Burden of ProofPosted on 2013.12.13 at 00:00
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The art of communication may be lost - and I'm not talking about youths text messaging here - rather the idea that in order to effectively communicate one must absolutely be able to explain what one means when using words. The idea behind expressing yourself effectivly is to explain what you believe, and why, to someone else. Its not enough to just believe yourself to be true - No one cares whether or not you believe something to be true. It would be stupid and egotistical if all we ever cared about was telling others our beliefs are right without explaining how or why we believe that to be so. Just because someone believes the Flying Spaghetti Monster absolves sins for life eternal doesn't mean I'm going to believe it, even if they believe it a whole lot. They might, however, convince me if they can articulate why they believe it.
Which brings us to burden of proof. Burden of proof is a wonderful concept for the logically-minded. If it were understood similarly by those who's emotional weather is as tumultuous as a tornado, I think very nearly everything wrong in the world would be made right - everything from civil disagreements to Obamacare. What a wonderful world it would be if each of us understood that just because we say some shit we believe to be true, without that burden of proof (or perhaps even to a greater extent, simply context) it means absolutely nothing. Let that sink in just a minute. If you don't care to explain what you've said, no matter what you believe, it means nothing. While I struggle with a great many things, taking time out to both understand what it is other people are trying to explain to me, and being understood isn't one of them. And I freely admit I shouldn't be surprised when others don't care to be understood, but I am.
"Please explain what you're talking about so I don't leave the conversation thinking you're a fucking idiot."
Neil deGrasse Tyson is quoted as saying, "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it." The same thing can be said, in part, to communication. It's a process. Communication does not care what you believe. Its about receiving a message which can be understood. The moment I say, "I don't understand," (as opposed to, "I disagree" for example) the message requires re-transmission and possibly reformatting. As long as I don't understand, your belief is irrelevant; it means NOTHING.
On the outside chance I happen to understand, but disagree, well that's where burden of proof helps two people communicating acknowledge what has to happen next. Were I making this whole "burden of proof" thing up, anyone could disbelieve me about the process. But because I'm not, you cannot simply disbelieve that burden of proof in a conversation doesn't exist. In this way, it works is a lot like science: It doesn't matter what you believe, this is how it has to be done. Burden of proof is the, "Obligation on a party in an epistemic dispute to provide sufficient warrant for their position." God I love that sentence. Because it basically says, "Explain to me why you believe what you just said, or you're admitting to me and everyone else on the planet Earth you have no grasp of reality."
Which is probably why I appear so amused in most discussions which turn into impromptu arguments.
"I'm just going to believe what I believe."