“Burden of Proof” is a common rhetorical persuasion tool used by atheists. I have used it myself in the past. But I have come to think that the atheist’s sacred “burden of proof” has some real burdens of its own: political, economic and rhetorical.
“Proof” is a game and as such takes place in an arena defined by rules, boundaries, penalties, scoring and players. The arena for ideas is always some market. But don’t get me wrong, I am fanatically fond of the scientific method. But it is only one tool in one arena amidst the vast realm of human markets.
In human markets, an idea wins if it has followers. The number of followers only matters to the seller depending on what the seller values. A small number of buyers, for instance, may offer the seller enough sustenance in terms of status, pleasure, finances or any number of other benefits so that seller to consider themselves a winner.
To the seller the only ‘proof’ lies in the market. And when they are satisfied, they will feel no “burden”. But if the customers are deciding based on some other proof-method, the seller may decide to care. Thus, the person making a claim will only enter the scientific realm if they feel winning in that realm will win more followers than they have presently and if the cost of trying to enlarge their market is worth it.
The person selling snake oil or some religious hoccus-pocus may not agree with the “burden of proof” argument because he/she knows that the burden-of-proof that matters is the market, not scientific proof.
You see, they understand that humans are not build to understand truth. Humans are built to consume and control and multiply. The market is a means to these fundamental mechanisms. Truth is a very weak contender.
Science’s burden is to show the profitability (in terms of safety, happiness, finances, health, status) of their idea. The real arena is the market — that is where the burden is decided. That is the difficulty behind all dialogue. Screaming “burden of proof” can show a certain naivety about the nature of human decisions and actions. It may be useful rhetoric, but it is only rhetoric to those who already agree. But with out an audience, it is of no use.
For more on “Burden of Proof” try searching for it in this Atheist Search Engine. I invite your corrections in the errors of my thinking.