Shifting The Burden Of Proof

It's important to distinguish shifting the burden of proof from establishing it in the first place. One's adversary does not have the burden of proof simply because one's senseless preconceptions are socially approved.

Actually, I think the second sentence above is exactly backward. The burden of proof is always on changing one's mind. Your "adversary" in a discussion is trying to change your mind; therefore he takes on the burden of proof. The only reason to talk or write discursively is to take on and discharge a burden of proof. When persuading strangers, one presumes them to believe what is commonly accepted ("socially approved"); one endeavors to change their minds from there. And if someone wants you to change your mind, they would be most helpful if they gave you a reason to do so.

In the case of persuading strangers, the above denies the reality of different levels of burden of proof. If two people are trying to persuade a third to their opposing sides, it is exceedingly unlikely that they have identical burdens of proof. Further, "one presumes them to believe what is commonly accepted" is a hidden argument from numbers (ArgumentByTheMasses). Finally, in your last sentence you've reverted to pragmatics (a hidden argument from status quo) so your statement has forfeited any possible relevance to a logical conception of burden of proof. Trying to defend logic with illogic doesn't work too well, try again.

Could you explain how the paragraph above leads to your conclusions? (1) The paragraph didn't talk about two people trying to persuade a third. (2) How is presuming strangers to believe what is commonly accepted, as a start point for changing their minds, an argument that what is commonly accepted is true? You wouldn't, er, be trying to change their minds if you thought they were already right, would you? (3) The job of changing one's mind, and when to do it, is surely within the province of logic, unless by "logic" you mean something radically different from the traditional meaning ("the art and science of correct reasoning" is the usual definition). Burden of proof, at least in the logical sense, really doesn't doesn't have anything to do with who has to say what in a conversation. It has to do with what it takes to (rationally) move your mind. In conversation, one respects the faculty of reason in the other person, which implies that if you ask him to change his mind, you should offer him a good ground for doing so.

(1) There is no actual difference when you don't have any strangers involved but there seems to be and it's a powerful illusion. (2) Either that is your argument or you are merely speaking about pragmatics, if pragmatics then your point was irrelevant to begin with. (3) It may be wise to change one's mind when someone points a gun to your head, that still doesn't make it logical.

Well, this is an interesting theory. Are you saying that putting a gun to someone's head is respecting his faculty of reason? Do tell us more.

The problem is that good ground or good reason to change one's belief need not involve any evidence per se. An argument could consist of pointing out just how unlikely and far-fetched someone's belief is. Are you meeting any burden of proof by doing this? No, you're merely pointing out that the other person has not done so. Suppose I am arguing with someone who believes in ghosts. From a pragmatical point of view, I must provide him with evidence for their non-existence (e.g., fruitless investigations of alleged ghosts). But should I have to do any such thing? I hardly think so. If my adversary's belief is irrational then I should be able to point out that no unbiased stranger would ever be convinced to his side (i.e., that the burden of proof rests squarely on him and that it remains unmet) and my adversary should immediately reject his belief on the matter. To argue that my adversary should maintain his belief is to argue from the status quo.

Regarding conversation with someone who holds a belief that logically requires evidence that he never got, here's how it works. You can ask someone, in effect, to "roll back" his knowledge to where it was before he arrived at his current view, in order to help enlighten you. For example, "What leads you to believe in ghosts?" By trying to help you meet your burden of proof, he might then discover that he hadn't met his own burden of proof for that change to his knowledge. (As noted below, the initial state of knowledge is always total ignorance, which is equivalent to a denial that a given subject exists.) And of course, to meet the burden for changing a mind, reasoning other than evidence is perfectly ok both to offer and to ask for--for example, pointing out that a conclusion doesn't really follow from the premises that (to your partner) seem to support it.

As to whether you "should" help people learn things they don't know, or help them correct mistakes in their knowledge, I'm afraid I don't understand the question. If you're going to have a conversation with someone, then yes, of course you should offer whatever help you can, in the form of evidence or reasoning or examples or analogies or even explaining principles of logic, if you think that would be helpful. If you don't want to have a conversation, then no. But something to be avoided at all costs is having a conversation without being helpful -- you know, the kind where you don't meet your partner's burdens of proof. For example, merely calling your partner's beliefs irrational without kindly helping him to see this for himself is not helpful, even if your claim is true.

