particular interest in. Do we start with parity? Could anyone legitimately demand that you either prove that they don’t exist or adjust your reality to accept the Purple People of Pluto? Of course not. The default is no Pluto people (or unicorns or fairies or Bigfoot) and no supernatural. Any alternative argument that moves us off this default must be quite compelling.

Burden of proof definition #2

But apologists wants to ignore that definition. There is another, and that was what Koukl and Wallace were referring to. If I make a claim, I need to be prepared to defend it. This is where we enter the messy realm of rhetorical tricks and debate tactics, which was Koukl’s concern with his “Professor’s Ploy.”

Wallace is technically correct that if the atheist says, “There’s no God” (or the resurrection didn’t happen or the supernatural birth story came from other cultures or whatever), the Christian is within their rights to insist that the atheist defend that position. This is what Koukl was arguing. This puts the Christian in the role of attacker, trying to pick apart your argument, and Koukl likes that situation. You must defend a position and they don’t, assuming the Christian hasn’t yet declared a position (and Koukl is careful to advise that they avoid that).

A little debate advice

Speaking for myself, I usually don’t mind being in that position. I’m happy to argue that the evidence points to a conclusion. I never argue that I can prove anything; I simply claim that the preponderance of evidence points to the naturalist position, like claiming that the preponderance of evidence says that unicorns don’t exist.

The only debating point I want to make is for atheists to realize that they start with the high ground. They are arguing the default position. The burden of proof in any religious discussion is on the theist. If you want to give up that advantage and declare your own position that you must defend, that’s fine, but do it deliberately, not accidentally. In fact, if you inadvertently realize that you overstated your position (for example, saying “There is no God” rather than “I see no good evidence for God”) and your Christian antagonist is giving you the Koukl treatment by asking all the questions and demanding answers, you can always apologize for clumsily stating your position and restate it in a non-dogmatic fashion to return the burden of proof to the Christian.

See also: Extraordinary Claims and Extraordinary Evidence

I think I’ve found the secret behind the strategy. That’s in part 3.

The fact is no one needs to present
any arguments against Christianity.
All we need to do is ask the Christians
to provide evidence to their claims.
Until they are able to do that,
their entire belief system can be dismissed as nonsense.
— commenter C_Alan_Nault


Image from Rob Oo, CC license

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  • eric

    First, it can be the concept taken from a criminal trial. Here, we begin with a presumption of innocence for the accused. The prosecution can’t present merely an argument as compelling as that from the defense; they must overcome it to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The legal system has decision-making rules that make no sense from a scientific perspective, because human wellbeing is involved. You’ve got some person in custody and a victim (or their stand-in, ‘the state’) desiring justice, and neither want to wait decades for a verdict; it’s unfair to both of them. Saying “we don’t know…needs more research” is a legally unacceptable outcome. Science is almost in an opposite position: coming to a definitive conclusion when there’s no strong evidence and no pressing need to do so is the unacceptable outcome.

    “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is one such rule that is intended to assist the legal system in coming to a definitive conclusion in a limited amount of time no matter what the state of the evidence. Science doesn’t – or rarely – needs to do that. It can explore multiple explanatory hypotheses, for decades if need be. Or, conversely, a scientist may “conclude” their research more quickly and with less effort than a legal trial would entail by reporting a statistical outcome. I.e. “there’s a 75% chance that the mass of this particle 6g +/- 3g.” The legal system can’t really do that; it would need to convert such a statement in to a binary guilty/not guilty conclusion, even if that takes more effort and more rules such as ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’

    All of which is to say that a defense of theism that rests on claiming science hasn’t met some legal standard of what would be “needed to convict” the supernatural greatly misunderstands how science works, and why it works differently than the legal system.

    You must defend a position and they don’t, assuming the Christian hasn’t yet declared a position (and Koukl is careful to advise that they avoid that).

    Such advice is pretty much the antithesis of honest searching after truth. It shows just how diametrically opposed Christian apologetics is from a scientific exploration of how things work.

    • Yeah, that’s why doing the research to make sure you got the right person — aka collecting evidence that will either point at or away from the suspect — is part of the whole, you know, arrest and trial process.

  • Castilliano

    There’s an important point you made, Bob, that I’d like to reemphasize:
    God is not a 50/50 proposition. (And yes, I’ve had some argue that IRL.)
    Theists tend to argue toward their sense of a god’s probability rather than mine, so I think it’s helpful to take a step back and ask them how does one determine the prior probability of a god or gods? How might we go about that?

    Personally, I find an omni-god to be omni-improbable by basic inversion. I reckon solipsistic schema more probable! I find the simplicity of an eternal quantum foam (or even The Dead, Dumb Pixie Committee) to be significantly more probable as a concept than a “best god evah!” could be. I find it funny-sad when theists mock evolution for saying complexity arises naturally (OMG how?!) when their proposition has ultimate complexity popping into being on its own.

