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Logical Fallacy Friday: Argument from Ignorance or Burden of Proof

June 9, 2015

Always timely and relevant, even on Tuesday.

Shitty First Drafts

The Colbert Report had a fantastic example of argumentam ad ignorantium last night, in which Colbert confronts the head of Consumer Reports claiming that because the interviewee cannot prove that certain things are harmful in a way that the interviewer will accept, the interviewee is therefore wrong:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Who’s Watching the Watchdog? – Liam McCormack
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News

This is also known as the “Burden of Proof” fallacy.  The effect is to insist that Person A’s premise is wrong if Person A cannot prove that premise beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Sometimes this demand is entirely appropriate.  Our justice system places the burden of proof on the prosecution in order to prevent innocent people from being punished (I’m not saying it’s always effective).  Similarly, in an argument, the burden of proof is usually placed on…

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