7

Say person 1 believes x because a valid authority said so. Person 2 is skeptical of said claim and asks person 1 to present the evidence that supports the claim. Person 1 says he doesn't have to and it's on person 2 to provide evidence the valid authority is wrong.

For clarification person 2 agrees the authority is valid and is aware that the valid authority has made this claim.

On which side does the burden of proof lie?

3

As a preliminary consider what the two "burdens" are according to argumentation theory and how they may be abused.

According to Wikipedia, the burden of proof is one of the key components of argumentation theory.

Establishing the "burden of proof" – determining who made the initial claim and is thus responsible for providing evidence why his/her position merits acceptance.

This "burden" belongs to the one making the claim. Once that argument has been presented another key of argumentation theory is the "burden of rejoinder":

In a debate, fulfillment of the burden of proof creates a burden of rejoinder. One must try to identify faulty reasoning in the opponent's argument, to attack the reasons/premises of the argument, to provide counterexamples if possible, to identify any fallacies, and to show why a valid conclusion cannot be derived from the reasons provided for his/her argument.

One way of viewing these two burdens is that they set the ground rules for which side speaks first while the other listens until they get a turn.

As politicians and advertisers are aware repetition is important in persuasion:

Psychology has long studied the non-logical aspects of argumentation. For example, studies have shown that simple repetition of an idea is often a more effective method of argumentation than appeals to reason. Propaganda often utilizes repetition.

Since there is a burden for both sides in an argument and since repetition is important to persuasion, when one side of an argument refuses to present their case, even to simply repeat it, this should make one wonder why they are not taking advantage of their opportunity to speak?

Rational Wiki provides examples of ways burden of proof is abused such as shifting the burden of proof:

Fallacious shifting of the burden of proof occurs if someone makes a claim that needs justification, then demands that the opponent justify the opposite of the claim. The opponent has no such burden until evidence is presented for the claim.

Other ways to abuse the orderly taking of turns with burden of proof is when there is no way to falsify a claim such as simulation theories or exceptional clams such as miraculous cures or both theist and anti-theist claims for or against God.

With that preliminary let's consider the scenario presented by the OP:

Say person 1 believes x because a valid authority said so. Person 2 is skeptical of said claim and asks person 1 to present the evidence that supports the claim. Person 1 says he doesn't have to and it's on person 2 to provide evidence the valid authority is wrong.

For clarification person 2 agrees the authority is valid and is aware that the valid authority has made this claim.

Person 1 made a claim and so has the burden of proof. Person 1 presents evidence from an expert witness, the "valid authority", that person 2 acknowledges as an expert.

Person 1 is done presenting evidence. It is now person 2's turn to argue against the evidence, the expert testimony, by identifying faulty reasoning, attacking the reasons/premises of the argument, providing counterexamples if possible, identifying any fallacies, showing why a valid conclusion cannot be derived from the reasons provided, to paraphrase Wikipedia.

If person 2 does not wish to assume the burden of rejoinder this should raise suspicion in the minds of those listening to this argument about the value of person 2's side of the argument.


Reference

Rational Wiki, "Burden of proof" https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Burden_of_proof

Wikipedia, "Agurmentation theory" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentation_theory

1

The burden of proof never shifts.

By it's definition, the burden of proof lies with the person making a claim. That being said, Person 1 has presented some (admittedly poor) evidence to support their claim (i.e. that "Valid Authority" (VA) agrees with them). As such, it is up to the opposing viewpoints to accept/counter that evidence.

On it's own merits, such evidence is anecdotal and not worth much. Just because someone smart/knowledgeable has an opinion, does not make it true. Just because Person 1 says VA supports him, does not mean VA actually does.

That being said, an argument made poorly is not necessarily incorrect. If VA's own testimony/evidence is available for review, it should be taken into consideration to stand on it's own merits. If you are not in a position to review VA's evidence, then Person 1's argument is worth about as much as "I read it in a book somewhere."

  • 2
    I'd tend to disagree with what you're saying with respect to "valid authority" but my disagreement hinges on "valid authority" meaning an authority both parties accept as valid rather than an authority one party claims is valid (which seems to be how you're interpreting it in your answer). – virmaior Jul 13 '16 at 22:53
  • What Virmaior said. For clarification person 2 agrees the authority is valid and is aware that the authority has made the claim. Is the burden of proof still on person 1? – Ray Kay Jul 14 '16 at 3:13
  • Yes, the burden does not shift. It is up to Person 2 (as the opposing viewpoint) to decide if "Stephen Hawkings believes it, so you should too" is reasonable evidence for believing a truth claim. Without evaluating VA's own evidence, this is anecdotal evidence at best (i.e. poor quality). Sometimes weak evidence is sufficient, though! There are many reasons Person 2 may accept a claim based on weak evidence (e.g. trivial claims, time limitation, no available contrary evidence), at least until better evaluations can be made. – immortal squish Jul 14 '16 at 19:11
  • To be 100% clear, the answer applies equally whether one or both sides agree VA is a valid authority. Any valid authority is still a human being, capable of making mistakes in logic or basing their opinions on incorrect data. – immortal squish Jul 14 '16 at 19:15
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Burden of proof does not shift here. It is just that the person 2 is now in a fix. If he considers the authority valid, he might change his views. But you already said person 2 still doubts the claim. If he still doubts the claim then it means he still has problem with authority. In that case, he can reject authority.

The situation is like this - Person 2 believes Y is valid authority (aka he should know this), yet does think Y is not right here. So he automatically rejects Y's authority by sticking to his belief and is fine in doing so. Or he may go with authority and change his views. Either way, burden of proof remains on person 1 all the time. As what is "valid authority" is generally subject-dependent, this is not as powerful an evidence.

Person 1 is asking person 2 to provide evidence that authority is wrong. But even if person 2 attempts to do so, he has to first raise suspicion over authority's validity. Then, why he would go on a harder route to show evidence against authority when he is can take an easier path of rejecting authority?

Consider this syllogism -

  1. We should not believe in Y's claims only if there is evidence against them
  2. Y claims X
  3. There is evidence against X
  4. Hence we should not believe in X

Now person 1 and person 2 both believe 1 and supposedly 2. Now person 2 has to provide evidence for 3. In this case it is his burden of proof (in that context only). But that is because he has tied himself to that burden by believing in 1 in the first place. If he rejects 1, then he has no burden to bear.

From an objective point of view, there is thus, no burden on person 2.

In some rare circumstance that person 2 does not reject 1, then he has to provide evidence of 3. This is his burden of proof. But this is just because he has agreed on the premise.

It is like -

  1. If Apple sells Iphone 6s, then unless proven otherwise, we should believe that Moon is made of cheese.
  2. Apple sells Iphone 6s.
  3. It is not proven that Moon is not made of cheese.
  4. Hence, we should believe that Moon is made of cheese.

If two persons A and B agree on 1 and 2 (and 3), then B has to agree with 4.

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