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"You can't prove a negative"

Envisage
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11/29/2014 10:59:29 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Isn't this a negative statement in itself?

How would you go about proving this statement then, hah.
Wocambs
Posts: 1,505
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11/29/2014 11:19:48 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 11/29/2014 10:59:29 PM, Envisage wrote:
Isn't this a negative statement in itself?

How would you go about proving this statement then, hah.

There doesn't seem to be any difference between proving a negative and a positive. You can only prove a positive to the extent that you can disprove its negation. I think most of the time what people mean by this is that you can't absolutely prove that fairies and unicorns don't exist, because you can claim in their defence that they're invisible etc., but it is equally true that you can't absolutely prove that computers and cars exist either if you add in equally ridiculous conditions, like saying we could be in the Matrix or dreaming or whatever.
Envisage
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11/29/2014 11:21:45 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 11/29/2014 11:19:48 PM, Wocambs wrote:
At 11/29/2014 10:59:29 PM, Envisage wrote:
Isn't this a negative statement in itself?

How would you go about proving this statement then, hah.

There doesn't seem to be any difference between proving a negative and a positive. You can only prove a positive to the extent that you can disprove its negation. I think most of the time what people mean by this is that you can't absolutely prove that fairies and unicorns don't exist, because you can claim in their defence that they're invisible etc., but it is equally true that you can't absolutely prove that computers and cars exist either if you add in equally ridiculous conditions, like saying we could be in the Matrix or dreaming or whatever.

Or that idealism is true, lol.
Wocambs
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11/29/2014 11:28:03 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 11/29/2014 11:21:45 PM, Envisage wrote:
At 11/29/2014 11:19:48 PM, Wocambs wrote:
At 11/29/2014 10:59:29 PM, Envisage wrote:
Isn't this a negative statement in itself?

How would you go about proving this statement then, hah.

There doesn't seem to be any difference between proving a negative and a positive. You can only prove a positive to the extent that you can disprove its negation. I think most of the time what people mean by this is that you can't absolutely prove that fairies and unicorns don't exist, because you can claim in their defence that they're invisible etc., but it is equally true that you can't absolutely prove that computers and cars exist either if you add in equally ridiculous conditions, like saying we could be in the Matrix or dreaming or whatever.

Or that idealism is true, lol.

Well, in a way, but idealism can be shown to be certainly false, because it isn't exactly an empirical hypothesis. It isn't a possible reality. Unobservable unicorns and the Matrix, however, are possibilities, just ones that we have no reason to believe in.
Sidewalker
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11/30/2014 5:39:39 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 11/29/2014 10:59:29 PM, Envisage wrote:
Isn't this a negative statement in itself?

How would you go about proving this statement then, hah.

You wouldn't go about proving the statement because you can't, it isn't true.

It's just one of those inane things people say when they have no argument and instead they are playing "Whose got the BoP".
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater
s-anthony
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11/30/2014 8:53:29 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 11/29/2014 10:59:29 PM, Envisage wrote:
Isn't this a negative statement in itself?

How would you go about proving this statement then, hah.

In order to prove the negation of something, you must first of all confirm it.
Double_R
Posts: 4,886
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11/30/2014 9:14:21 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 11/30/2014 5:39:39 AM, Sidewalker wrote:
At 11/29/2014 10:59:29 PM, Envisage wrote:
Isn't this a negative statement in itself?

How would you go about proving this statement then, hah.

You wouldn't go about proving the statement because you can't, it isn't true.

It's just one of those inane things people say when they have no argument and instead they are playing "Whose got the BoP".

There's no game to play. If you're claiming that something exists then you have the BoP to prove it. The problem with the statement "you can't prove a negative" is that it requires more information to be properly understood which the person making it usually takes for granted. For one it generally refers to existence claims, not negative statements like the OP used. Second, it assumes that the negative in question is logically coherent. Third, it assumes that the negative is not defined in such a way that it is dependent on a condition that can be disproven, like a specific location.

This is what most people are talking about. When properly understood, it is a meaningful non-contradictory statement.
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
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11/30/2014 4:05:14 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 11/29/2014 10:59:29 PM, Envisage wrote:
Isn't this a negative statement in itself?

How would you go about proving this statement then, hah.

