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Atheism 11: Justifications of Positive Atheism


Short chapter, but there’s a great principle that sums up my entire reason for being an theist- the Scriven principle extension (p. 283):

A person is justified in believing that X does not exist if

  1. all the available evidence used to support the view that X exists is shown to be inadequate
  2. X is the sort of entity that, if X exists, then there is a presumption that there would be evidence adequate to support the view that X exists
  3. this presumption has not been defeated although serious efforts have been made to do so
  4. the area where evidence would appear, if there were any, has been comprehensively examined
  5. there are no acceptable beneficial reasons to believe that X exists

It may be a bit too difficult to fulfill. I think a person could use the ideas of prior probability or inductive reasoning to justify believing X does not exist. For example, even if we have not comprehensively searched all oceans, a biologist may be warranted in believing that mermen do not exist there, since mermen existing anywhere would contradict our understanding of evolution and biology. 2 might not be fulfilled, nor 3. Hmm, now that I think of it, this principle may not be as good as I thought.

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