You Can’t Prove That You Can’t Prove a Negative

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April 28, 2015 by Puppetocracy

I have been hearing over and over by atheist channels on Youtube ad nauseam that you “cannot prove a negative” in response the the theist claim that you cannot prove that God does not exist, which is true. You cannot.

It should be immediately obvious that the claim that you cannot prove a negative is a false statement and is not a law of logic that everyone should recognise, but I will explain what the main reasons as best I can why it is false.

The claim that you cannot prove a negative is a negative claim. So you cannot prove it buy it’s own logic. So that means that you cannot prove that you cannot prove a negative. Which is to say that you can prove a negative. That should be enough to realise that this is faulty reasoning on the part of the athiest.

Professional Logicians as a rule do not think that you cannot prove a negative according to Steven Hales, Professor of philosophy at Bloomsburg University, Pennsylvania. In an article titled THINKING TOOLS: YOU CAN PROVE A NEGATIVE he explains why it’s easy to prove a negative and that a provable law of logic, the law of non-contradiction is a negative. i.e. proof that something contradictory cannot exist.

The example that being unable to prove the non-existence of God is equivalent to being unable to prove the non-existence of any bizarre thing that can be imagined by the atheist is flawed. The list of things the atheist can think of that they cannot prove is endless. It includes teapots in space, flying spaghetti monsters, invisible dragons and the usual leprechauns, fairies and unicorns. It should be obvious that you cannot equate all things that you have not experienced but can be spoken of. Some things have higher probabilities of being actual rather than imagined. From the banal situations like you can imagine what might be inside an envelope before you open it and you can get a more accurate idea based on any supporting evidence, to more abstract questions of the question of what future technologies will be possible. The processing power of the mobile, touchscreen devices we carry around would have been beyond the imagination of most people one hundred years ago but we accept them as normal now. The person that person that knows that God exist and so also knows that you cannot disprove God’s existence has insight into the broader picture of what is real and what is not. They do not give imagined entities the same status as actual ones based faulty logic.

The flawed argument that you cannot prove a negative assumes anybody with original insights or claims that are outside our experience are lying or ignorant when you have not properly investigated their claim. This stance hinders the advancement of knowledge because it rejects claims it does not understand. Projects to develop technologies that are not yet realised will be shut down because if you cannot people claim it is a law that you cannot prove a negative. Henry Ford (1863-1947) the famous industrialist said

“I cannot discover that anyone knows enough to say definitely what is and what is not possible.” (365 of Henry Ford’s Sayings).

The folklore that you cannot prove a negative is counter to the other popular phrase that:

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!“-  Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan who equated belief in God with belief with an invisible dragon living in one’s garage also said this. By this reasoning he did believe in a dragon in his garage and all manner of other things there is no evidence for.

Each claim that for about the existence or non-existence of a thing should be looked at on a case by case basis. The flying spaghetti monster can be obviously and immediately dismissed as it is clearly a fictional character invented by Richard Dawkins. Everything we know about the properties of spaghetti, the mechanics of flight and the uses of the term monster to know they cannot exist in the same entity. It breaks the law of non-contradiction. Inversely the statement that God exists confirms an unending stream of experience and observations.

  • Fulfilled ancient prophecy
  • historical documents
  • personal testimonies
  • changed lives
  • the sciences compiling overwhelming evidence of fine tuning of the universe
  • post death experiences
  • medically confirmed healing
  • specific divine knowledge given to people

All these things together make the fact that God exists easy to believe when you are open to the evidence. Imagine you have an expensive car and you insure it incase of theft. The car is stolen and you make a claim with the insurance company to get the car replaced. If the company is bogus then they may claim that your claim is bogus and you could invent other items like helicopters and speedboats as additional false claims as their proof. If you provide documentary evidence and witnesses that the car was yours they can dismiss the evidence as fabricated and the witnesses as confused or liars. The company is at fault. They are committing fraud by not providing the insurance you have paid for.

God exists. It is a fact. There is plenty of evidence. Do not be ashamed or afraid to say so. We should even avoid the claim that we cannot prove that God does not exist because we should not need to. The Apostle Paul when preaches in Athens (Acts 17:16-34) he declares God exists to people who do not know Him. They have an alter to an Unknown God. Elsewhere the bible says the in Psalm 14 and 53

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Atheists will use foolish arguments given half a chance.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Believe He exists, because he does and don’t doubt it and earnestly seek Him.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Try this website:

Further reading apart from the Bible: Francis Schaeffer The God Who Is There, He Is There And He Is Not Silent and Death In The City.


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