Shifting the burden of proof away from karma

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.

9 thoughts on “Shifting the burden of proof away from karma”

  1. “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction”… There is no entity sitting somewhere to calculate how much reaction a particular action needs, it is embedded in the laws of nature.

    1. Appreciate your comment. Newton’s law applies to physical bodies and (physical) actions upon them. The law does not apply to the domain of human emotions or politics or philosophy.

  2. Well this is something that sounds stretching far and beyond. It is great because what is an idea that is not discussed.
    First you were screwed by logic of karma now you try to find the logic of its existence and non existence. Will you let me know why so obsession about this karma? Because if I quote Geeta, Krishna said to Arjuna…. Do karma and do not think about the results…
    I liked the approach equal and opposite reaction…and why it can’t be extended to emotions.if I like you you will like me…if I hate you you will know my intentions and will dislike me…so nothing is away from this law.
    The truth is, that people are made to believe in Karma not by the karma they do but the reaction or rewards that there karmas bore…. In reality every one is afraid what there Karma might give back in reaction….And I hereby repeat again that people are not fair enough to the world but now I want to stress that they are not even fair to themselves.
    Nothing is wrong , nothing is right…..Karmas are fair when we understand more..and understanding is more when we realize more……….

    1. I am glad that you feel that way and I am not here to make you stop believing in whatever you want to believe. All I am trying to do is set out a rational explanation, if you don’t like it then you are welcome to ignore it.

      To counter some of your points.
      The truth is, that people are made to believe in Karma not by the karma they do but the reaction or rewards that there karmas bore

      What you are trying to profess is that there is only one way of thinking about morality. But that isn’t true. And it’s not your mistake, because we Indians are not exposed to other schools of thought. Take utilitarianism for instance, it is very close to what karma professes but in an acceptable form.

  3. Ah! that is something substantial, I am also glad that you picked the concept of greater happiness..what you call “utilitarianism”. Yes of course Indians were only taught this way, because every one’s free will may be obstacle for less determined people. So they were woven in web of Karma.
    I do not believe this….you might think so. I simply stated that that’s the way majority of people take it.

    Free will is bestowed upon every one, and everyone has right to it….your will is free even when the whole circumstances are against you. And that is what I believe. You can’t stop me from thinking anything I know and equally I can’t change yours but dialog are meant to shift the paradigm and thats why I read your posts and reply and not to contradict you and unlike them. I regard your view and I try to reciprocate with my own understanding and for refining my understanding.


    1. Really nice to hear that and you are right, refining one’s understanding is a noble aim. I feel a little happy that I can help someone even if it’s in a small way. That also encourages me that if I write more about Karma, you won’t be offended but will think about it harder.

      PS: I was in the middle of another post on karma when I read your comment and thought for an instant that I wasn’t trying to offend someone. All I was trying to do was refine my thoughts. Thanks for this comment and clarifying that. I feel encouraged to write more. 🙂

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