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Can you prove a negative


Neon Genesis
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The "anti" position on most anything is the weaker and most error-prone position, for reasons inherent in that position itself.

Logic does not allow prooving the negative. It's a position that in and of itself offers no positive alternatives. The "anti" position is often left with nothing more than unsound reasoning, fallacies of logic, and irrational emotionalism, usually quickly deteriorating into pettiness and even absurdity, on which to begin, proceed, or stand.

Imo, we can just look at the aparant present strategies of GOP party and candidates for a pretty obvious example of that.

 

Jenell

I disagree though that you can never prove a negative. Obama proved a negative when he released his birth certificate and proved he is in fact born in America. The BBC proved a negative when they sent a team of researchers to the Loch Ness and searched high and low with sonar technology and found not a shred of evidence that magical dinosaurs existed in the Loch Ness. Biblical scholars proved a negative when they proved the bible has contradictions in it through the methods of higher criticism and archeaological evidence.
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Norm wrote: I disagree though that you can never prove a negative.

 

No, Norm.

 

Obama proved a negative when he released his birth certificate and proved he is in fact born in America.

 

No, Obama proved a postive assertion, that he has a valid American birth certificate and was born in America.

 

 

The BBC proved a negative when they sent a team of researchers to the Loch Ness and searched high and low with sonar technology and found not a shred of evidence that magical dinosaurs existed in the Loch Ness.

 

No, they proved a positive assertion, that even a diligent search using the best modern tehcnology avaialable would produce no evidence of such a creature.

 

Biblical scholars proved a negative when they proved the bible has contradictions in it through the methods of higher criticism and archeaological evidence.

 

No, they proved a positive assertion, that the bible is not without error or contradiction, when they applied sound methods of textual and archaeological analysis and evidence. Imo, it doesn't take that to prove the positive assertion that there are errors and contractions in the bible...just basic reading skills and impartial critical thinking.

 

Logic is the science of the structure and language and grammar of argument. Logic can only be applied to a positive assertion. Not a negative. What ever the arguement for whatever conclusion, or potential 'proof', it must be positioned as a positive. We can 'proove' something exists on the basis of evidence, but not that it doesn't exist just because we have no evidence that it does.

Jenell

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No, Obama proved a postive assertion, that he has a valid American birth certificate and was born in America.

But it was the birthers making the positive claim that Obama had faked his birth certificate and they made all sorts of positive claims that they had found the "real" birth certificate proving he was from Kenya yet he shot all of those down.

 

 

 

 

No, they proved a positive assertion, that even a diligent search using the best modern tehcnology avaialable would produce no evidence of such a creature.
Again, it was the Nessie believers who made the positive assertion that there was a magical dinosaur that lived underneath the Loch Ness. The BBC scientists wanted to test that claim and they used sonar technology to examine the locke and found no evidence of a magical dinosaur existing there even with all the advanced sonar technology they used but the research they did was in response to a positive claim that the Nessie believers had made about the locke.

 

 

 

No, they proved a positive assertion, that the bible is not without error or contradiction, when they applied sound methods of textual and archaeological analysis and evidence. Imo, it doesn't take that to prove the positive assertion that there are errors and contractions in the bible...just basic reading skills and impartial critical thinking.

 

Logic is the science of the structure and language and grammar of argument. Logic can only be applied to a positive assertion. Not a negative. What ever the arguement for whatever conclusion, or potential 'proof', it must be positioned as a positive. We can 'proove' something exists on the basis of evidence, but not that it doesn't exist just because we have no evidence that it does.

