Last week I wrote about three books I recommend for skeptical kids. Apparently Dan Porter didn’t particularly care for my inclusion of The Magic Detectives, because he believes it incorrectly portrays the mystery behind the Shroud of Turin. I think his blog speaks for itself, but I just want to address a few things he mentioned. Here’s one thing he said:
[The book was written in] 1989. One of the things I wanted my kids to learn was the value of fact checking. Much has happened since 1989.
First, I find it somewhat comical for a man whose faith is based on the Bible to criticize me for giving my kids a thirteen year old book. Much has happened in the past two thousand years, Mr. Porter.
I do pay attention to what has happened in those 2000 years. I’m not a biblical literalist. For one thing, I fully accept evolution (others here do not). When is comes to history, I fully realize that the Bible is not a very good history book, just as it is not a good science book.
And “Mom” wrote:
The burden of proof must always be with those asserting the claim, and not with those seeking to disprove it. Why is this often a difficult concept for people of faith to grasp?
Philosophically, I don’t have a problem with that. I tend to agree, mostly. From Socrates to Hume to Nietzsche, and more recently, very famously, Antony Flew (pictured above), this has been considered axiomatic. Atheist Flew, at frequent meetings of theist C. S. Lewis’ Socratic Club, regularly argued that the "onus of proof must lie upon the theist."
But should it? Why? For the claim that God exists? For every claim? Every historical object?
When it comes to the existence of God (by extension we can imagine this applying to miracles and the authenticity of the shroud), Paul Copan, president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and a member of the Catholic Philosophical Society, as argued, better than most, that that is presumptuous and unjustified. Interestingly, Atheist Jeffery Jay Lowder, best known for his websites The Secular Web and Internet Infidels (infidels.org), wrote an article entitled, “Is Atheism Presumptuous?" In it, he writes:
I agree [with Paul Copan] that anyone who claims, "God does not exist," must shoulder a burden of proof just as much as anyone who claims, "God exists."
Flew later wrote: There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (2007) with Roy Abraham Varghese (ISBN 978-0-06-133529-7). And he changed his mind about the burden of proof belonging to one asserting a religious claim.
A lot has happened since 1989. Why is this often a difficult concept for skeptics to grasp?