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The question was "did X do this?"

In my answer, I pointed out that the referenced claim offers no evidence of any kind of involvement by X.

Answer was deleted by Oddthinking as opinion and conjecture and asked for empirical proof.

So, how does one offer empirical proof that no pretense of evidence is being offered, beyond the fact that there is no evidence or claim of evidence being offered?

Isn't demanding someone prove the negative case, in most cases, a logical fallacy? So why would a skeptics moderator make that demand to make an answer acceptable?

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    Isn't the point of asking a question on this site to find evidence to support or refute the claim? Just because a claim doesn't have evidence doesn't mean that it is wrong.
    – Joe W
    Oct 22 '21 at 1:46
  • @JoeW - No, the point of this site is to examine claims and see if there is evidence to back it up. That's different than seeking to find the evidence, if there is no evidence. Pointing out that no evidence has been offered is responsive to a claim. When someone makes a claim, especially one claiming sinister actions, there is a burden on the person making the claim to show that it's valid. But I'm not even pointing out that their evidence doesn't prove the case, there's no evidence of any kind even being offered. It's legitimate to point that out. Oct 22 '21 at 14:53
  • @JoeW - My complaint isn't that the question is being asked, or that a claim with no evidence is being examined. My beef, so to speak, is that, when pointing out that no evidence has been offered, the answer was deleted as "opinion," when, in fact, it's objectively accurate that no evidence has been offered. Oct 22 '21 at 14:54
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    I think you missed my point, saying there is no evidence in the claim doesn't do anything to prove or disprove it.
    – Joe W
    Oct 22 '21 at 15:06
  • @JoeW - by that criteria, the more idiotic and insane the claim, the more legitimacy it must be given, because the "you can't prove me wrong" is the meat and potatoes of the goofiest conspiracy crap. Also, it wasn't just left at "no proof," but also some background on how things are handled by the entity being accused, without evidence, of doing something. Certainly, if I claim that you murdered Gabby Whomever, you couldn't definitively disprove it. There being no evidence to remotely suggest that you did or could would be relevant in examining that claim. Oct 22 '21 at 15:28
  • As long as the claim meets the criteria for this site the lack of evidence isn't a problem. There are plenty of claims without evidence that are widespread and can be easily debunked with evidence and no need to just say it can't be proven.
    – Joe W
    Oct 22 '21 at 15:57
  • @JoeW - I guess you just skimmed by the part of my comment where I said that it wasn't "just" saying it can't be proven. Fair enough. Seems like we're talking past each other. Oct 22 '21 at 16:02
  • You need to prove that it can't be proven or disproven. Just saying that there is no evidence in the claim doesn't mean anything.
    – Joe W
    Oct 22 '21 at 16:03
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There are two parts to this question.

Why was the answer considered opinion?

Much of the original answer wasn't merely saying there was no evidence. It was sharing your take on the claim.

"I'm not sure why anyone would think", "Seems kind of silly", "conspiracy nonsense", "doesn't have to make sense" are all expressions of your opinion.

It doesn't matter that you don't know why anyone would think it. It doesn't matter if you think it is silly. What does the evidence show?

What am I supposed to do when there is no evidence?

It is a good skeptical instinct to demand evidence from the claimant. The onus should be on them.

However, the nature of Skeptics.SE is that we take claims where it is difficult or impossible to do so. The onus of proof here is all backwards. The onus is on the answerer rather than the claimant.

If you are going to make a claim in the answer that there is no evidence behind a statement, you need to provide a reference to support your claim.

Now, simply saying "I looked and didn't find any" is pretty weak. Maybe the answerer didn't look hard enough or use the right search terms?

A solution that is generally accepted here is to find someone who is an expert, is very familiar with the literature and who has looked, and has stated there is no evidence. It suffers a little from "appeal to authority", but it is the best compromise we have found.