"You can't prove a negative" does not imply that "You can't prove that something is not the case". It only implies that you can't disprove the existence of something (like an elf) empirically.
zmikecuber
Posts: 4,092
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12/1/2014 10:53:50 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 11/29/2014 10:59:29 PM, Envisage wrote:
Isn't this a negative statement in itself?

How would you go about proving this statement then, hah.

It depends on your wording of the proposition. The statement "No negative statement is provable" is negative.

But can't you always convert a negative statement into a positive, logically equivalent one?

No men are immortal can be converted to "all men are mortal" and vice versa.

This "you can't prove a negative statement" is just a bad atheist argument for atheists who don't want to have any onus.
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Smithereens
Posts: 5,512
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12/2/2014 6:38:26 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 11/29/2014 10:59:29 PM, Envisage wrote:
Isn't this a negative statement in itself?

How would you go about proving this statement then, hah.

Step 1) Rewrite it as: "Only positive statements can be proven."
Step 2) Proceed to prove it

Of course, step 2 is asking for an absolute exclusion principle to be created out of no grounds at all. In fact, you could simple argue the case of De Morgan duality. The logical operators in the statement I have rewritten are essentially identical to the original statement. Therefore, whichever way you want to look at it, contradiction is inherent in attempting to state that one cannot prove a negative.

However, when you say that one cannot prove a negative, I assume you define by absolutes. If negative is being defined as an absolute statement that falsifies a specific other statement, then to apply the statement consistently means that 'you cannot prove a negative,' is effectively identical to 'you cannot prove a positive.' The only difference between negative and positive is P vs ~P. Both statement's are logically similar. When someone claim's that they cannot prove a negative, they might as well say that they cannot prove a positive.

Now back to the other side of the argument, what can and cannot be proven is not intrinsically relevant to what is and isn't actually true. To not be able to prove a statement does not mean that the statement cannot be considered correct. If I can't prove a statement, I can still argue that it is reasonable to consider the statement true, just like I can argue that it is reasonable to believe that a negative statement is false.

Essentially though, there isn't much thoughtful material you can use for discussion with this apparent contradiction. It contains only a single operator, is not stated very well, and is... for lack of better terminology, simple..

Btw, I haven't seen anyone for ages, (have been absent) is the philosophy crowd better or worse than 6 months ago?
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FaustianJustice
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12/3/2014 12:40:34 AM
Posted: 2 years ago

This "you can't prove a negative statement" is just a bad atheist argument for atheists who don't want to have any onus.

Usually because the onus is tossed back on them.

R: God exists.
A: Prove it.
R: You can't prove otherwise.
A: !?!??

In this instance, the Atheist has be saddled with a burden of proof despite the fact the claim is indeed there is no proof of the original claim. Its not a bad argument, its a bad rebuttal from theists. If what they claim is real, existence silences argument.
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Pfalcon1318
Posts: 44
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12/3/2014 1:17:23 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 12/3/2014 12:40:34 AM, FaustianJustice wrote:

This "you can't prove a negative statement" is just a bad atheist argument for atheists who don't want to have any onus.


Usually because the onus is tossed back on them.
:
R: God exists.
A: Prove it.
R: You can't prove otherwise.
A: !?!??

In this instance, the Atheist has be saddled with a burden of proof despite the fact the claim is indeed there is no proof of the original claim. Its not a bad argument, its a bad rebuttal from theists. If what they claim is real, existence silences argument.

I don't know about that. I'd say that, generally, theists and atheists both commit this fallacy.

A: God doesn't exist.
R. Prove it.
A. You can't prove a negative. Besides, there is no evidence for God.
R. ?!?!?!?

Generally, it's more intellectually honest to just suspend judgement entirely, and consider oneself a skeptic.

"I don't know if God exists, and evidence that exists for either side is either (A) insufficient or (B) equally compelling, hence, I'll simply suspend judgement."
Sidewalker
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12/6/2014 6:32:38 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 11/30/2014 9:14:21 AM, Double_R wrote:
At 11/30/2014 5:39:39 AM, Sidewalker wrote:
At 11/29/2014 10:59:29 PM, Envisage wrote:
Isn't this a negative statement in itself?

How would you go about proving this statement then, hah.

You wouldn't go about proving the statement because you can't, it isn't true.

It's just one of those inane things people say when they have no argument and instead they are playing "Whose got the BoP".

There's no game to play. If you're claiming that something exists then you have the BoP to prove it.

