All of us should by now be intimately familiar with this argument. It is the foundation of the arguments used by a religious friend of mine that I met on MySpace and have argued extensively on the whole Atheism v. Religion thing. And it is the argument that religious people use the most in my experience to justify their beliefs. And now we know that it is used to justify any beliefs, even those held by atheists, e.g. the existence of free will.
The argument goes, you cannot prove that what I say isn't true, so maybe it is! Wonderfully simplistic. And here is why it can be so frustrating and devastating. It instantly puts any position on the same footing as any other. By saying that there is no proof for any position (there so very rarely is incontrovertible proof), 2 things are accomplished. First, it is used to break down your own position to their level. Your claims aren't proved, and neither are theirs. Who is to say who is right or wrong? Secondly, it can be used to justify nearly any belief. You don't believe in gremlins? But can you prove they don't exist? Then you could JUST AS EASILY be wrong!
I say we call this argument for what it is, and refuse to entertain the arguments of people who use it. It is a matter for epistemological discussion, and when lack of proof becomes any sort of issue it instantly turns into a, epistemological debate, one which distracts from the argument at hand. Epistemological debates need to be cordoned-off from debates about nearly anything else (metaphysical debates on the other hand are usually so inextricably linked that they become one and the same argument).
Cane invited me in responce to my blog WE CAN TAKE THE WORD FAITH AWAY FROM CHRISTIANS AND I CAN PROVE IT
i HAVE READ YOUR DISCUSSIONS AND HAVE CONCLUDED THAT YOUR ARGUMENTS ARE LIKE ARGURING OVERF WHICH FINGER IS MORE USEFUL ON THE RIGHT HAND. THEN IT MOVED TO WHICH IS LEAST USEFUL THEN IT MOVED TO ,,, WELL LET'S CUT OPFF THE LEAST USEFULL FINGER ,,,, LET' NOT GO THEIR UNLESS YOU ARE QUALIFIED TO DO THE CUTTING ALL FORWARD MOTION OF THE ATHEIST MOVEMENT IS GOOD IT IS JUST THAT SOME ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS yOUR NEW FRIEND CHARLES DEFRATES
With more thought the word useage "ambiguous" is wrong because it does not include
" intended deception" the chruch want to keep their power prestage and to keep begging from an unstecting public. your friend charles defrates
Cool picture Mr. Black! Thanks, I've saved it.
Orion, I completely agree with your treatment of the problem of free will. However, this discussion is not about free will. The discussion is about how people (theists, mostly) argue that since you can't prove them wrong, then this means that they could be right.