Not long ago, but when the world was still quite young, a pretty girl named Atok lived in an earthen shelter with her family. Day after day, she would get out of bed, eat, help her mother clean, cook, and take care of her brothers and sisters and then go back to bed when the sun went down. Occasionally, a predator would venture close to their humble home and they would kill it or scare it away, but that was the extent of her adventure.
Her simple life would take a dramatic change when one day, as she was starting the morning fire, the smoke from the embers took shape right before her eyes. She almost cried out, but she suddenly noticed she felt no fear. She was calm and her attention was drawn to the apparition which now looked like a large crow.
As she watched the crow with curiosity and awe, it began to speak. It told her that she would become the mother of great nations and that she would guide them toward a long, peaceful existence. After giving Atok all the instructions she would need to share with her people, the crow disappeared. Atok quickly ran to tell her mother, who laughed at her childish imagination.
But sure enough, 5 years later, Atok started her family and raised them in the ways of the crow. She started developing powers and performing miracles so everyone in the village believed. Atok never died, instead, she took the form of a crow and travels the world to this day, bestowing good fortune on her many followers around the world.
If I were to tell you this story, and assure you it is true and that you too should believe, you would probably ask me for some kind of proof. The burden of proof would be on me to provide supporting evidence for my claims. It would not be your responsibility to disprove the story, or to prove it untrue. Yet believers expect us to believe in their ideology with no evidence to support their claims. When asked for evidence many of them point out that we also have no evidence that their claims are not true. Yet, if we were to believe everything that we cannot disprove, then any unfalsifiable claim that we come up with, should we believed.
Bertrand Russell made this point by using an analogy of a celestial teapot. Russell suggested the following thought experiment to illustrate the burden of proof and falsifiability:
If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes.
But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense.
If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.
Carl Sagan addressed it with his story, "The Dragon In My Garage" which is a chapter in his book, The Demon-Haunted World. . In the story, the existence of God is equated with a hypothetical assertion of a dragon living in someone's garage. Sagan described the discussion as follows:
"A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage" Suppose I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you'd want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!
"Show me," you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle--but no dragon.
"Where's the dragon?" you ask.
"Oh, she's right here," I reply, waving vaguely. "I neglected to mention that she's an invisible dragon."
You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon's footprints.
"Good idea," I say, "but this dragon floats in the air."
Then you'll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.
"Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless."
You'll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.
"Good idea, but she's an incorporeal dragon and the paint won't stick." And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won't work.
There is also the possibly even more widely known is the invention of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) by Bobby Henderson, the deity of the Pastafarian religion, depicted as a knot of spaghetti, two meatballs and eyes who created the world using His Noodley Appendage.
"On the seventh day of floating around infinite nothingness, after six days of rest, the FSM said, 'Let there be a Universe, or something!' And there was a Universe, or something not terribly far off. And the FSM saw that it was pretty damn good, especially the bits with a light sauce." - the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
These are all examples of the fact that anyone, anywhere, at any time, can make a claim. They can certainly believe it strongly themselves, but others are not compelled to do so without the burden of proof being met.
If you were making up a belief that could not be disproven, what would it be? What do you think the consequences of many people believing in your made-up ideology would be? Share your idea with us and we might publish it on our website. Please let us know if you wish to remain anonymous.