This topic has come up before. I found a few examples:

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  • Yes, the "original" answer had more editorializing, but when it was edited to add emphasis that THERE IS NO EVIDENCE, it was still considered to be strictly opinion. There has been no evidence offered by anyone - questioner, the claim itself... no one, that the event being asked about happened. Pointing that out is legitimate. "I'm not sure why anyone would think" is a legitimate and informed opinion when there is zero evidence offered to back up a claim, because there is no reason for anyone to think that. Making a claim with no evidence, is, objectively, conspiracy nonsense. Oct 22 '21 at 14:49
  • And, again, you are saying the solution is to prove the negative, which is, absolutely, a logical fallacy. You should not be encouraging that, let alone mandating it. Pointing out that the case is not made is a legitimate response, and should not be deleted. If people want to down-vote it, fair enough, but that is an important and very legitimate response to a claim made with zero evidence being offered by anyone that the claim happened. Where am I going to find an "expert" saying that a non-event didn't happen? Oct 22 '21 at 14:51
  • Finally, what is the relevance of linking to just the original post, when it has been edited, and remains deleted for the original reasons? You are definitely not being an honest broker here. My answer was not, in any way, shape or form "I looked and didn't find any." THE ORIGINAL CLAIM NEVER EVEN PRETENDED TO OFFER ANY EVIDENCE. There is no "onus" to meet when I point out that they never have even offered anything to suggest the claim happened. That's evident by looking at the claim, itself. If you disagree, please explain where they ever claim to have any proof of the claim. You can't. Oct 22 '21 at 14:56
  • Actually, I don't have it backwards, at all. The questioner asked about the validity of the claim. The onus is still on the claim being referenced to at least offer a case to be rebutted or verified, but they don't. Pointing that out is a legitimate examination of the claim. Oct 22 '21 at 15:02
  • In your second "example" the answer by the moderator was that such a question would not be accepted and would be deleted, so how is that relevant here? Oct 22 '21 at 15:03
  • @PoloHoleSet The person asking the question isn't the one making the claim, they are trying to verify if the claim is true or not. If they could provide evidence they would likely not need to ask in the first place.
    – Joe W
    Oct 22 '21 at 15:07
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    We know the claimant [Fetzer] hasn't produced strong and convincing evidence to support their claim (at the referenced page) . Pointing that out is redundant, because it applies to virtually every single question on the site. We go and root out the evidence to answer the questions here. But you are going further. You are claiming that there is no evidence, anywhere. That's a bold claim, and by your own argument, the onus is now on you to prove it.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Oct 22 '21 at 15:14
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    The relevance of linking to the original post is that is the one that was deleted for being nothing but opinion. You suggested that I inappropriately deleted an answer; I showed what the answer looked like at the time of the deletion so people can see whether it was inappropriate. Changes after that deletion should not be considered when deciding if the deletion was appropriate.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Oct 22 '21 at 15:18
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    Sometimes there really is no evidence that a claim is true, and no expert to quote to show that there is no evidence. In such a case, the question must, alas, remain unanswered until some evidence either way is found.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Oct 22 '21 at 15:20
  • Well, no, it's not redundant, because the person asking the question seems to have missed, entirely, that they jumped straight to "this happened" and skipped over the whole "look at this weird thing. What might have happened here? This seems weird. This must have happened." And, no, I didn't just ask why it was deleted originally. My question is asking what would make an answer acceptable in this case, and was only posted here AFTER the edits were made and there was no change, at all or altered feedback of any kind. Is the answer still deleted? Yes. So it's current state is more relevant. Oct 22 '21 at 15:38
  • "Sometimes there really is no evidence.... the question must remain unanswered until".... well, that's not what the referenced link you gave to me said. According to that, it said those questions would and should be deleted. Oct 22 '21 at 15:40
  • Also, there was context that was in my answer, both original and edited, explaining how NIST collects information, data, recordings all from other sources, and doesn't make any of that content, themselves. That makes it more than just a simple "no evidence" response, but also explains why one wouldn't necessarily jump to that attribution, and that there are a myriad of other possibilities. Oct 22 '21 at 15:43
  • Saying you're not being "an honest broker" is not accusing you of being dishonest. It's a phrase with specific meaning. So, please, I would ask that you not make counter-comments based on that which seem to be threats. Oct 22 '21 at 15:52
  • I don't want to beat a dead horse, so, hopefully, you understand my concerns and why I disagree with deleting the answer, as opposed to leaving it to be down or upvoted as people deem appropriate. In any case, I'm not interested in wasting any more of your time trying to rephrase the same points. Oct 22 '21 at 15:55
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    Ooh, I had never heard the term honest broker. I apologise for misconstruing it.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Oct 23 '21 at 4:06

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