The above linked article seems to imply that shifting the burden of proof is a matter of logic (i.e., can be a fallacy), when it seems to me that it is merely a matter of pragmatics (i.e., what does the agent wish to get out of the situation). To assume that a non-refuted position is true is false, but to say that the other participants in an argument have the burden of proof does not seem to me like the sort of thing that can be true or false, but merely wise or unwise. Also, it is the sort of thing that depends a lot on the context: certain parties (e.g., a prosecutor) have a burden of proof in a legal situation regardless of what they are arguing for, and someone arguing against a socially approved proposition will usually appear silly if they confine their argument to a simple statement of disbelief. -- ThomasColthurst

You are quite right. The concept of burden of proof in that article is not even remotely related to logic. However, this isn't because burden of proof is itself unrelated to logic, rather it's because that article is execrable. The explanation of burden of proof it provides is itself based on a logical fallacy, argumentum ad numerum. If everyone believes in ghosts does that make a claim to have seen a ghost any the less absurd? Is it shifting the burden of proof to disagree with the majority and claim that those who believe in ghosts must prove their existence? Going by that article, one would have to answer in the affirmative to both questions. In actual logic, it doesn't matter whether one's claim is the status quo and it certainly doesn't matter whose claim is more popular.

A much more reasonable, but also more elaborate, conception of burden of proof would be a theory of defaults. Consider two propositions, P and not P, then in general one of them is favoured by your axiomatic set. This is because an elementary epistemological axiom known as OccamsRazor will usually discriminate against one or the other proposition. Unless a proposition can be derived within a system, its acceptance into the system increases the content of this system. This increase in content is not the same for all propositions. As an example, "God exists" is a vast increase in content whereas "no gods exist" is a miniscule increase in content. If one is forced to accept one or the other proposition then OccamsRazor discriminates against the one with larger content. -- RichardKulisz

Traditionally (going back to the middle ages and beyond, I think), burden of proof is part of logic. One of the very most fundamental parts. The theory of defaults is known as the theory of "presumption". The traditional axiom is, "The onus of proof is on him who asserts the positive." Which is old-fashioned talk for, "The default belief is that the thing in question does not exist; the default changes when you get some positive evidence that it does." Without burden of proof, the ArgumentumAdIgnorantiam wouldn't be a fallacy.

That is the traditional theory of defaults but it's not a very good theory since counter-examples are so easy to construct. For example, 'the universe has no beginning' is not a sensible default. The key to constructing counter-examples is to tie the existence of one thing with the non-existence of another thing so that any characterization of the claim as positive or negative is arbitrary. After all, holes are physical objects, the assertion of whose existence is a positive claim. Or are they? In the given example, the existence of the universe before X billion years is tied to the non-existence of a creation event at or after X billion years. From a formal point of view, it isn't clear what presuming the non-existence of something even means, let alone why it should be justified. -- rk

As I interpret the traditional theory (which I've never actually read anywhere in any depth, just seen various tidbits here and there in Scholastic writings, so this is a very free interpretation), it just recognizes that you start ignorant and become more knowledgeable through positive evidence. This is very different from the more modern view, which is (implicitly) that you start off with every possible proposition in a state of 50/50 uncertainty and try to avoid error; in the modern view, justification is required for any move away from 50/50. To think that there is a hole someplace requires positive evidence of one sort or another. To be unaware of a hole requires no evidence. Notice that the traditional burden-of-proof principle doesn't protect you from being wrong; it just says that if you're ignorant of something, then for purposes of making decisions, that's the same as thinking it doesn't exist. It's outside the current scope of your knowledge. Someone please do a better job explaining this; I've always wanted to hear more about it. But I don't think the "holes" type of counterexample addresses the idea.

Here's another way to look at it. "Hey, dude, there's a hole inside Mars in the exact shape of Michelangelo's David -- Mars is hollow!" "Really, what's the evidence for this?" "Evidence, no way -- first you show me evidence that there isn't such a hole." That's silly. That's shifting the burden of proof illegitimately, at least according to the traditional burden-of-proof principle. Another way to state the principle: a positive claim requires positive evidence, but a negative claim is equivalent to ignorance and therefore requires nothing.

Here's yet another way to look at it. Non-existent burglars leave no footprints. Now, extremely stealthy burglars also leave no footprints. But that doesn't mean that a lack of footprints should lead you to conclude that you *might* have been visited by an extremely stealthy burglar. A lack of evidence leads to no new knowledge at all, which is equivalent to believing that you have not been visited by a stealthy burglar. You might have been visited by an extremely stealthy burglar, but without positive evidence, you'll just have to remain ignorant of that.

And here's another way to look at it. Just think how kooky all your decision-making would be if you didn't follow the traditional burden-of-proof principle. For one thing, you'd be persuaded by PascalsWager.