OK...I see you are a player, I suppose now you are going to tell me the rules of the game while claiming you aren"t playing it (rule #1 is always deny that you are playing the game).

The problem with the statement "you can't prove a negative" is that it requires more information to be properly understood which the person making it usually takes for granted. For one it generally refers to existence claims, not negative statements like the OP used.

Let's get real, we both know it generally refers to existence "of God" claims, and I know it's generally used by hopelessly uninformed people that are merely playing the game. The game is played by people who don"t have an argument, step one involves transferring the burden of proof, the rest of the game just relies on the Munchausen Trilemma.

Second, it assumes that the negative in question is logically coherent.

Nope, second, it merely demonstrates that the game player is uninformed about the subject matter. The "God claim" is a claim that there is something that transcends our logical frame of reference, and it is not rational to counter with an assertion that you must therefore prove that it is contained within our logical frame of reference, that is not a logically coherent argument.

The game is for people who either, 1) live under a rock and have never heard the word "faith" associated with the word "God" before, or 2) have heard it, but don"t actually know what the word "faith" means.

Third, it assumes that the negative is not defined in such a way that it is dependent on a condition that can be disproven, like a specific location.

"You can"t prove a negative" assumes the negative is not defined in a way that can be proved, really? LOL, what a funny game, is there a uniform, big floppy shoes and a red Styrofoam nose perhaps?

This is what most people are talking about. When properly understood, it is a meaningful non-contradictory statement.

I properly understand it, and yes, it's meaningful, but all it means is the person using it is 1) playing the game, 2) is uninformed about the subject matter, and 3) has no argument, and instead, just wants to declare they are rational and intelligent to hide the fact that their own position is without rational foundation.

In the end, it's nothing more than an argument from ignorance, an illogical attempt to contend that the lack of information supports my faith, and not yours, and it's typically used by dogmatic people when both sides of the argument are defending their own faith based belief, from what they see as essentially, a competing faith based belief.

Seeing that we have established that you are a player that doesn't actually have an argument, I don't suppose you'd agree to a debate about it would you?

Oh, and by the way, since you are a gamer, I'm surprised you took the bait hook, line and sinker over there in the Idealism thread, RT"s OP should have properly been titled "Anyone want to play the game?", I can't believe you fell for it LOL.
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater
Sidewalker
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12/6/2014 7:48:01 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 12/3/2014 12:40:34 AM, FaustianJustice wrote:

This "you can't prove a negative statement" is just a bad atheist argument for atheists who don't want to have any onus.


Usually because the onus is tossed back on them.

R: God exists.
A: Prove it.
R: You can't prove otherwise.
A: !?!??

You completely took the subject matter out of the discussion, and it is a non-sequitur to contrive an example that does not contain the subject matter, in case you forgot, the discussion was about the contention that "you can't prove a negative".

In this instance,

Except for it isn't an instance of it.

the Atheist has be saddled with a burden of proof despite the fact the claim is indeed there is no proof of the original claim. Its not a bad argument,

It's not a good argument either, it's not any kind of argument, it's a non-sequitur.

its a bad rebuttal from theists.

No, it's just a gross mischaracterization; you are confusing epistemology with ontology, which is the stereotypical and hopelessly uninformed response. "I believe that God exists" is what the Theist asserts, and the Theist doesn't need to prove that they believe it, we all speak with unquestionable authority regarding what we believe.

The Atheist that challenges the claim can only be asserting that the Theist's belief in God is unjustified. The contention that you can't prove a negative typically follows from the contention that it is not justified to hold a belief without proof, which is itself a belief held without proof, so it is self-refuting and therefore, it is the bad argument.

If what they claim is real, existence silences argument.

Prove it.
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater
FaustianJustice
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12/6/2014 7:57:42 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 12/6/2014 7:48:01 AM, Sidewalker wrote:
At 12/3/2014 12:40:34 AM, FaustianJustice wrote:

This "you can't prove a negative statement" is just a bad atheist argument for atheists who don't want to have any onus.


Usually because the onus is tossed back on them.

R: God exists.
A: Prove it.
R: You can't prove otherwise.
A: !?!??

You completely took the subject matter out of the discussion, and it is a non-sequitur to contrive an example that does not contain the subject matter, in case you forgot, the discussion was about the contention that "you can't prove a negative".

