Comment to the video on YouTube posted by “mattisonfire“:
“It seems that Dawkins is beating up a straw man. Is there a single argument in any of the philosophical literature that goes “you can’t disprove God. Therefore, you have to believe in him?”
Response to mattisonfire’s comment posted by “crazylawstudent“:
“Sure. Pascal’s wager first comes to mind. But what Dawkins is really addressing is an aspect of popular culture, where people expect atheists to supply reasons for their nonbelief instead of the onus being on the theists – those who make a positive claim. Dawkins (through Russell) is showing the silliness of this reversal by using it in a different context.”
My response that I could not post to YouTube because of their 500 character post limit:
And, therein is where Dawkins’ trips up and displays his obvious lack of critical thinking. The fact of the matter is that the burden of proof lies with anyone making a claim. Neither “positive,” nor “negative” enter into the equation. If you make the claim “God does not exist,” then you have just as much of a burden to show why God does not, or can not, exist, as does anyone who makes the claim “God does exist.” If no proof or evidence is provided then the responsible, rational default opinion is no opinion — a reservation of judgment; NOT disbelief. If evidence (short of proof) is provided, then a personal, subjective opinion based on the significance of that evidence may be made.
However, at least the religious do offer some form of evidence for their claim, which can, at the very least, be taken into consideration: Many thousands of years of human testimony and witness, philosophical reasoning, physical observation that can at least be argued to show signs of intentional will as the catalytic force, etc. Of course, all of this falls far short of proof by any means, but atheists offer nothing further than what really boils down to: “Well, doesn’t it all just sound rather silly?” Then, they have the unmitigated gall to claim it’s the believers who are operating free of rationality and reason — un-frickin’-believable.
Many atheists often attempt to get around this fact with their old, tired lame duck of claiming that they do not actively believe that God does not exist, but instead that theirs is a passive disbelief — i.e., It’s not that they believe no God exists, but instead that they have no reason to believe that one does. Well, bullocks! This is nothing more than a sad attempt to spin the story their way and to skirt reality. The fact is that once you become intellectually aware of a possibility an entirely passive disbelief is no longer possible. A passive disbelief can only manifest from complete ignorance. And, atheists are not ignorant of the question. As soon as you are made aware of the idea of the existence of God, you are forced to form an opinion which falls into one of three general categories: I believe God does exist, I believe God does not exist, or, I believe God may or may not exist. There’s nothing “passive” about any of those positions.
And, P.S. – Pascal’s wager does NOT attempt to argue for the existence of God based on the fact that you can not disprove God’s existence. ‘Mattisonfire” is completely correct in his statement. Dawkins is indeed arguing against his own straw-man in this video.