Skeptics like Sextus Empiricus say that you should suspend judgement about anything and everything. But you can't. You've got to bet on something. You've got to decide that eating food is more likely to cure your hunger than singing one-voice fugues about a rototiller. Or the other way around. Your actions will speak your judgements. If you weren't implicitly giving weight to positive evidence and no weight to a lack of evidence, then you'd bet very differently than sane people do.

Obviously, one should apply this only where it applies. It doesn't apply to math, for example, where abstract reasoning rather than evidence is the basis for conclusions. I haven't read this anywhere, so I have no reason to think it's part of traditional logic, but it seems that the principle only applies in areas where we know, or at least think we know, how to interpret positive evidence. Court cases are surely the paradigmatic example.

BTW, I think "the universe had no beginning" is a perfectly sensible idea. But I doubt that this has anything to do with the traditional burden-of-proof principle.


Surely the burden of proof rests upon those who seek change; one man's enlightenment is another's ignorance -- this is not a useful metric to quantitise; polarisation of the problem space between the two is FalseDichotomy and not useful. The burden of proof as applied to a hungry man is upon whomsoever would have him no longer be so (whether that is the man or some external party) -- the state at rest is a hungry man, and the proof required is that he should change; One who holds an opinion as to Mars' hollowness is at rest with this opinion -- and the burden of proof lies with those who would change it.

When considering the relative proximity of burglars one might start with one's currently held belief; the burden of proof lies with either the attempted rationalisation or the contradiction of this belief, as neither pole is assumed true; the pole that aligns most closely with the present may imbue the least burden -- for this in fact describes the human propensity to evolutionary thought over revolution -- however either describe a vector and only holding the present as true requires no proof.

If one holds equally that a hole may or may not exist -- then only challenging either assertion requires proof; it is possible to assume that a hole may equally exist as not, however proof is required should either pole be tested; if one holds that same hole to exist, one may attempt to prove this false, or indeed to simply prove it less likely to exist than assumed -- if one wishes to persuade another as to the degree of the hole's presence, one assumes the burden of proof as a vector of change relative to that other party's present belief.

ShiftingTheBurdenOfProof is that which transfers the responsibility of persuasion either to the subject in question or some third party; this is particularly illustrated when considering discourse with strangers -- if one presumes a stranger holds some position prior to establishing a suitable metric in common with the unknown party then subsequently testing this metric, one is ShiftingTheBurdenOfProof by default; this is a direct function of the divergence between ones presumption of the stranger's belief and the actuality of the stranger's position -- for the stranger must now disprove any such presumption made; if a stranger expresses an opinion which one wishes to alter, one assumes the burden of proof equal to the task at hand.

It is a commonly quoted saying, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." This holds true IMO for deciding where the burden of proof lies. The argument with the most credible supporting evidence is obviously the more correct (with the current understanding of the facts at hand). It is true the burden of proof lies on the challenger, but I would say that the challenger is always fighting the 'king of the hill". It would be silly to say that a person claiming that Mars is hollow doesn't have to offer proof because they are at rest with their opinion -- The mass and composition of Mars is well known and therefore its density, therefore since the current evidence does not support such a thing, it is upon the challenger to offer evidence to the contrary. Keep in mind that logic and opinion are different things; Convincing a person of something is far different than proving something to be true. Convincing someone of something requires that you assume they have ignorance of the facts of the case (Obviously if they knew them they would agree with you right?;), so in that sense the burden lies upon you to educate them.

I would also point out that, though math uses abstract reasoning to prove something, the logic itself is the only evidence necessary for the proof; This is because the laws of mathematics are more concrete than our understanding of the universe.

[Show off discussion moved to MathDiscussionOne ]

The person who makes a statement must be the one to provide justification for his statement.

[I hope this reflects the intent of the badly mangled original paragraph.]

If one makes a statement, one needs to be prepared to explain and justify the statement. Unless the meaning of and context for the statement are absolutely clear, there cannot be a "burden of proof" on others attempting to understand the statement. Questioning a statement does not imply disagreement; only lack of understanding can be inferred. It is not the responsibility of the questioner to prove the initial statement is incorrect, it is the responsibility of the initiator to show how, when, and why his statement would be correct.

One problem with this fallacy (indeed all fallacies) in the context of a WikiDebate?, is there no way of determining the winner(s) and loser(s). In competitive debate, the matter is determined by judges (we'll ignore the issue of how effective judges are at this role), who are trained in rhetoric and will "decuct points" for use of fallacious arguments. In political debates, the electorate decides who wins the election (though this has little to do with who is the better debater; John Kerry is considered by most observers to have "won" the 2004 presidential debates in the US, yet George Bush won the election).

