Kilroy Was Here
February 26, 2003
Acceptable Proof and Jealous Boyfriends
In Slate today, Timothy Noah waxes hysterical about French's claim that they have seen no evidence of U.N. violations.
I have to admit that I have been confused by this whole 'indisputable proof' and 'PI' line of argument that Tim Noah's been posting over the last week or so.
However, the following line strikes me as logically fallacious. Noah writes:
Chatterbox was also forwarded a Feb. 5 piece in the Guardian in which U.N. inspections chief Hans Blix said he'd found no evidence of mobile biological weapons labs in Iraq and that two suspected labs turned out to be "food-testing trucks." But Powell never said in his U.N. presentation that such trucks had been found, and Blix's failure to find any hardly proves they don't exist.
This puts to mind the jealous boyfriend who demands proof that his girlfriend isn't having an affair. You have to ask, what would constitute proof? What would satisfy the boyfriend that his beloved isn't making him a cuckold?
Note, that there is a difference between proving that something doesn't exist (i.e. logical impossibility) and something doesn't exist any more.
The claim that something no longer exists presupposes a proof that that thing existed at some time in the past.
Back to the jealous boyfriend example, if Jealous Boyfriend has pictures or letters of a prior relationship with the Other Man, then Jealous Boyfriend might be justified into asking Cheating Girlfriend for some sort of show of faith (or faithfulness).
However, if Jealous Boyfriend only suspects Cheating Girlfriend of cheating with the Other Man and has no proof, it would be unfair of Jealous Boyfriend to demand such proof from Cheating Girlfriend. For if Cheating Girlfriend denies any relationship with the Other Man, what can Jealous Boyfriend say? And how can respond to Cheating Girlfriend's claim that he's just being paranoid?
Back to Iraq, since I have seen no proof that 'mobile biological labs' ever existed, it's unfair of the U.S. to force Iraq to prove that these labs don't exist now.
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