    Prove abiogenesis? How about you in the meantime prove atheogenesis?

    • Michael Neville

      Before we can determine the probability of a god or gods we have to have a working definition of what a god is. The Oxford English Dictionary has:

      God noun 1. (in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.
      2. (in certain other religions) a superhuman being or spirit worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity.

      Definition 1 (def 1) has a range from a vague deist deity who started the universe and then retired into the background to Yahweh and Allah. But def 1 is more limited than definition 2 which covers anything from Superman and the Hulk to Zeus and Wotan. Considering Yahweh from def 1 we again have a range of options from the “ground state of the universe” to a geezer with a long, white beard who finds car keys, decides which team will win The Big Game and has an unhealthy obsession with sex. In discussions with Christians I have seen the definition of Yahweh change from one extreme to the other in the course of the same conversation, depending on which particular version of Yahweh is needed to bolster the particular argument being made.

      The evidence for Superman is as good as the evidence for Allah, i.e., they both appear to be figments of human imagination. So in my estimation the probability of gods is extremely low. Not necessarily zero, but highly improbable.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    I’m perfectly happy to consider “supernatural” hypotheses on the same level as their natural counterparts. All theists need to is define their terms rigorously, provide a mechanism and be able to make testable predictions.

    It’s not my fault your offering fails to do these things, nor is it anyone else’s fault that the only recourse is to provisionally dismiss “hypotheses” with these flaws. Fix the problems if you want to be taken seriously.

  • Wallace is technically correct that if the atheist says, “There’s no God” (or the resurrection didn’t happen or the supernatural birth story
    came from other cultures or whatever), the Christian is within their rights to insist that the atheist defend that position.

    Sure, but it’s not like there’s a symmetry between the position “the Christian God exists” and “the Christian God does not exist.” These two propositions aren’t even remotely in the same ballpark once we start to compare them. The first proposition is essentially the claim that some kind of necessarily existing, three persons in one essence (whatever this nonsense means), disembodied mind exists, while the second simply denies that this is the case. I don’t know about you, but any mind I’ve ever come across has always come from some physical being, and has never been part of any trinity. I also see no reason to believe that disembodied minds are even possible, let alone probable.

    If theists want to start getting into arguments about their God, I’m happy to provide the problem of suffering, which deals very effectively with the idea that an omnipotent, omniscience, omnibenevolent, being exists, along with the problem of divine hiddenness. I believe the problem of hiddenness is a strong argument against the idea that God came to Earth with the most important message, but only delivered it to a handful of ignorant peasants at a time when the vast majority of the population was completely illiterate, such that this message required oral tradition to be carried for decades before it was written down. Given these two problems, I think it’s the case that the God(s) of Christianity almost certainly doesn’t exist. If they want to talk about some other god, the arguments probably have to be selected for what is being dealing with.

  • Ellabulldog

    No need to debate. Call their god childish superstition. Or bullshit.

    An honest discussion about religion involves knowledge. What religion really is and how it is a human mind control device invented as societies grew in size.

    Of course a theist won’t want to discuss that.

    Many won’t define their god. So it is dismissed.

    Some may just say “The Bible Says” and want to get into a bible knowledge pissing contest. No need as it’s not a factual history book. It’s fable.
    It is what they know so they will rant on and on. Just dismiss it like they dismiss all other “holy” books or other religious beliefs. Compare it to Scientology. Have them explain why the Xenu story is wrong. Then tell them to apply the same reasoning to their faith.

    Or say Evolution. It wrecks the Bible.

    We teach that Zeus is myth in the US. No difference between Zeus and Jesus.

    So no need to debate. Flat out state that from cognitive science, psychology, anthropology, comparative religion, archaeology, biology, genetics, philosophy, astrophysics and other disciplines that there is knowledge about what gods and religions are.

    Then if they want knowledge they can study it. If they want to believe nonsense and have a superstition they can ignore it.

    Regarding how everything began? We don’t know.

    So we can be agnostic to how Existence came to be yet have knowledge that the gods of men do not exist as asserted.

    • rationalobservations?

      Well written!
      An additional clincher to the “bible says….” non-argument is to ask “which bible?”
      The oldest/first NT bible is called “Codex Sinaiticus” and it was written in the late 4th century. It has been published online since 2008. It differs from the KJV in over 14,000 ways and is proof that all the diverse and very different bibles are the products of men, not any of the millions of undetected and undetectable fictional gods goddesses and god-men.

      • Ficino

        I remember a Christian on some board long ago and far away arguing that Tischendorf forged the Sinaiticus.