WikiDebate?s, and Usenet debates, etc. are often a free-for-all, with neither side willing to concede so much as a point. One side might destroy the other's position, provide absolute mathematical proof of his view, etc.--and the other side might just ignore it all, and claim "victory" if the first guy gets tired of the whole thing and withdraws. (For many, that seems to be how online debates are settled--the loser is the guy who gets sick of it first. Many persistent trolls like to claim victories in such manners).

In the context of ShiftingTheBurdenOfProof, a claim of "you'll have to prove it" is often tantamount to "a mathetmatical proof of your proposition is required before I'll concede anything". Of course, many propositions are not falsifiable. Even if a proposition is, and proof (or overwhelming evidence) is delivered, the other party might raise the bar even higher.


One common form disagreement is what the default or "base" is. For example, if person A says X is better and person B says Y is better, then who has the burden of proof? Is X better until proven otherwise or is B better until proven otherwise? I generally consider both X and Y "null" until evidence is presented. Thus:

  (X > Y)  = ?
  (X == Y) = ?
  (X < Y)  = ?

Some suggest that the default is whatever is popular or in style at the moment. This is questionable. One can perhaps consider ArgumentByPopularity? a weak form of evidence which can tip the scale if there is nothing at all on the other side to counter-balance. This is a form of "when in Rome do what the Romans do". If you are confused and disoriented, then following what everyone else is doing seems like the "safe choice". This buys time until one better knows the territory.

In general this position is called global skepticism and results in nihilism. When and if you can provide a proof that you exist, and are an not in fact a computer program emulating what I may mistake to be person or at lest a turning machine, I will consider picking up this debate.... The burden is yours as I have learned from your able example above. I personally have no burden to prove anything because I am a solipsist, my default, and I am only offering to let you attempt to prove that you exist since I pride myself on having an open mind--- I wish you luck, but in all candor no one has yet managed to convince me that they exist as my standards of proof are very high. -- This is not a joke please respond. If you do not respond I take the lack of evidence as proof that you must not exist. - I am not top and I think he may not be either.

That is exactly the trolling and dishonest attitude that gets you in trouble here, TopMind.

This looks like a good place to interject with an important concept about the Burden of Proof. No burden of proof exists at all unless one party really cares to convince the other. Now this may seem trivial and trivially true but to judge from some discourse here it is often ignored. This is never more true than in the case of ShiftingTheBurdenOfProof as it may be that no such burden exits to begin with.

 Consider the following dialog which is loosely, very loosely, based on examples from this Wiki.

A: I have discovered a better way to do software I think you should use.

B: I demand that you prove to me that it works better than X before I adopt it.

A: Well here is why I think you should use it Discourse Follows....

B: That's not a proof--- you have the Burden of Proof I demand that you prove it.

A: No thanks, on further refection, I am not all that concerned with improving your efficiency or remediating your ignorance. Carry on.

B: No I will not -- you must prove it to me or you can not use it either.

A: As far as I am concerned I have proven it. I do use it and I will continue to use it. Carry on.

B: That's not Science

A: Oh that's too bad. I wish I gave a --- but I don't. Goodbye.

Now the key here, is, that outside of the Academy, it is rare for that the motives of someone advancing a new idea are altruistic. To the extent that I or anyone else has any burden at all it is not one that we must accept. And in truth the more one party tries to convince another of something the more likely that party has a vested interest. Lets consider a more interesting case in which A: is trying to sell to B: Well know A: is motivated to be sure, but how likely is it that they are concerned with truth or B's best interest?

I am always amazed by the number persons who claim that they know how to get rich in the stock market, but who are nevertheless willing to part with that information for a fee. There is only one conclusion: to the extent that they really can make money in the stock market, it must be true that they can make more money by selling the information than using it. Very few victims of this fraud demand proof of their claims because they want to believe it and they pay the money. On the other hand they who try and stop this fraud are ignored. The burden of proof is on you say the frauds-- I wonder if debunking frauds would be easier if we charged for the service. :)

I am not sure If anyone cares about this issue, but I have noted that many who demand proof are often least qualified to understand it,and almost universally demand from the wrong party. I make no grand claim for this observation and I do not intend to single out anyone in particular. We are all, myself included, subject the bias that what we know and do is the 'right way' and are more likely to demand proof in the face of change then we are to demand proof of our current practices and principles. This is an error.

