A lot of times I see people saying things like "I have never heard of..." or "Wikipedia search didn't show anything about..", etc. as evidence that a certain fact is not true.

Maybe it's because this is politics and everyone who cares to opine on the subject believes themselves to be educated enough to have a right to understand everything that is being said, but this does not elucidate any topic... ever.

My position has alaways been that if there is something I don't know, that is something that can be said about me. But people seem to claim that their ignorance of topics can be evidence of something about other people. This is never the case.

Is there an appropriate procedural way to handle this? Pointing out people's self-professed ignorance usually gets taken as a personal attack.


Are they doing this in an answer? If so, you can downvote.

If it's in the comments, you can either ignore them, or provide some sort of proof that shows you're correct. If it is a comment on your answer, you can include this proof in your answer if it's on-topic.


Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. When someone claims:

The President of Elbonia loves to murder kittens.

without providing any credible(!) source for that claim, then

I have never heard of that and the Wikipedia article about him doesn't mention anything like that either.

is a perfectly valid response to dismiss that statement as an outright propaganda lie.

So when someone doesn't believe your claim, give them a credible(!) source that it is true. When you can not come up with anything outside of conspiracy theorist blogs and bad tabloid reporting, then consider the possibility that you actually might be wrong about your claim.

If you do provide a credible source and they still don't believe you, then it's best to ignore them. Some people simply choose to believe certain things. Cognitive dissonance can be hard to overcome. Do not argue with them. Politics Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum. Let the audience decide who they consider more credible.

  • Asking to source a claim is an appropriate response. Claiming that you can't locate a source is not. If you allow claims of ignorance to be submitted as evidence, you immediately open door to advocacy through claims of ignorance. – grovkin Mar 16 '18 at 18:53
  • Ok, I initially misread what you wrote about cognitive dissonance. I see that you want to frame this in Scott Adams' terms. I would go for the more traditional view that people invest their egos in their opinions. The moment they stake out a claim that "no evidence exists because I don't know of any", it becomes painful for them to accept any presented evidence. Whereas, simply asking for sources doesn't stake out a personal position. So there is less resistence to evidence if it is presented. And anyone who agrees with the initial claim that no evidence exists also gets personally invested. – grovkin Mar 16 '18 at 21:04

There are no specifics in your question, but as a rule the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. Responses such as "I have never heard of ..." or "Wikipedia search didn't show anything about ..." are often indicative that the burden of proof is not sufficiently satisfied.

An appropriate response is to take this as constructive criticism and satisfy the burden of proof to a reasonable level. Of course you don't have to prove that the sky is blue, but people here are not completely stupid and assuming that the other person is an ignorant idiot who doesn't know what they're talking about is not helpful for anyone.

  • This is definitely without a question wrong. This swings the door wide open to advocacy through claims of ignorance resulting from poorly constructed searches. Anyone who doesn't know enough about a subject that they need to do a search to begin with, should be asking further questions rather than claiming that no evidence exists because they couldn't find it. Anyone ignorant of a subject is in worst position to construct a good search query. Presenting the ignorance itself or the inability to construct a good query (based on ignorance) is not evidence of anything but the ignorance. – grovkin Mar 16 '18 at 19:36

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