[ExI] Atheism again

Dave Sill sparge at gmail.com
Mon Apr 20 18:50:44 UTC 2020

On Mon, Apr 20, 2020 at 2:29 PM William Flynn Wallace via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> And in any case. you can't prove a negative.



"The fact is, however, that this supposed "law of logic" is no such thing.
As Steven D. Hales points in his paper "You Can Prove a Negative," "You
can't prove a negative" is a principle of folk logic, not actual logic.

Notice, for a start, that "You cannot prove a negative" is itself a
negative. So, if it were true, it would itself be unprovable. Notice that
any claim can be transformed into a negative by a little rephrasing—most
obviously, by negating the claim and then negating it again. "I exist" is
logically equivalent to "I do not not exist," which is a negative. Yet here
is a negative it seems I might perhaps be able to prove (in the style of
Descartes—I think, therefore I do not not exist!).

Of course, those who say "You can't prove a negative" will insist that I
have misunderstood their point. As Hales notes, when people say, "You can't
prove a negative," what they really mean is that you cannot prove that
something does not exist. If this point were correct, it would apply not
just to supernatural beings lying beyond the cosmic veil but also to things
that might be supposed to exist on this side of the veil, such as unicorns,
Martians, rabbits with 20 heads, and so on. We would not be able to prove
the nonexistence of any of these things either."

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