Proof versus Evidence

Proof versus Evidence December 26, 2020

A frequent phenomenon I encounter is the widespread lack of understanding of how to use the words ‘proof’ and ‘evidence’, especially in the religious community.

One misunderstanding involves considering these words to be interchangeable: synonyms that can be swapped around as equal alternatives just to reduce the repetition in a paragraph. That is incorrect.

A different error is to consider ‘proof’ to be a version of evidence but at a higher standard. That is also incorrect.

The fact is, they apply within different realms. 

Proofs should be absolutely correct, like in geometry. The statement that the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides of a right angle triangle is indisputable; beyond challenge.

But what do you notice about it?

All the information is just thought. It depends on useful but imaginary conventions: that it’s possible to have perfectly straight lines, which have length but no width and which can proceed in an unwavering direction from a point on a flat plane. None of that is real.

In fact, the universe is entirely quantised. Made of dots. Things can only be connected up by joining the dots in a stepwise fashion. And nothing can be unidimensional – all the quanta have three dimensions, four if you include time – they all had a beginning and have a limited duration. There is no evidence for infinity.

Where is this provable world?

Inside our heads. Nowhere else. It’s the Conceptual Realm. In our brains. Where we link ideas together.  Where we construct beliefs…

You can formulate arguments to prove your god. But arguments are also in this purely Conceptual Realm. They are just thoughts – ideas that have had their dots joined. And these linkages may turn out to be false – like the design concept for a perpetual motion machine or the notion that the sun goes round the Earth… 

Arguments can be presented without evidence – like Trump’s laughable attempts to alter the result of the recent election in the courts.

However, arguments may be based on evidence, the sun does appear to go round the planet, but more evidence came in, forcing a new understanding. What brought about this change? New observations, thanks to the invention of the telescope.

Observations trump arguments. (Pun not intended.)

Yes, evidence is not conclusive. We can’t have absolute evidence because we can’t examine all the situations in the entire universe.

However, evidence can be weighty, especially if corroborated from different independent sources.

If you want your god to be real, you’re going to have to show that it exists in the Natural Realm. Unless, that is, you are content for it to remain in the realm of mere conceptualizations, along with Humpty Dumpty, and my favorite god, Unkulunkulu…

This is why you have to provide evidence for your god

What is evidence?

Shareable repeatable observations. You’re going to have to produce observations of Unkulunkulu…

Got any?

I wrote about this previously here

Image: Creative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0

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