Trump Team – Alt Facts And The Burden Of Proof


Does the truth matter? Does it matter that political positions are often represented by logical fallacies, or out and out lies? Should politicians, media pundits, or rank and file party members tell the truth, or even know the truth? Is it essential that a news announcer, or those who say they are presenting the news, or government officials, have the truth, or is it acceptable that they have, or make, their own “alternative facts”? When the new administration, or anyone, fails on their burden of proof by adjusting information to fit their purposes, there is a name for that – pure propaganda.

Well, the truth does matter for several reasons, in several disciplines.  Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late Democratic Senator from New York, once said,

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts,” When the truth goes out the window, civilization may very well go out the window with it. 

The facts, the truth, the establishment of an accurate representation of reality, matters to the law and justice. The truth matters to science, medicine, and even to government.

When the unscrupulous want to grab power, they often adjust information to fit their own purposes. They “adjust the truth,” as they did in Nazi Germany, as an excuse to persecute the Jewish people.

If you can get people to believe anything, you can get them to do anything. As Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

The establishment of the truth is an entire branch of philosophy known as epistemology.

Something called the burden of proof relates to what is true, and how we establish what is true.

In epistemology, the burden of proof …is the obligation on a party in a dispute to provide sufficient warrant for their position.”

It is a standard rule in argumentation and law that,

“He who asserts must prove.”

To do otherwise is to resort to propaganda. If you assert, for example, that “Hillary is crooked,” the burden of proof is on you. When a person makes a false statement presented as true, but will not accept their own burden of proof, they are using either misinformation or disinformation, depending on whether they know the truth in the matter.

It all relates to epistemology, the study of knowledge, how do we know what it is we say that we know?

In court you may hear a lawyer say, “objection, assumes facts not in evidence.” This particular objection is used when the opposing attorney commits a non sequitur. The phrase non sequitur is Latin for “it does not follow,” meaning the conclusion does not logically follow from the evidence presented, hence a fallacy has been committed. In short, a fallacy is simply a false belief or conclusion.

The truth, what is accepted as the truth, relates to justice, which relates back to human rights.

Article 7: Universal Declaration of Human Rights

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 3: Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 6: Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person

before the law.

“The presumption of innocence, sometimes referred to by the Latin expression Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies), is the principle that one is considered innocent unless proven guilty.”

“In many nations, presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is also regarded as an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 11.”

So much depends on the acceptance of the burden of proof.  So the next time you argue with a conservative or you are listening to Press Secretary Sean Spicer,  who makes an unproven contention, remember, “he who asserts must prove.” When it comes to Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, better make that, “she who alleges must prove.”

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