        • Glandu

          everything that goes against one’s opinion is obviously forged…

        • Geoff Benson

          Or the work of Satan. It’s never god saying something you don’t want to hear.

        • rationalobservations?

          Denial and cognitive dissonance are the stock in trade for christian brand religionists who follow the dishonourable course of lying for “Jesus” when the evidence supported truth confounds them.

        • al kimeea

          same for the mediwoo faithful

        • rationalobservations?

          Indeed! At least religiots no longer kill too many people while the mad and dangerous anti-vax morons are now causing the deaths of an ever increasing number of babies and children.
          It’s overdue tine for legislation to ensure that all children are vaccinated regardless of how stupid and gullible their parents are?
          There is no difference in outcome between a parent who starves a child to death or kills a neighbour’s child through negligence and an anti-vaxer who causes the death of their own or another’s child. The only difference currently is that the anti-vaxer parent can cause death with impunity in most parts of the “developed” western world.

          When will this deadly lunacy be stopped?

        • al kimeea

          Not just anti-vax. Netflicks is showing an infomercial called “GoopLab” by another celebrity health expert, spreading the woo further. so no stopping any time soon. Unfortunately, the legislators around here discussing vaccinations consider the science to be unsettled. Waaay back, I received at least one vaccination in the school…

          Apparently, all mediwoo needs is a better narrative for greater acceptance, according to philosowoo.

        • rationalobservations?

          Although it is evolution in action weeding out the ignorant and the gullible. It is sad.

        • Lord Backwater

          Why would an all-knowing, all-powerful God who cared about communicating His message to people allow such actions?

        • Steven Watson

          What is one more forgery amongst Xtians? The majority of the books of the NT are forgeries. 20 out of 27 are either forged or fiction. The half dozen mostly genuine books are cut and pastes from a chap who mistook hallucinations for external reality; granted he had no reason to think otherwise.

      • Steven Watson

        Are any of those differences even remotely meaningful? As near as damnit, NO.

        • rationalobservations?

          Are any of those differences even remotely meaningful?
          Two whole “books” that appear on Sinaiticus (“Shepherd of Hermas” & Epistle of Barnabas that goes out of its way to claim that it was the Jews, not the Romans, who killed “Jesus”) are excluded from later versions and almost endless quotes and references to resurrection etc are “missing” from Sinaiticus.
          Sinaiticus also omits mentions of the “ascension” of Jesus into heaven, and key references to the “resurrection”. Also missing but added to later versions is the story of the woman taken in adultery and about to be stoned – until Jesus rebuked the Pharisees (a Jewish sect), inviting anyone without sin to cast the first stone. Nor are there words of forgiveness from the cross. Jesus does not say “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.

          For those who believe the Bible is the inerrant, unaltered word of God, there will be some very uncomfortable questions to answer. It shows there have been thousands of alterations to today’s bible.

          Also missing is the story of the woman taken in adultery and about to be stoned – until Jesus rebuked the Pharisees (a Jewish sect), inviting anyone without sin to cast the first stone.

          Nor are there words of forgiveness from the cross. Jesus does not say “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.

          For those who believe the Bible is the inerrant, unaltered word of God, are a lot of very uncomfortable questions to answer. It shows there have been thousands of alterations to today’s bible.

          The oldest/first bible is clearly the work of men and its existence proves that all the very different versions of later fabricated NT bibles have been the work of men.


        • Steven Watson

          G.Mk has neither ascension, nor ressurection; the chap in white merely telling the women he had “gone before them to Galilee”. Since they “told no one” what had transpired even that can be diismissed.

          There are no differences in Sinaiticus approaching the differences within and between the books of either the Textus Receptus or the KJV.

        • Steven Watson

          The Textus Receptus takes into account both Sinaiticus and Tischendorf’s work in general. Other than hard-on fundies, the Textus Receptus is generaly accepted and the basis of any translation that has bottom. I’ll also point out that neither the RC nor Orthodox churches, the majority of Xtians even without the sensible Protestants, make an idol of The Book, neither do they dissallow an allegorical or metaparabolic reading in favor of an wholly literal one.

        • rationalobservations?