Jenell

But again, the Christians claiming the bible was a supernatural product of divine perfect were the ones making a positive assertion and biblical scholars examined the texts for themselves to find out if it was true and found the opposite. Only in the broadest sense of the word "prove" can you say that no negative can ever be proven but in everyday language, negatives are proven all the time. Some may be harder to prove than others which is when taking an agnostic stance is more appriopate than a hard gnostic stance, but even most Christians will agree they can prove some god concepts don't exist. Most Christians for example generally have no problem siding with atheists in dismissing the hateful god of Pat Robertson that would punish the innocent victims of the Haiti earthquake for the sins of their ancestors as having been proven to be non-existent, and most everyone would agree that modern science has proven Zeus is non-existence. Again, some god concepts are harder to prove they don't exist than others, but in practice, it's not impossible to prove negatives.
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Neon,

 

A hypothesis to be researched can be stated in either a positive or negative form:

 

1. The world is flat.

2. The world is not flat.

 

After examining the evidence we can conclude that (1) is false and (2) is true.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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Neon,

 

A hypothesis to be researched can be stated in either a positive or negative form:

 

1. The world is flat.

2. The world is not flat.

 

After examining the evidence we can conclude that (1) is false and (2) is true.

 

George

 

But which argument is proven in a postive form. #1 and #2 contradict one another. Both #1 and #2 are postive statements. If one is true, the other is neccesarily false, for both cannot be true at once.

2, The world is not flat, is actually a positive, not a negative statement.

By proving that the earth is in fact, globular, round, we arrive at another set of contraditions, both of which cannot be true, and if either is true, the other is false...that is that the earth, nor anything else, cannot be both round, globular, and flat, at once, It can only be one or the other. Since round, globular is proven true, flat is neccesarily false.

Jenell

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But it was the birthers making the positive claim that Obama had faked his birth certificate and they made all sorts of positive claims that they had found the "real" birth certificate proving he was from Kenya yet he shot all of those down.

 

birther's positive assertions...

*Obama had faked his birth certificate (postive assertion)...burden of proof, proove he faked his birth certificate. They failed. Claims to having found a 'real faked birth certificate', the premisis for that claim, were not substantiated.

*There is no valid American birth certificate for Obama. (negatitive assertion) Cannot be proven. It is not possible to prove, because there is no way we can know every single piece of paper that might exist on this earth.

*The immediately preceeding hegative statement is NEGATED by (effectively proving false) by the positive evidence, a valid birth certificate for Obama's american birth was introduced into evidence.

 

 

 

 

Again, it was the Nessie believers who made the positive assertion that there was a magical dinosaur that lived underneath the Loch Ness. The BBC scientists wanted to test that claim and they used sonar technology to examine the locke and found no evidence of a magical dinosaur existing there even with all the advanced sonar technology they used but the research they did was in response to a positive claim that the Nessie believers had made about the locke.

 

*Nessie believers positive assertion..there is a magical dinosaur that lives under Loch Ness.

*BBC scientists positive assertion..that using all modern sonar technology to examine Locke Ness will fail to detect such a creature living in Locke Ness. That they did not find such a creature using their sonar technology prooves their assertion to be true.

HOWEVER,

*It only prooves their positive assertion that they would not find the creature with their sonar equipment.

* It does not proove nor negate the negative assertion that no such creature exists under Locke Ness waters. Only that their sonar didn't find it.

because

*Nessie might have underwater caves or caves extending under cliff boundaies of the lake in which to hide from sonar detection.

*Nessie may have skin of some unknown kind with qualities that avoid detection by radar, like modern military stealth bombers and helicopters.

*Nessie is a MAGICAL creature, remember? Nessie may have amazing magic powers and abilities to avoid detection by sonar or other technoligy, even become invisible when it wants to.

Therefore, the negative assertion, there is no such creature living in Loch Ness is not proven.

 

 

 

But again, the Christians claiming the bible was a supernatural product of divine perfect were the ones making a positive assertion and biblical scholars examined the texts for themselves to find out if it was true and found the opposite. Only in the broadest sense of the word "prove" can you say that no negative can ever be proven but in everyday language, negatives are proven all the time. Some may be harder to prove than others which is when taking an agnostic stance is more appriopate than a hard gnostic stance, but even most Christians will agree they can prove some god concepts don't exist. Most Christians for example generally have no problem siding with atheists in dismissing the hateful god of Pat Robertson that would punish the innocent victims of the Haiti earthquake for the sins of their ancestors as having been proven to be non-existent, and most everyone would agree that modern science has proven Zeus is non-existence. Again, some god concepts are harder to prove they don't exist than others, but in practice, it's not impossible to prove negatives.