In the absence of a vested interest which may motive someone to accept the burden of proof, or a compelling and independently verified claim of altruistic motives, one is far wiser to assume that none has any burden of proof at all, and that it is your job to verify any claims you wish to accept regardless of source. The more willing someone is to accept a burden of proof, especially a high cost one in which each attempt is rejected with out providing some specific objection, criterion or method by which such a proof may someday be attained, the more likely the purpose is fraud, and paradoxically the more likely no such proof will be demanded, and week or false one will be accepted if it is. Old comfortable Ideas have an in -- even false ones, while true novel ones are denied on the face. This is not new Idea, but, truly, it is often ignored on this wiki.

-- MarcGrundfest

What? I don't understand the complaint.

Where is the "dishonesty"?

What specifically are you upset with? ArgumentByPopularity? being "weak"?

That is an issue for EvidenceTotemPole, not here. Further, many others have agreed that it is weak. How many have to agree before you no longer classify it as a "troll" opinion? What are the proper steps to compare then? I can reduce it an algorithm if you want, and you can present your own algorithm.

The general solution is: educate yourself. Then you'll know where the BurdenOfProof lies.

Human knowledge doesn't advance by repeating "proofs" to every other idiot who takes pride in his ignorance and complains about BookStops (the worst idiocy Top brought to wiki, a page in praise of ignorance). Humanity builds such things as sciences and bodies of knowledge, through among other things, social mechanisms that are both essential and economical. Such bodies of knowledge (an example of which is ComputerScience) are a frame of reference to which every honest participant in the social construction of knowledge relates to. Relating to the body of knowledge is not ArgumentByPopularity?, neither ArgumentByTheMasses, but it is simply the most natural, honest, and economical things to do.

Now nobody says that those bodies of knowledge are monuments of perfect truth, and it has been know that at varuious points in historical evolution such bodies of knowledge contained invalid knowledge, imperfections and suffered from various other flaws. So it is natural part of their evolution that from time to time various individuals relate to such frame of reference by negating or otherwise criticizing parts of the content, or by proposing that a part X should be replaced with a part Y (like in the example above, before society accepting the change between X and Y, we need to establish which one is better. When such replacements are successful, sometimes they are called revolution and the individuals who advanced them revolutionary. We don't want to discourage bright individuals from bringing about revolutionary ideas that will advance science, technology and culture, do we ?

However, revolutionaries are not the only ones who refer to the body of knowledge by negation. We also have all kinds of charlatans, ignoramusses, trolls and other such character, who think that just by negating something they have some standing. Of course, the society wants very much to avoid the situation where a charlatan affects the body of knowledge. Social strategies that deny the charlatans the opportunity to alter the body of knowledge have an evolutionary advantage, and that's how we've got the current even imperfect social system for maintaining this body of knowledge (including such things as academia organization, peer review mechanisms, university degrees, government sponsored science, etc). The discussion about how bodies of knowledge evolve is much more involved and we can't do it justice here, suffice to say for the purpose of the current discussion:

Society tells apart revolutionaries from charlatans very easily. The revolutionaries pick up the BurdenOfProof, and that's how they bring about advancements. Charlatans will always choose ShiftingTheBurdenOfProof.

So if you wanted an algorithm for recognizing that BurdenOfProof, it is very simple: when you go against or want to propose something different than the current body of klnowledge, or even something new altogether, the proponent will have the BurdenOfProof. Except that in your case, the algorithm may not work: in order to apply it you have to relate to the existing body of knowledge, but you don't know it and don't acknowledge it, and you complain about BookStop, and claim that CS books are generally worthless, and existing CS is no good and so on, so forth. And when the existing body of knowledge says X and Top says Y you claimed that X and Y are just as good, and you shouldn't have the burden of proof.

Most of that "body of knowledge" is flawed because it doesn't focus on externally-measurable metrics. "Computer Science" is fraud to pretend it is a science, but rather runs off in the mouth using a jillion combinations of unproven base assumptions. If you disagree with that, then so be it. Some of you need a good swift beating with a Science Clue Stick. You're using QwertySyndrome to defend bad science.

You see how you continue to be a dishonest troll ? Nobody says that it can't happen that "CS is fraud", it may even happen for you to be right. However, because you're TopMind, that is mr. Nobody personified, with no measurable achievements other than continued controversies on Internet forums and repeated accusations of trolling being brought against you, and CS being an established body of knowledge that is not only socially accepted but also displaying both scientific and technological and economic acomplishments widely acknowledged, because of these, if you want to claim that ComputerScience is fraud, you have the BurdenOfProof. Failing to pick up this BurdenOfProof makes you a fraud, so you either prove your wild claims or you withdraw them (keep them for yourself).

I suggest you reread the above. You appeared to miss something.

Is this your obsession with having the last reply on every ThreadMess you stir ?

