I think there is a more cheritable way to understand what I was writing. I usually don't like slashing posts into quote bits, but I don't really know what else to do here.
You "suppose" it's a fallback? Huh? How dishonest. I just completely refuted your claim. If you can make the argument about Santa Claus, we can make it about your God. Please acknowledge the point and let's move on.
My claim was 'you can prove "positive a-Santa-Clausism"'
That really depends on the tenants of Santa-Clausism. I always thought that Santa-Clausism was committed to some physical constraints. I didn't know you meant "totally and utterly magical Santa-Clausism." I actually all along had in mind that there are some things that are by definition unprovable to not exist, I just didn't think Santa fit the bill.
The best examples are so called "Epiphenomenalons" - particles more useless than which cannot be conceived. They exist and are located spatiotemporally, but do not engage in any causal interactions at all. It is at least possible that they exist, but short of parsimony we have nothing to rule them out. I was under the impression Santa was a little more tangible.
It is NOT the case that, "Everyone has the same burden to come up with a theory that works with all the data we have." No actually, we do NOT have to provide a "theory that works with all the data." This statement is based in the religious assumption that we MUST choose a conclusion. FALSE!
I don't know why you think this is a religiously motivated claim. I agree that we could run around like universal skeptics and just not believe anything, but that's just not practically possible. Also, I do think there are some constraints on rationality. If you get a letter from your bank saying your account is overdrawn, I would say you are rationally obligated to form a belief about the state of your finances. You are not entitled to just withhold judgment.
Otherwise, you get the odd results that you can look at all the evidence from fossils, geology, etc. but still say "You know what, I'm gonna withhold judgment on the age of the universe." At some point it becomes irrational to withhold judgment. But, this constrained to rationally accommodate evidence you gather is not anything particularly religious. I actually meant this as a defense that atheists may be in their epistemic rights to not have any particular arguments against a God. Notice I said "same burden." If you can rationally accommodate data by withholding judgment, then you are fulfilling the constraint. I just reject the notion that you are justified to not form a belief in the face of any evidence whatsoever. It would indeed be too much to demand that for any snippet of information we get we immediately have to postulate a theory of how this came to be.
This is called the Fallacy of Shifting the Burden of Proof (Argumentum Ignorantium). Two negatives (in this context) are equivalent to a positive!
That's not what I did. I was making a point about propositional logic. I gave an explanation of what "You cannot prove a negative" would mean for propositional logic. And that is "For any proposition p, you cannot prove ~p." And that is utter nonsense as you point out, for you can stick a negation sign in front of any proposition. There is nothing logically "deep" about a proposition including a negation. Propositions are not "negative." It's not a thing in logic, and hence the utterance is just ill informed. That is ALL I said. I was trying to hone in on what true thing in the neighborhood we can actually say while throwing out the silly things on the way. That is standard philosophical procedure. You actually ended up with what I was going for when you explained that what you really mean is "You cannot prove a universal
negative." More on that in the end.
So many fallacies, so little time. For one, I haven't made this claim. So you are committing the fallacy of a Straw Man argument.
Again, I was trying to point out what not to mean when saying things about proving negatives.
Again, this argument hints at the fallacy of Shifting the Burden of Proof.
In order for there to be a fallacy of shifting the burden of proof, there must be a principle which things require proof. This principle needs to be stated and perhaps defended, and it needs to be shown why it applies to the Christian God. None of these I take are particularly hard, but my post was about ways NOT to state the principle. This wasn't supposed to be some bait and switch trick post, just clarification.
Now that you HAVE given your principle, I can take a shot at it:
it is universal negative claims that cannot be proved
Again, I will lay out what this could mean, and show which of the options don't work by giving counterexamples to the various formulations.
First, it could mean that we cannot prove propositions with a universal quantifier and a negation. Such as
"For all x, there is no x such that Fx" (?x ~Fx)
That's not true though. We can prove there is no uranium sphere as large as the universe. We can do this a) because it isn't here right now and b) because uranium spheres above a certain diameter just start nuclear reactions, so you couldn't possibly lump that much uranium together.
Maybe you meant "There does not exist anything that is F" (~?x Fx)
That is logically equivalent to the other statement though, so it fails for the same reason.
Well, it looks like you mean something different when you say "universal" and "negative"? Or maybe you have some implicit restriction on the properties F that we can do this with such that it rules out uranium spheres the size of the universe. If there are restrictions on the kinds of things, then you need to explicate them and say why it applies to God.
Other examples of things I would consider universal negatives we can prove:
"There is nothing that is a third arm of mango"
"There is nothing that is a 5000 foot tall human"
"There is nothing that is an invisible US president"
By the way, by prove here I mean the kind of standard we have for proving "I have hands," even if I can't prove that "I'm not a brain in a vat" (Again, nothing deep about the negation in the second phrase. I could have said "my brain is in my body," and given the context that would be about the same, I was just trying to bring the standard of "prove" below general skepticism)
Now, it seems right to say that we can't prove:
"There isn't a magical Santa Clause that manipulates everyone's memories to think they buy present, transfers money to businesses from people, moves products off shelves/factories to living rooms and steals wrapping paper. (Or changes everyone's memory about what products they made, stocked, sold, etc.). Also, he does this by bodily flying trough the earth while going down chimnies and flying on reindeer, and magically compresses large amounts of matter into medium sized burlap bags, only to decompress them within nanoseconds inside our living rooms. Oh, and he's a realist about the nice/naughty distinction, though he often gets it colossally wrong (All the rich jerk kids still get the most presents)."
We can't prove that thing doesn't exist, though that seems more because of skepticism in general rather than something deep about "proving negatives"
Also, I still contend that the thing I just described isn't "Santa" - "Santa" gets the naughty-nice distinction right, and the magical thing we can't disprove doesn't.