 

No, negative are not proven in everyday language or in logic. Anything asserted must first be placed into the form of a positive statement or assertion to be subject to 'prooving'.

Religious:

*God exists. Positive assertion.

*The inerrancy of the bible proves God exists. because God wrote it, inspired it, whatever, and God is inerrant. Postive assertion. Inerrancy is presented as a both neccesary quality of God, and and proof of biblical divine inspiration by God. Positive assertion.

*Scholars:

*Are able to estabish, prove, inerrancies within the bible. The entire religious argument above collapses...both are proven false at once.

*All the scholars prooved was their positive assertion the bible in not without error.---->If inerrancy is a neccesary quality of God, then it is also proven that the bible was neither written by God, nor reliable evidence or proof of God's existience and anything about God. But it doesn't proove God doesn't exist.

*Assertion that God does not exist...negative assertion, statement. cannot be proven.

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Another example of a negative that was proven would be all the failed end of the world prophecies that have happened throughout history. Harold Camping claimed last year that the world was going to end. 2011 came and went and the world never ended once. Harold Camping may be able to backtrack and say he only meant it as a "spiritual" end of the world, but his earlier came that a literal end of the world was going to happen in 2011 is a negative that was proven by the mere fact that 2011 came but the world is still here.

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Another example of a negative that was proven would be all the failed end of the world prophecies that have happened throughout history. Harold Camping claimed last year that the world was going to end. 2011 came and went and the world never ended once. Harold Camping may be able to backtrack and say he only meant it as a "spiritual" end of the world, but his earlier came that a literal end of the world was going to happen in 2011 is a negative that was proven by the mere fact that 2011 came but the world is still here.

 

No, no, no Neon, (ROFLMBO!)

 

Those prophecies were positive assertions, postive statements that something would happen, and it didn't. Those positive assertions are proven false by it not happening.

 

Jenell

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2, The world is not flat, is actually a positive, not a negative statement.

By proving that the earth is in fact, globular, round, we arrive at another set of contraditions, both of which cannot be true, and if either is true, the other is false...that is that the earth, nor anything else, cannot be both round, globular, and flat, at once, It can only be one or the other. Since round, globular is proven true, flat is neccesarily false.

 

Huh?

 

'Negative' according to Merriam-Webster Unabridged: 1 a : that expresses or implies or contains negation . . . denying a predicate of a subject or of a part of a subject or asserting the falsity of something <"no A is B", "some A is not B", and "it is false that A is B" are negative propositions> -- contrasted with affirmative . . .

 

George

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No, no, no Neon, (ROFLMBO!)

 

Those prophecies were positive assertions, postive statements that something would happen, and it didn't. Those positive assertions are proven false by it not happening.

 

Jenell

What's the difference between saying they were proven false and saying that a negative was proven? Isn't that the same thing but just worded slightly different?
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Huh?

 

'Negative' according to Merriam-Webster Unabridged: 1 a : that expresses or implies or contains negation . . . denying a predicate of a subject or of a part of a subject or asserting the falsity of something <"no A is B", "some A is not B", and "it is false that A is B" are negative propositions> -- contrasted with affirmative . . .

 

George

 

The definition of 'negative' prospositions, in the 'negation' of a predicate in english grammar, is a different use than in Logic, where a negative assertion is an assertion, a statement, that something "is not." "doesn't exist."

In this demonstrated grammatical use, the propostition does offer a does/does not about "something."

 

In the Logic application, a negative is an assertion that "something" does "not exist."

If it does "not exist," how can we say anything about it? We can't, because to say anything about "something", there has to BE a "something." A "subject' to say it about. Note that in the grammatical usage above, the propositions DO have, relate to, a "subject."

