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Burden of Proof Fallacy

Also called “Appeal to Ignorance”

“Zeus is real.”
“Prove it.”
“Why don’t you prove that he doesn’t exist?”

You commit the burden of proof fallacy when you make a claim and, instead of giving evidence for it, you hold the other person responsible for proving you wrong.

There are two ways to commit the burden of proof fallacy.

You can commit it claiming that something is true because it hasn’t been proven false, as in the above example. You can also commit it by claiming that something is false because it hasn’t been proven true: “Science has not proven the existence of ghosts, so ghosts do not exist.” A rational scientist can only say, “Currently, there is no empirical evidence or scientific basis to support the existence of ghosts.”

It is helpful to remember this quote by Carl Sagan: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

This fallacy is when you make a claim and say that the other person should Typically, it is assumed that the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim.

Back to the Logical Fallacy Handbook


Courses

Fallacy Detectors Part 1

Develop the skills to tackle logical fallacies through a series of 10 science-fiction videos with activities. Recommended for ages 8-12.

US$15

Symbolic Logic for Teens Part 1

Learn how to make sense of complicated arguments with 14 video lessons and activities. Recommended for ages 13 and up.

US$15

Worksheets

Symbolic Logic Worksheets icon

Symbolic Logic Worksheets

Worksheets covering the basics of symbolic logic for children ages 12 and up.

US$5

Elementary School Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

Elementary School Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 2-5 about superstitions, different perspectives, facts and opinions, the false dilemma fallacy, and probability.

US$10

Middle School Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

Middle School Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 5-8 about false memories, confirmation bias, Occam's razor, the strawman fallacy, and pareidolia.

US$10

High School Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

High School Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 8-12 about critical thinking, the appeal to nature fallacy, correlation versus causation, the placebo effect, and weasel words.

US$10

Statistical Shenanigans Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

Statistical Shenanigans Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 9 and up the statistical principles they need to analyze data rationally.

US$10