It appears you didn't get it, so I will have to restate it. I wrote "Computer Science is fraud to pretend it is a science". I did not say computers were useless or that there was no progress created from the concepts called "computer science". Something does not have to be from science to be useful. People generally try concepts to see what they are comfortable with, and some tend to be popular over time, partly because of the higher comfort level and partly because marketing works. For example, Java became popular mostly because of clever marketing by Sun and general dot-com hype. However, many managers are finding that it has some really clunky elements to it that slow down projects and bloat stuff, so are switching to .NET and PHP. It is mostly from-the-hip hunches based on observations, not experiments with stop-watches. It is a more-or-less organic way to do it, kind of an "extreme engineering" heavily bound to psychology. My complaint is focusing mostly on the embedded label "science".

You can repeat an idiocy a thousand times, it won't make it any truer than the first time. What I told you and you haven't paid attention to is that if you claim the idiocy above, you also have the obligation to prove it. Otherwise, merely stating it makes you a fraud. If you further claim that your uninformed and ignorant ramblings for acceptable evidence to prove that "CS is fraud to pretend it is a science", then you only dig your hole even deeper.

I cannot prove that it is empty of science any more than I can prove that Santa Clause does not exist. Think about it. I only know that Santa has not shown up. If you have photos of either Santa or science in CS, please bring them to the table.

See, that's the proof of your dishonesty : that you're always ShiftingTheBurdenOfProof.

No. It is the same issue. The default is NOT the existence of Santa. You claiming that there is sufficient "science" in CS is just like somebody claiming there is a Santa Clause. The Santa claimer has to present evidence. The Santa claimer cannot say, "no, it is your burden to prove Santa does not exist".

Rather than get caught up in who has "obligations", perhaps think of it as balance beam where each side presents their evidence, and then let the reader decide. In some cases there may be evidence that weakens the other side's evidence rather than outright counter evidence. For example, person A claims that "toads are green" and presents 30 web links to photos of green toads. Person B may then present evidence that 20 of those pictures are fakes. That is not necessarily evidence that toads are not green, but rather weakens the evidence that they are.

I don't think so. Fallacies (of which ShiftingTheBurdenOfProof is one) aren't about a competition between two sides. It's about correct reasoning. Saying "someone else can't prove me wrong, therefore I'm right", is incorrect reasoning. Period.

Has anybody clearly done such on this wiki who has been accused of ShiftingTheBurdenOfProof? If so, may I ask for a reference?

Sure thing.

I don't see a clear equivalent of "therefore I'm right". Perhaps "therefore, it's a point worth considering" may be a better match.

That's because you take the erroneous approach outlined above; that the BurdenOfProof is a competition, and whichever side has more "points" is the winner. Both the statements "That's not the default either", and "Both are technically null" are stand-ins for "therefore I'm right". In all three cases, it gives an air of support to the unsupported statement that is in dispute. Since the speaker uses those claims as if they were supported, it is quite clear that the fallacy has occurred.

Perhaps you are over-interpreting the situation. "An air of" along with "stand-in for", and "quite clear" generally contradict. I still fail to see a clear path to a solid equivalent of "someone else can't prove me wrong, therefore I'm right" in those passages.

The "someone else can't prove me wrong, therefore I'm right" statement is just an extreme example of ShiftingTheBurdenOfProof, not a definition. ShiftingTheBurdenOfProof only requires that the support for a claim be a claim that no evidence has been presented to counter it. That clearly occurs in all three cases being discussed here, whether you allow yourself to see it or not.

I'm sorry, but I outright don't see the "clearly" in there. I suggest it is an interpretational artifact on your part. Perhaps you should clarify, restate, and confirm your interpretation before forming a case.

How much clearer does it need to be then the speaker's only support for a claim is a claim that there is no evidence against it?

Please clarify "stand-ins for" above. -t

This has gone on quite long enough. I have seen the results of TopMind's ideas and let me tell you it is bad. Maybe there's something worthwhile here, but Top lacks the ability to find or implement it. --JH

Cowards without evidence lack a handle [since inserted]. Probably the other pro-heavy-typer. Show me being bad or wrong, don't just claim it and assume your reputation (cough) is sufficient. It's "bad"? About as specific as fog. You guys have to exaggerate the case against me above because I did NOT make the statements you accuse me of. You see thru your top-is-evil- colored glasses. Your hate of me makes you biased. I ask for semi-formal-logic outlines of what I've done wrong, and you always get lost in a cave of fractal wiggle-word-games. Kill me with solid shit, not your weak impressionistic fuzz. You are HandWaving. SmartDebatersDontNeedInsults. -t