          In addition to the two complete books that appear in Sinaiticus but are omitted from later versions and even tho Sinaiticus itself contains the evidence of a further 800 years of additions, deletions, interpolations and editing:

          The text of the New Testament lacks several passages:

          Omitted verses
          Gospel of Matthew 12:47, 16:2b-3, 17:21, 18:11, 23:14, 24:35;
          Gospel of Mark 1:33, 7:16, 9:44, 9:46, 10:36, 11:26, 15:28, 16:9–20 (Long ending of the Gospel Mark, referring to the appearance of Jesus to many people following the resurrection)
          Gospel of Luke 10:32 (Likely omitted due to haplography resulting from homeoteleuton; the verse was added by a later corrector in lower margin.), 17:36
          Gospel of John 5:4, Pericope adulterae (7:53–8:11) (see Image “John 7:53–8:11”), 16:15, 19:20, 20:5b-6, 21:25
          Acts of the Apostles 8:37; 15:34; 24:7; 28:29;[21]
          Epistle to the Romans 16:24

          Page of the codex with text of Matthew 6:4–32
          Omitted phrases
          Matthew 5:44 εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς καταρωμένους ὑμᾶς, καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς (bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you);[22]
          Matthew 6:13 – ὅτι σοῦ ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία καὶ ἡ δύναμις καὶ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας. ἀμήν (For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.) omitted.[23]
          Matthew 10:39a – ο ευρων την ψυχην αυτου απολεσει αυτην, και (Ηe who finds his life will lose it, and);[24]
          Matthew 15:6 – η την μητερα (αυτου) (or (his) mother);[25]
          Matthew 20:23 και το βαπτισμα ο εγω βαπτιζομαι βαπτισθησεσθε (and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with)[26]
          Matthew 23:35 – υιου βαραχιου (son of Barachi’ah) omitted; this omission is supported only by codex 59 (by the first hand), three Evangelistaria (ℓ 6, ℓ 13, and ℓ 185), and Eusebius.[27]
          Mark 1:1 – υιου θεου “the Son of God” omitted.[28]
          Mark 10:7 – omitted και προσκολληθησεται προς την γυναικα αυτου (and be joined to his wife), as in codices Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209, Codex Athous Lavrensis, 892, ℓ 48, syrs, goth.[29]
          Luke 9:55b-56a – καὶ εἶπεν, Οὐκ οἴδατε ποίου πνεύματος ἐστὲ ὑμεῖς; ὁ γὰρ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἦλθεν ψυχὰς ἀνθρώπων ἀπολέσαι ἀλλὰ σῶσαι (and He said: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them) omitted as in codices: P45, P75, B, C, L, Θ, Ξ, 33, 700, 892, 1241, syr, copbo;[30]
          John 4:9 – ου γαρ συνχρωνται Ιουδαιοι Σαμαριταις (Jews have no dealings with Samaritans), it is one of so-called Western non-interpolations; omission is supported by D, a, b, d, e, j, copfay, it was supplemented by the first corrector (before leaving scriptorium);[31]
          Some passages were excluded by the correctors:

          Additional phrase to John 21:6 on the margin – οι δε ειπον δι οληϲ τηϲ νυκτοϲ εκοπιαϲαμεν και ουδεν ελαβομεν επι δε τω ϲω ρηματι βαλουμεν
          Matthew 24:36 – phrase ουδε ο υιος (nor the Son) the first corrector marked as doubtful, but the second corrector (b) removed the mark.[32]
          Mark 10:40 ητοιμασται υπο του πατρος μου (instead of ητοιμασται) – the first corrector marked “υπο του πατρος μου” as doubtful, but the second corrector removed the mark.[33]
          In Luke 11:4 ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ (but deliver us from evil) included by the original scribe, marked by the first corrector (a) as doubtful, but the third corrector (c) removed the mark.[34]
          Christ’s agony at Gethsemane (Luke 22:43–44) – included by the original scribe, marked by the first corrector as doubtful, but the third corrector (c) removed the mark.[35]
          Luke 23:34a, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” – it was included by the first scribe, marked by the first corrector as doubtful, but a third corrector removed the mark.[36]

          Matthew 8:13 (see Luke 7:10)

          It has additional text: καὶ ὑποστρέψας ὁ ἑκατόνταρχος εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὦρᾳ εὗρεν τὸν παῖδα ὑγιαίνοντα (and when the centurion returned to the house in that hour, he found the slave well) as well as codices C, (N), Θ, (0250), f1, (33, 1241), g1, syrh.[38]
          Matthew 10:12 (see Luke 10:5)

          It reads λέγοντες εἰρήνη τῷ οἴκῳ τούτῳ (say peace to be this house) after αυτην. The reading was deleted by the first corrector, but the second corrector restored it. The reading is used by manuscripts: Bezae, Regius, Washingtonianus, Koridethi, manuscripts f 1, 22, 1010 (1424), it, vgcl.[39][40]
          Matthew 27:49 (see John 19:34)

          In Matthew 27:49 the codex contains added text: ἄλλος δὲ λαβὼν λόγχην ἔνυξεν αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευράν, καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὕδορ καὶ αἷμα (the other took a spear and pierced His side, and immediately came out water and blood). This reading was derived from John 19:34 and occurs in other manuscripts of the Alexandrian text-type.[41]
          Unique and other textual variants

