In the comments on my post on karma, Alex picked up on an assumption I made while trying to explain how the concept of karma saves its face from any arguments against it. I said it was the case of shifting the burden of proof away from karma. Let me elaborate now.
My claim is that karma does not exist.
The argument against the claim is that “You have no proof that karma does not exist and that is why it must exist.”
To that my argument is that “There is no proof that karma does exist and that is why I refuse to believe that it does.”
The argument against that would be “You will believe in karma in your next life when you are born a beggar.”
To that my argument is “Isn’t that easy to say? I don’t think I have a ‘next life’ and even if I have, I am not ready to wait that long to know if there is any karma or not.”
Of course, the argument against that would be “You don’t know if you don’t have another life and that’s why you don’t believe in karma. I hope in your next life you are told that this is what you thought in the life before and that is why you are suffering in that life.”
This can easily keep going on and on without either side accepting defeat. And Massimo, in his post, picks up on the same issue except that he is trying to explain to his daughter that ghosts do not exist. She argues that he does not have evidence that ghost do not exist, so it’s reasonable that she believes that they do. He tells his daughter that:
In a court of law, the burden of proof is always on the part making a positive claim, not on the one making a negative one that is to say that the you are ‘innocent unless proven guilty’. It would be grossly unfair if we went around presuming people to be guilty of crimes with no other “evidence” than the fact that they can’t prove that they didn’t do it.
But apparently, what we think is a fair argument when we debate the abstract concept of ghosts (or karma or god) is suddenly unfair when people are involved.
That is to say that these two seemingly different situations are logically equivalent. Therefore, it is clear that it is not rational to believe in ghosts without evidence at the same time that one wouldn’t dream of convicting a person of a crime just on the basis that one cannot prove their innocence.
Given my knowledge of the world, my rational self cannot accept that such a universal calculator of people’s karma can exist unless there is a God who has the superpower to do it. All evidence we have today points towards the nonexistence of such an entity. Thus, however hard I tried to shift the burden of proof away from karma, a day came when my appeal to ignorance was revealed. I did not feel bad that I had been an idiot for so long because being enlightened by the knowledge was enough to balance that feeling.