[No, I am (one of) the other "pro-heavy-typer"(s), or at least I think I might be. I've kept out of this debate, thus far. However, I don't know what "heavy-typing" means; it's not a term I find in the literature. I am pro-StrongTyping (modulo an appreciation for the power of Forth) -- is that what you mean? I don't hate you; how could I? I don't know you. You're just text on a screen to me. That text, I find, sometimes has the essence of good ideas, but often they are masked by inconsistency or having not considered the full implications of said ideas or the breadth of domains to which they may apply. But, I don't hate you, nor am I "anti-Top", nor do I think "Top is evil." Herewith appended is my "handle":] -- DaveVoorhis

I have watched this debate for five years. You should have a working prototype, either as a language or a framework by now. I hear your complaints about OO, but a new paradigm simply is not ready. -JH

You don't need something new in order to not use OOP. Although I wish the non-OOP tools were better, they're good enough to not have to turn to OOP (unless the only API's that exist for a need are OOP). But I'm not sure what this has to do with this topic. I don't see my "burden of proof" sin presented in a strait-forward way. The accusations are simply fuzzy. -t

"You don't need something new in order to not use OOP."

Therein lies the problem. I've not seen any any examples or arguments on this Wiki that provide compelling evidence to switch to some non-OOP language and stop using existing, implemented, working, and well-supported OO and functional languages for any domain in which I work, including developing business applications.

If you're going to convince any of us to do that, you need to present impressive, even overwhelming evidence that things can be done better (for some unknown value of "better") using a non-OO, non-functional approach. We already have a preponderance of evidence -- in the form of working OO and functional environments with which we solve real-world problems on a daily basis, or in the form of well-thought-out hypothetical and/or work-in-progress languages like TutorialDee that:

In short, it is up to you, Top, to do a better job of selling TableOrientedProgramming or whatever approach you advocate, because we're happily getting the job done using the approaches you deprecate. That, so far, is proof enough for us. If you believe otherwise, the BurdenOfProof lies entirely with you.

-- DaveVoorhis

You don't seem to know me well enough after all these years. I don't claim that TableOrientedProgramming is objectively superior. PsychologyMatters. FP or OOP or static/heavy typing may fit your head better, and thus more productive for YOU. I don't dispute that. It's when others insist they are objectively better when the "fights" start. By the way, I hold up PayrollExample as something that is simpler than the OOP version it is compared to. However, ultimately, the reader is the one who decides. To my eyes it looks simpler, easier to manage, and more flexible. T.O.P. deserves mention as a legitimate paradigm/technique. If you want to sum up my point-of-view, then:


Your point-of-view has always been clear. My point is that if you wish to convince us that PsychologyMatters, EverythingIsRelative, and TableOrientedProgramming deserves "mention as a legitimate paradigm/technique", you must provide compelling, impressive, and even overwhelming evidence to regard these unsupported and contentious views as true. The BurdenOfProof lies with you.

A couple of issues here:

So far, for example, TableOrientedProgramming sounds like nowt [new?] but the "data-driven programming" notion which has been peddled for decades.

I've never seen it given a clear identity. Besides, "data-driven" and table-oriented are not necessarily the same thing. XML could be called "data driven", for example.

XML certainly could be considered "data driven", as could text files or any other user-editable mechanism to provide changes in program behaviour based on data or instructions external to the main body of source code. I.e., it's "data driven" if components of the program aren't "compiled-in". Indeed "data driven" it is not clearly defined, and could be considered a programming philosophy more than anything. Without clear substantiation and distinguishing characteristics, I don't see TableOrientedProgramming as anything but a subset of "data-driven programming", and neither are sufficiently distinguished to warrant paradigm-hood. Of course, what we consider to be a "paradigm" is ill-defined. There are three known, fundamental, and mostly-accepted computational paradigms (imperative, functional, and goal-directed), and a host of largely ad-hoc "programming paradigms", but these are subject to considerable debate and there's arguably dubious value bothering to identify them, as I suggest in ThereAreNoParadigms.

Nowt, by the way, is a colloquial Northern British word. It's equivalent to "naught" or "nothing", and most effective when delivered with a satisfyingly dry and somewhat deprecatory Yorkshire accent.

The PayrollExample is merely one tid-bit in what needs to be a vast body of evidence, plus strong logical arguments, in order to consider TableOrientedProgramming on par with OO and functional approaches, and that doesn't even touch on the need for a theoretical or fundamental conceptual basis by which TableOrientedProgramming could be considered a competing technique (let alone a paradigm) instead of a mere notion applicable within procedural, OO, or functional programming.