          Page from facsimile edition (1862); 1 Chr 9:27–10:11
          Matthew 7:22 – It has additional word πολλα (numerous): “and cast out numerous demons in your name?”. It is not supported by any other manuscript.[42]

          Matthew 8:12 – It has ἐξελεύσονται (will go out) instead of ἐκβληθήσονται (will be thrown). This variant is supported only by one Greek manuscript Uncial 0250, and by Codex Bobiensis, syrc, s, p, pal, arm, Diatessaron.[43]

          Matthew 13:54 – Ordinary reading εις την πατριδα αυτου (to his own country) changed into εις την αντιπατριδα αυτου (to his own Antipatris), and in Acts 8:5 εις την πολιν της Σαμαρειας replaced into εις την πολιν της Καισαριας. These two variants do not exist in any other manuscript, and it seems they were made by a scribe. According to T. C. Skeat they suggest Caesarea as a place in which the manuscript was made.[44]

          Matthew 16:12 – It has textual variant της ζυμης των αρτων των Φαρισαιων και Σαδδουκαιων (leaven of bread of the Pharisees and Sadducees) supported only by Codex Corbeiensis I and Curetonian Gospels.

          Luke 1:26 – “Nazareth” is called “a city of Judea”.

          Luke 2:37 – εβδομηκοντα (seventy), all manuscripts have ογδοηκοντα (eighty);[45]

          John 1:28 – The second corrector made unique textual variant Βηθαραβα. This textual variant has only codex 892, syrh and several other manuscripts.[46]

          John 1:34 – It reads ὁ ἐκλεκτός (chosen one) together with the manuscripts {displaystyle {mathfrak {P}}}{mathfrak {P}}5, {displaystyle {mathfrak {P}}}{mathfrak {P}}106, b, e, ff2, syrc, and syrs instead of ordinary word υἱος (son).

          John 2:3 – Where ordinarily reading “And when they wanted wine”, or “And when wine failed”, Codex Sinaiticus has “And they had no wine, because the wine of the marriage feast was finished” (supported by a and j);

          John 6:10 – It reads τρισχιλιοι (three thousands) for πεντακισχιλιοι (five thousands); the second corrector changed into πεντακισχιλιοι.[47]

          Acts 11:20 – It reads εὐαγγελιστας (Evangelists) instead of ἑλληνιστάς (Hellenists);[48]

          In Acts 14:9, the word “not” inserted before “heard”; in Hebr. 2:4 “harvests” instead of “distributions”; in 1 Peter 5:13 word “Babylon” replaced into “Church”.[48]

          2 Timothy 4:10 – it reads Γαλλιαν (Gaul) for Γαλατιαν (Galatia) This reading of the codex is supported by Ephraemi Rescriptus, 81, 104, 326, 436.[49]

          Witness of some readings of “majority”
          It is the oldest witness for the phrase μη αποστερησης (do not defraud) in Mark 10:19. This phrase was not included by the manuscripts: Codex Vaticanus (added by second corrector), Codex Cyprius, Codex Washingtonianus, Codex Athous Lavrensis, f1, f13, 28, 700, 1010, 1079, 1242, 1546, 2148, ℓ 10, ℓ 950, ℓ 1642, ℓ 1761, syrs, arm, geo. This is variant of the majority manuscripts.[50]

          In Mark 13:33 it is the oldest witness of the variant και προσευχεσθε (and pray). Codex B and D do not include this passage.[51]

          In Luke 8:48 it has θυγατερ (daughter) as in the Byzantine manuscripts, instead of the Alexandrian θυγατηρ (daughter), supported by the manuscripts: B K L W Θ.[52]

          Orthodox reading
          In 1 John 5:6 it has textual variant δι’ ὕδατος καὶ αἵματος καὶ πνεύματος (through water and blood and spirit) together with the manuscripts: Codex Alexandrinus, 104, 424c, 614, 1739c, 2412, 2495, ℓ 598m, syrh, copsa, copbo, Origen.[53][n 3] Bart D. Ehrman says this was a corrupt reading from the orthodox party,[54] although this is widely disputed.[55]

          Text-type and relationship to other manuscripts
          For most of the New Testament, Codex Sinaiticus is in general agreement with Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209 and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, attesting the Alexandrian text-type. A notable example of an agreement between the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus texts is that they both omit the word εικη (‘without cause’, ‘without reason’, ‘in vain’) from Matthew 5:22 “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement”.[n 4]

          A portion of the Codex Sinaiticus, containing Esther.[56]
          In John 1:1–8:38 Codex Sinaiticus differs from Vaticanus and all other Alexandrian manuscripts. It is in closer agreement with Codex Bezae in support of the Western text-type. For example, in John 1:4 Sinaiticus and Codex Bezae are the only Greek manuscripts with textual variant ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἐστίν (in him is life) instead of ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ᾓν (in him was life). This variant is supported by Vetus Latina and some Sahidic manuscripts. This portion has a large number of corrections.[57] There are a number of differences between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus; Hoskier enumerated 3036 differences:

          A large number of these differences are due to iotacisms and variants in transcribing Hebrew names. These two manuscripts were not written in the same scriptorium. According to Fenton Hort Sinaiticus and Vaticanus were derived from a common original much older source, “the date of which cannot be later than the early part of the second century, and may well be yet earlier”.[59]

          Example of differences between Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in Matt 1:18–19:

          REF: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Sinaiticus

        • Steven Watson

          My only observation is that you appear to be irrational.

