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Burden of Proof

Posted on 2013.12.13 at 00:00
Current Location: 67114

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."

Ok! (*snicker*)


michelle1963 at 2013-12-13 13:11 (UTC) (Link)
Often, many do appear to operate on the premise that strong emotion suffices for the "reason" they believe something. But what is the underlying reason for the strong emotion? Often they don't know. Or it comes back to dogmatic indoctrination - things they were brought up with as child and never questioned. And come hell or high water, they are not going to question them now!

The really odd thing is that when those who find their strong emotion enough of a "reason" that I should see things their way find themselves in a position where they require clarification, strong emotion from me is not adequate; they want to know why. (That said, sadly, I have found that sometimes their purpose for asking me why is not for better understanding, but so that they can incorporate my answer into further emotional assault.). An equally strong emotional response is not enough to get them to change their viewpoint. So why would theirs change mine?

Often though, I believe people use strong emotion as a method to getting their way, not as a tool for mutual understanding. It works much like a baby crying - which makes nearly everyone feel compelled to determine the baby's need so it will stop.

I realize that some of us were born to a propensity for logic and communication while others were not, but these are both skills that can be learned. It would make all aspects of our existence far less stressful.
ehowton at 2013-12-13 13:28 (UTC) (Link)
It works much like a baby crying - which makes nearly everyone feel compelled to determine the baby's need so it will stop.

At some point - through either trial and error or the emergence of a pattern - the baby's needs will be met. Not always so with those who justify their abhorrent behavior by associating it with a random event.

Using your analogy, its like a baby who doesn't want to feel better. Ever. And will wield whatever weapons it has at its disposal in order to be held in such high esteem it can both be taken care of, and cry, without recrimination, forever.

Edited at 2013-12-13 01:29 pm (UTC)
slchurchman at 2013-12-13 16:43 (UTC) (Link)
I was reading the Sunday Wichita Eagle this morning and came upon these two comments in the Opinion Line:
1."Before I care what people really think, I first have to be convinced that they can really think."

2."Why is it that the people who talk the loudest have the least to say?"

Seems there are some others out there struggling with the same communication dilemmas that you have written about.
ehowton at 2013-12-13 20:17 (UTC) (Link)
Too often I imagine, those rulesets aren't applied liberally enough; across many different types of relationships both personal and professional.
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