Where has FP or OO shown "strong logical arguments"? FP has been around a while and still has not had much success in the marketplace.

I don't mean that FP or OO have strong logical arguments in favour of using them (whether they do or not is irrelevant here), but that strong logical arguments need to be made to regard TableOrientedProgramming as a fundamental paradigm on par with OO or FP. FP is representative of the functional computational paradigm, and OO is fundamentally imperative but is distinguished by inheritance, encapsulation and polymorphism. This is considered sufficient, among many computer scientists and software engineers, to regard them -- without much argument -- as paradigms. TableOrientedProgramming, however, is generally regarded as a subset of "data-driven programming" and is not considered a paradigm. It's regarded as a philosophy -- to the extent that it's regarded at all, i.e., considered sufficiently to be regarded as anything more than simply coding appropriately to meet user requirements. Hence, the BurdenOfProof is on you to make a convincing case that TableOrientedProgramming should be promoted to full paradigm-hood.

See below under "Paradigm Classification". And OOP was not born in academia. It was an idea that appeared to make physical simulation software easier to manage for a person running physical simulations.

Actually, OOP was born in academia. Its first clear implementation was Simula -- based, apparently, on research done at MIT on a PDP-1 -- developed at the Norwegian Computing Centre, which is a research organisation, .

Born "in" academia, or born "by" academia?

What's the difference? Anyway, I would argue it's both. Ole-Johan Dahl, one of the authors of Simula, was a noted computer scientist. The other, Kristen Nygaard, was a mathematician. Both were heavily involved in research and were unquestionably serious academics.

Back then those are the only kinds of people who would be allowed to tinker like they did. Computers and high-level languages were very expensive. But you are missing my point. Classes and methods were added to solve a practical issue, not based on some kind of raw theory (at least any that have been documented).

It's relatively rare for practical features to derive from pure mathematical tinkering. Even in the most ivory-tower of academia, the goal of producing designs or implementations is generally to solve practical problems. Inspiration is certainly informed by theoretical knowledge (and is arguably facilitated by it), but often a theoretical framework is sought -- as a defence, rationale, or conceptual basis -- after a practical mechanism has been invented. DrCodd's RelationalModel was a practical invention, motivated by well-documented practical concerns (e.g., data independence, achieving consistency). However, as a mathematician, DrCodd sought (and found) a theoretical justification in set theory, which is one reason why the RelationalModel is considered "stronger" than alternative models that lack any formal, theoretical, or mathematical rationale.

(Further discussion of PayrollExample moved to that topic.)

Slot Model of Burden

Let's revisit the "slot model". I find it a better model than the tag-you're-it approach that some seem to be pushing. Basically you have slots, and participants put their marbles in each slot. The reader is then left to judge how to weigh the marbles. In outline-form it resembles:

It differs from the tag-you're-it approach in that it doesn't matter who originated the claim or topic. It is more sociable in that somebody raises a question and people chime in with their viewpoint. It doesn't matter who starts it or who ends it. It's less "blamey" and thus there is less risk in asking a question or raising a topic. If you think about it, the truth of something usually does not depend on who raises the issue.

Further, there is no "default", reigning champ, or king-of-the-hill answer to be knocked down. All slots start out empty.


Sorry, TopMind, but you forgot the critical one:

That's perfectly valid.

That's also valid.

If you attempt to be 'sociable' instead of 'rational', you should probably get out of programming/IT and go into management where you can be the pointy-haired idiot boss.

Can you provide solid logic that your pet way is the "right" way? Please don't depend on meandering wiggle-words. -t

One has no responsibility to provide 'counter-evidence' to a claim.

what is a claim? -- to assert in the face of possible contradiction

Claims are made to determine basis measures, and are subject to validation by the party responsible for accepting and reacting to it.

There's a difference between making a claim and raising an issue. For example, "FP reduces average code size by 30%" versus "Is FP better than procedural?". The first implies something specific that can be measured, while the second is an invitation to a discussion. Generally, wiki discussions fall into the second, but do have elements of the first, and would resemble, "In my experience, FP reduces code size. I won't demonstrate it here, but invite you to try it for a while on your own." Or perhaps, "I'm curious about topic X. Here's my 2-cents....".

Paradigm Classification

I don't really want to get into a LaynesLaw battle over "paradigm". A useful technique/tool is a useful technique/tool regardless of classification. I won't stop using my car just because somebody re-classifies it as a tractor or a leaky boat. Labels don't control utility.

See also: EvidenceTotemPole, NearestFittingContext,ProofByContradiction, DefaultStanceIsUnknown


CategoryInteraction, CategoryEvidence CategoryProof

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