 

In the "prophecy" examples Neon suggested, there was a positive assertion made that the world would end on X date. That is about something (world will end) within a set parameter of conditions for occurrence (X date). When X date passed and the world didn't end, those postive assertions were proven false.

 

The negative assertion (in Logic) would be, "there is no such thing as the end of the world." It is impossible to 'proove' as true. There is no process of logic. reason, for doing so. It is "doesn't exist." how can we proove it "doesn't exist?" We can't.

 

Now, tricky step here....IF the world WERE to end, and somehow we survived it and was able to witness that it had happened, like maybe we were off in a Mars colony, the original negatve assertion, "there is no such thing as the end of the world". would be "negated" or effectively "proven FALSE". because it did happen, the end of the world really does exist.

But, "there is no such thing as the end of the world" can NEVER be proven TRUE. No matter how long we wait, we can't know if it's really TRUE that there is no such thing as the end of the world, because we can never know if it still might happen in the future.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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Here's another approach to this, from a different direction, different form. Coming out of the text book here now...

 

"Two conditions must be fulfilled to purport to prove something.

1. At least one statement must present evidence or reasons.

2. There must be a claim that the alledged evidence or reasons supports or implies something--that is, a claim that something follows from the alledged evidence,"

)(end textbook quote)

 

LACK of evidence is NOT evidence.

We can say we have no evidence God exist. That we can't prove "God exists" is TRUE. But still not that "God doesn't exist." We have no evidence that God doesn't exist.

 

However, anyone is surely free to hold that belief as an OPINION. But not as something "proven."

 

 

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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The definition of 'negative' prospositions, in the 'negation' of a predicate in english grammar, is a different use than in Logic, where a negative assertion is an assertion, a statement, that something "is not." "doesn't exist."

 

Jenell, I don't agree, but I see no value in pursuing this farther.

 

George

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2, The world is not flat, is actually a positive, not a negative statement.

 

 

That is not correct.

 

The Negation Rule: In English, in order to claim that something is not true, you form a negative sentence by adding the word not after the first auxiliary verb in the positive sentence. If there is no auxiliary verb in the positive sentence, as in the Present Simple and Past Simple tenses, then you add one (in both these cases, the auxiliary verb do).

 

 

Note:

In informal writing settings, you can contract the auxiliary verb with either the sentence subject or the word not. In formal writing settings, refrain from contracting any words.

  • She is not playing. [formal]
  • She isn’t playing. = She’s not playing. [informal]

 

NORM

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Yes, Norm. In English grammar, that is correct.

We are coming from different usages. I was coming from logic and reason, in the structure and proving of arguments, since I that seemed what this began as, 'prooving' "God does not extist." Or "there is no God." The usage in grammer you demonstrate here has no application that i am aware of in "prooving" something/anything.

I'm just laying this one down, ok? If the matter of "proof" that something (God or whatever) does not exist, still interests you, there are online sources of principles and processes of formal logic. that can be approach through several forms in logic. And I say, simply that it is my understanding that something does not exist is not 'proovable' through any of them.

Jenell

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Now, tricky step here....IF the world WERE to end, and somehow we survived it and was able to witness that it had happened, like maybe we were off in a Mars colony, the original negatve assertion, "there is no such thing as the end of the world". would be "negated" or effectively "proven FALSE". because it did happen, the end of the world really does exist.

But, "there is no such thing as the end of the world" can NEVER be proven TRUE. No matter how long we wait, we can't know if it's really TRUE that there is no such thing as the end of the world, because we can never know if it still might happen in the future.

 

Jenell

Of course we can't know that there will never be an end in the world in the future and even most scientists believe the world will end sometime in the future when the sun turns into a supernova and wipes out all life on Earth or however the theory goes. But just because some negatives are harder to prove than others doesn't mean no negative can never be proven and just because we can't know for certain the world will never end doesn't mean we can't say "there is no such thing as the end of the world on October 21st 2011." But if we accept the claim "you can never prove a negative" as being true, aren't you essentially proving a negative claim; that is, that there is no such thing as proven negative claims? Edited by Neon Genesis
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