In this instance,

Except for it isn't an instance of it.

the Atheist has be saddled with a burden of proof despite the fact the claim is indeed there is no proof of the original claim. Its not a bad argument,

It's not a good argument either, it's not any kind of argument, it's a non-sequitur.

its a bad rebuttal from theists.

No, it's just a gross mischaracterization; you are confusing epistemology with ontology, which is the stereotypical and hopelessly uninformed response. "I believe that God exists" is what the Theist asserts, and the Theist doesn't need to prove that they believe it, we all speak with unquestionable authority regarding what we believe.

The Atheist that challenges the claim can only be asserting that the Theist's belief in God is unjustified. The contention that you can't prove a negative typically follows from the contention that it is not justified to hold a belief without proof, which is itself a belief held without proof, so it is self-refuting and therefore, it is the bad argument.

If what they claim is real, existence silences argument.

Prove it.

I don't believe cars exist.

Ta da.
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Double_R
Posts: 4,886
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12/6/2014 8:01:39 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 12/6/2014 6:32:38 AM, Sidewalker wrote:
At 11/30/2014 9:14:21 AM, Double_R wrote:
At 11/30/2014 5:39:39 AM, Sidewalker wrote:
At 11/29/2014 10:59:29 PM, Envisage wrote:
Isn't this a negative statement in itself?

How would you go about proving this statement then, hah.

You wouldn't go about proving the statement because you can't, it isn't true.

It's just one of those inane things people say when they have no argument and instead they are playing "Whose got the BoP".

There's no game to play. If you're claiming that something exists then you have the BoP to prove it.

OK...I see you are a player, I suppose now you are going to tell me the rules of the game while claiming you aren"t playing it (rule #1 is always deny that you are playing the game).

The problem with the statement "you can't prove a negative" is that it requires more information to be properly understood which the person making it usually takes for granted. For one it generally refers to existence claims, not negative statements like the OP used.

Let's get real, we both know it generally refers to existence "of God" claims, and I know it's generally used by hopelessly uninformed people that are merely playing the game. The game is played by people who don"t have an argument, step one involves transferring the burden of proof, the rest of the game just relies on the Munchausen Trilemma.

Second, it assumes that the negative in question is logically coherent.

Nope, second, it merely demonstrates that the game player is uninformed about the subject matter. The "God claim" is a claim that there is something that transcends our logical frame of reference, and it is not rational to counter with an assertion that you must therefore prove that it is contained within our logical frame of reference, that is not a logically coherent argument.

The game is for people who either, 1) live under a rock and have never heard the word "faith" associated with the word "God" before, or 2) have heard it, but don"t actually know what the word "faith" means.

Third, it assumes that the negative is not defined in such a way that it is dependent on a condition that can be disproven, like a specific location.

"You can"t prove a negative" assumes the negative is not defined in a way that can be proved, really? LOL, what a funny game, is there a uniform, big floppy shoes and a red Styrofoam nose perhaps?

This is what most people are talking about. When properly understood, it is a meaningful non-contradictory statement.

I properly understand it, and yes, it's meaningful, but all it means is the person using it is 1) playing the game, 2) is uninformed about the subject matter, and 3) has no argument, and instead, just wants to declare they are rational and intelligent to hide the fact that their own position is without rational foundation.

In the end, it's nothing more than an argument from ignorance, an illogical attempt to contend that the lack of information supports my faith, and not yours, and it's typically used by dogmatic people when both sides of the argument are defending their own faith based belief, from what they see as essentially, a competing faith based belief.

Seeing that we have established that you are a player that doesn't actually have an argument, I don't suppose you'd agree to a debate about it would you?

Oh, and by the way, since you are a gamer, I'm surprised you took the bait hook, line and sinker over there in the Idealism thread, RT"s OP should have properly been titled "Anyone want to play the game?", I can't believe you fell for it LOL.

Way to much nonsense in this response to bother with. You have quite a combination of thinking you understand the subject while demonstrating your blatant ignorance, so I would gladly debate you. Go ahead, pick the topic and send me a challenge.
missmedic
Posts: 387
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12/9/2014 12:03:05 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
The scientific method only admits for universal negatives " in science, you can only falsify something completely, not confirm it completely. Something is judged to be true because it stands to the test of falsifiability extensively enough to be unassailable. But failing one single test disqualifies a specific principle from being accepted.