        • rationalobservations?

          Your inability to contradict the evidence that confounds you was predictable.
          This tacit capitulation is the routine response of a delusional and truly irrational religionist.


    • rationalobservations?
      • Ellabulldog

        Visited there in the Spring. Missed it.

        Great museum.

        • rationalobservations?

          It was published online in facsimile in 2008 so all the world can understand the fraudulent nature of religion. Translation continues apace and hopefully the whole text will soon be translated into English for the “ordinary” butt educated citizens of the world to study if they still doubt that christianity was cobbled together in the 4th century and has no historical basis in the 1st century.

          Please pass on knowledge of and the relevance of the Codex Sinaiticus.


        • Ellabulldog

          well hopefully North American English “also north of the Mason-Dixon line” not that funny ancient style spoken across the pond. 🙂

          seems there are two ways to “read” the Bible.
          Bible study or biblical studies.
          Bible study is just making stuff up using emotional thinking.
          Biblical studies is scholarship using critical thinking.

          No matter what differences exist between the Codex and the current Bible most Christians will read into it whatever they want in order to keep their faith and to deepen their faith.

          Of course many will simply ignore the scholarship like they ignore Evolution.

        • rationalobservations?

          Appear from disagreeing with your denigration of propper, authentic and original English – not much to disagree with.

          There are many diverse and significantly different versions of bibles between the oldest 4th century prototype and those in circulation today.

        • epeeist

          Appear from disagreeing with your denigration of propper, authentic and original English

          I have just seen it pointed out that Greta Thunberg is fluent in at least two languages (Swedish and English) while Trump can’t even manage one.

        • rationalobservations?

          Apart from disagreement as above..
          With you all the way!

        • Steven Watson

          They are both fluent in autistic screeching. Which is one reason why Donald has Greta’s number. “… and a little child shall lead them” is Biblical shite.

        • Steven Watson

          Biblical studies is “scholarship” using “critical thinking”. FTFY..

        • Steven Watson

          “…butt educated citizens…” True. Most people talk out of, or pull what they know from, their arses. 🙂 /s

        • NSAlito

          Visited there in the Spring. Missed it.

          You shoul have used the British Museum algorithm, then you wouldn’t have missed it.

    • Ficino

      Well, they can say, “You simply fail to understand Aquinas.” har har

      • Ellabulldog

        What a headache that was/is. Trying to explain to them what Aquinas was doing and why they believe it and they kept arguing about why I don’t understand it.

        They missed my point over and over.

        Aquinas wins an award for writing the longest confirmation bias paper of all time.
        A for effort.
        E for content.

        Not sure they will ever get that they won’t ever question Aquinas’s assertions or conclusions because they like the answer it gives them.

        Of course the Miracle of the Sun is also a favorite of theirs.
        why would anyone lie???


  • Geoff Benson

    The argument for the burden of proof goes further than just ‘god’. There’s the claim that atheists believe ‘something came from nothing’, but then there’s a burden of proof on the person making the claim that there was once ‘nothing’. It gets more subtle as you move along the chain. Evolution is now factually regarded as the underlying process whereby life on earth came about. Creationists will scream and shout ‘but there’s no evidence for evolution’, but the reality is that it is sufficient to say that it’s the overwhelming consensus view of science and that the burden is on them to show it is untrue. Or the argument from morality. Human societies develop rules and codes of conduct that they may care to relate to their religious beliefs, but claim that those religious beliefs are where those codes originate then you have a burden of proof.

    • Michael Neville

      Evolution is how life forms change over time due to mutation, gene transfer and natural selection. How life formed is abiogenesis.

      • Geoff Benson

        I was talking generally. Abiogenesis was actually something I thought of mentioning in my comment, especially as it’s the subject of a post on Tippling. For me abiogenesis has to be true, even though the underlying dynamics aren’t completely understood, and anyone disputing it is obliged to suggest a competing theory.

        • Theists also believe in that, it’s just they claim God is the origin.

        • Lark62

          Abiogenesis has to be true


          4.5 billion years ago the earth was nothing but molten rock. Today the earth has life on it.

          Abiogenesis happened. Our planet did not contain life then, but it does now.

          The question at hand is uncovering evidence on how abiogenesis happened.
          “Turtles all the way down,”
          “Created from beaver droppings,” and
          “Petty, jealous man god said poof” can be safely ruled out.

          Other hypotheses remain plausible and additional hypotheses may arise as more data is found.

          Eventually, the evidence will confirm one hypothesis and the rest will fall by the wayside.

          However “Magic Baculum Woman!” is still false.

        • Greg G.

          Even breathing life into a man mde out of dead clay is abiogenesis.

        • Lark62

          Agreed. Now they just need evidence to support that hypothesis. Hold my breath, I will not.

        • Greg G.

          Hold my breath, I will not.

          That would be reverse abiogenesis.

        • Steven Watson

          And I still don’t know who Cain married in the Land of Nod; nor Seth for that matter.

    • Greg G.

      Creationists will scream and shout ‘but there’s no evidence for evolution’,

      Of course, there is usually a tacit clause at the end like “that I can understand” or “that I am willing to understand.”

      • eric

        Or “that I am willing to call evolution.” Because everyone sees descent with modification – just look at your kids or nephews/nieces. And everyone sees selection – just observe that some people have kids and others don’t. Creationists can’t pretend these things don’t happen, so they have to make do with pretending they don’t count as evolution. Instead, they envision evolution as some saltational process in which a chicken lays an egg out of which comes a triceratops.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Hmmm… you mean that isn’t what happens?

        • eric

          I live in hope.

  • Anri

    In short: “there is no god” is as philosophically unprovable as “there is no Easter Bunny”.
    The fact that we give different weight to the claims involved is purely special pleading by theists.

    • RichardSRussell

      “We cannot know that Santa definitely doesn’t exist. This is technically true. But what’s your best guess? Go on. Be bold.” —Ricky Gervais, British comedian

  • RichardSRussell

    “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” —Christopher Hitchens, author and journalist

  • RichardSRussell

    Here’s a rude strategy for how to handle God-pushers: “Your holy book says that those who truly believe can pray for anything they want, and it will be given to them. I have my doubts that you’re a True Believer®, but I want to be open-minded about it. Please pray for a chocolate malt to materialize right here in front of me, and then I’ll figure you know what you’re talking about and I’ll listen to you. Otherwise, you’re just a fraud, and there’s no reason at all for me to pay any more attention to you.”

    • Ficino

      I was thinking this, too, but instead of asking them to pray for a chocolate malt I was thinking of asking them to call down fire from heaven to burn logs that have been soaked with water … or to drink a glass of lye and not be harmed.

      I can see how much more cynical and vicious I am than you are! lol

      • RichardSRussell

        I’ve often wonder why all the self-proclaimed TBs® aren’t snake handlers.

        • Steven Watson

          Because Mk. 16 is just one of several endings made up well after the fact to make up for G.Mk. having neither ascension nor ressurection at its end.

        • Greg G.

          The self-proclaimed TBs® don’t believe that, otherwise they wouldn’t be True Believers®.

          There are snake handling churches in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia. They chill the rattlesnakes to keep them docile but sometimes the sermon runs a little too long so they aren’t so docile. When they get bitten, they believe it would be a lack of faith if they went to the doctor.

        • Steven Watson

          That would be a No True Scotsman fallacy that leaves out the vast majority of Xtians. Mind, as you and I know, even that vast majority of Christians are resorting to allegorical readings partly because, if they took the NT at its Word, they would ALL have to admit to being heretics: their Christianity hardly resembling the “Christianities” (sic) found in the NT.

        • MR
        • Greg G.

          Snakes on an Astral Plane!

        • al kimeea


        • Steven Watson

          Ye gods! I’m becoming an old get; it must be getting on for 45 years since I last laid eyes on Laocoön. Like the Gospels, there are several different versions of this legend.

        • MR

          And…, isn’t it a lack of faith to chill them in the first place?

      • Greg G.

        I was thinking of asking them to call down fire from heaven to burn logs that have been soaked with water

        I have issued such a challenge based on the story of Elijah and the Baal priests. We each get the steak of our choice, a hibachi, and charcoal. The faithful Christian gets all of God’s assistance that they can muster to light the charcoal for them while I am limited to the technology developed by science to light mine. The first one with a steak cooked to medium rare wins and the other has steak tartare.

        • Steven Watson

          I’d stipulate well-hung pheasant ensuring maximum chance of botulism for the Christer, but then I’m evil.

  • Grimlock

    First, it can be the concept taken from a criminal trial. Here, we begin with a presumption of innocence for the accused. The prosecution can’t present merely an argument as compelling as that from the defense; they must overcome it to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

    I have to admit that I’m not overly fond of this analogy.

    Legal proceedings do not attempt to get at the most probable conclusion, because there is a strong preference to avoid false positives. (In other words, there is a strong preference to avoid convicting someone who is innocent, even if that results in many guilty people going free.)

    • Lord Backwater

      (In other words, there is a strong preference to avoid convicting someone who is innocent,…

      You speak of course of the ideal of the system, not its actual practice.

      • Grimlock

        Well, yes. Also, I think, about criminal court cases. In general, I don’t think civil court cases have the same level of presumption of innocence.

    • epeeist

      I have to admit that I’m not overly fond of this analogy.

      It works if you think of it in terms of ontology. The prosecution is attempting to demonstrate a particular ontology while all the defence needs to do is demonstrate that this does not stand up to scrutiny.

      • Grimlock

        Perhaps, if one can outline some principle that’s analogous to the presumption of innocence. Something along the lines of how most ontological claims that can be made are false might do the trick.

        In which case one still needs to be careful in distinguishing between how one scenario the relevant principle is about avoiding false positives and the other is more concerned with being accurate.

    • NSAlito

      I do prefer the Scottish verdict options: Guilty, Not Proven, and Not Guilty

  • Grimlock

    If I wanted to convince, say, a Christian about the burden of evidence I might go like this: Let’s say that initially it’s equally probable that the following proposition is true and false. Note that this is before considering the evidence, such as the alleged fine tuning, the alleged evils in the world, and so on.

    (1) The physical universe was created by an unembodied mind.

    If the Christian agrees with this, we can move on. Otherwise, the statement might need some slight modifications.

    Now, might it not be reasonable to assume that the following propositions are at least roughly as likely to be false as it is to be true?

    (2) The disembodied mind that created the universe is morally perfect.

    (3) There is only one unique disembodied mind that can cause universes to exist.

    (4) The disembodied mind in (1) is itself uncaused.

    (5) The disembodied mind is a triune God.

    …and so on. For each of these, the initial probability of the God in question is, at the very least, cut in half. It doesn’t take long for the probability to be really low.

    Not that I imagine many Christians will agree with this, but I don’t think it’s an easy approach to argue against.

    • eric

      It’s IMO not a great argument. It’s in fact very similar in structure to the fine tuning argument theists use. ‘There are x physical constants. The probability of x1 being exactly what it is, is y1. The probability of x2 being exactly what it is, is y2. The probability of x3…. now it doesn’t take long for the probability of all those things being what they are to be really low.’

      What’s wrong with that argument? Well it rests on a lot of assumptions. That we know the range of values each of those constants could attain. That the probability distribution of a constant having a value within their range is flat. And that we have the right set of constants, and they’re aren’t any unknown dependencies amongst them. It’s all pretty much handwaving.

      It’s both simpler and more honest to say we don’t know, and that the best answer will continue to be ‘we don’t know’ until the people who have specific hypotheses they wish to claim are true come forward with practically achievable tests we can perform on those hyptheses. And that is the burden of proof: every hypothesis-proposer has the burden to come up with tests and results relevant to their hypothesis. Nobody wins by default. As I pointed out in the abiogenesis case, this does not mean science and religion are equivalent hypotheses right now, because for the past several hundred years we’ve been collecting such evidence, and so far all the evidence points to scientific hypotheses being more provisionally supported.

      • RichardSRussell

        You are applying logic and math to the situation, which is of course what I would always recommend when dealing with a rational opponent. However, Grimlock — in recognizing that we are not — was using a debate technique: Start with something the other side has already agreed to (that the existence of God is a 50/50, either-or, yes/no proposition) and beat them to death by carrying it to extremes.

        • rationalobservations?

          The existence of millions of imaginary undetected and undetectable fictional gods goddesses and god-men in mythology renders the improbable actual existence of any of them millions to one against.

          The reasons religIonists express for non belief in the millions of gods and goddesses they dismiss are entirely similar to those through which the rest of us dismiss theirs.

  • RichardSRussell

    Let’s look at two different definitions of “burden of proof.”

    They start you with one and get you to buy into it, then quietly slide over to the other. To con men, this is known as “the ole switcheroo”; to marketers, it’s called “bait and switch”; to rationalists, it’s called “just plain dishonest”.

  • al kimeea

    Announcing your xianity is declaring a position on the existence of a deity, otherwise… and we’re still waiting for any faith with one or more deities to show anything other than their dodgy holey pokey texts as evidence. Whatever the legal system may represent as far as “evidence” goes, the concept isn’t similar to science. A lawyer mentioned people can be psychic because dogs have better hearing. On it’s own, not much. BUT, with the knowledge the Inuit have more than 200 words for snow, while science just sees it as snow…cue requisite Hamlet quote to clear the table