Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What Constitutes Proof?

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions to produce proof of the existence of God. Atheist claim there is no proof of God’s existence. I decided to first define “proof” and “evidence” before proceeding to attempt such an endeavor.


According to the dictionary proof is primarily defined as “evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.” The definition goes on to mention one may appeal to a standard for verifying proof or testing a thing to determine if it is proved.


Evidence is defined as “that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.”


Thus proof and evidence are interchangeable terms. In a court of law you have admissible evidence that is accepted proofs for determining the outcome of the case. The jury then hears this evidence and makes a determination based on the plausibility of the preponderance of evidence for or against the Defendant. If the jury sees the evidence as supporting the Defendant they find him not guilty. If they find the evidence insurmountable against the Defendant they find him guilty. Now if the evidence is not sufficient to find him guilty they must default to not guilty for if there is a reasonable doubt they must not deliver a verdict of guilty. So the prosecutor must provide enough evidence to tip the scale to guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the common standard for a verdict based on “proof.”


Proof is not the verdict; proof is merely the evidence by which the verdict is produced. At some point the jury must deliberate on the evidence and produce a verdict.


Next we must agree on what constitutes evidence/proof from which a verdict can be derived. A court of law esteems credible eye witness testimony above all other forms of evidence. If two people claim to have witnessed the Defendant shooting the store clerk and those witnesses are accepted as credible the Defendant doesn’t stand much of a chance to prove his innocence. Documents are also submitted into evidence as proof of wrong doing. I’m sure the Enron court case dealt a great deal with documental evidence. Today we also have biological evidence such as DNA, fingerprints, hair follicles, foot prints, etc. Objects can be entered into evidence such as a weapon or something of that nature.


In review, we have accepted legal evidence as eyewitness testimony, documents, biological evidence, and objects. This is only a few sources of acceptable evidence, but we will start with these.


Now, getting back to God. . . There is evidence of His existence and the evidence comes in the forms of eyewitness testimony (ancient and modern), textual documents, historical records, and archaeological artifacts giving evidence to Biblical historical accounts. Moreover, there are a series of philosophical proofs of His existence. But, before I get started on specifics of any of these categories of evidence does anyone object to these forms of evidence or process of evidence to verdict?


I’ll handle some specifics in my next blog. But first, I will await some comments to see if we are on the same page before proceeding.


7 comments:

Godless Woman said...

While reading through this post I found several problems.

"Thus proof and evidence are interchangeable terms."

These are not interchangeable. Evidence, when piled high enough, is what leads to proof.

"A court of law esteems credible eye witness testimony above all other forms of evidence."

This is false. DNA or video evidence would be much more credible. People lie and make mistakes.

"If two people claim to have witnessed the Defendant shooting the store clerk and those witnesses are accepted as credible the Defendant doesn’t stand much of a chance to prove his innocence."

If there was videotape evidence that shows someone other than the defendant shooting the clerk or DNA evidence that contradicts the witness testimony then the defendant would probably be found not guilty.

"Now, getting back to God. . . There is evidence of His existence and the evidence comes in the forms of eyewitness testimony (ancient and modern), textual documents, historical records, and archaeological artifacts giving evidence to Biblical historical accounts."

When I was a Christian I used to say the same thing. This article explains a lot and may help with your next posts.

"I’ll handle some specifics in my next blog."

A bit off topic, but I thought that you should know that you are misusing the word blog. Instead of saying blog you should be saying post or entry, the collection of posts or entries is called a blog.

Karla said...

You are right that video would be more conclusive than eye witness testimony -- although it could be doctored. DNA is pretty solid evidence that has given evidence of guilt or innocence.

But you would agree that eye witness testimony is one of the ways of producing evidence, right?

I think your definition of proof is what is commonly understood and what I thought too until I looked up the actually definitions and they came up as I quoted.

I'll check out that article.

Thanks for the tidbit on the blog lingo. (-:

Godless Woman said...

Evidence as defined by Webster is "an outward sign; indication; something that furnishes proof". Proof as defined by Webster is "the cogency of evidence that compels acceptance by the mind of a truth or a fact; the process or an instance of establishing the validity of a statement especially by derivation from other statements in accordance with principles of reasoning; something that induces certainty or establishes validity."

As you can see from these definitions that when there is enough evidence something is considered proven. This doesn't mean that these two words are interchangeable.

I would say that eye witness testimony is one way of producing evidence, but I don't think that it carries much weight. When taking eye witness testimony in to account you have to think about their motives, biases, and ability to make mistakes. Evidence such as DNA, videotapes, and audiotapes are much more credible.

Non Sicuro Pensatore said...

It might also be worth noting (in anticipation of your upcoming posts) that eyewitness testimony is usually provided by people who are alive, and is usually related to objective data.

Karla said...

Okay, godless woman, I'll accept that definition. I had looked up the words on dictionary.com and I quoted what it said for it searches the definitions of multiple dictionaries. But your websters definition is more in line with what I had thought it meant to start with.

So a preponderance of evidence leads to proof. Although I think people often refuse to accept evidence for many reasons. I may accept things as evidence that you will not and even though I believe evidence ought to be objective, subjectivity seems to creep in just the same.

When talking about historical events we really don't have the ability to produce video, audio, or DNA evidence. This is all new technology. Prior to it's invention, eye witness testimony was pretty good evidence. Yes, the witnesses would need to be credible and honest and I think that can be established.

Anonymous said...

"There is evidence of His existence and the evidence comes in the forms of eyewitness testimony (ancient and modern), textual documents, historical records, and archaeological artifacts giving evidence to Biblical historical accounts."

here i will consider only the historical records and archeological artifacts as indicative of God's existence. First off I am a Muslim and so you know we have huge differences as to who is God and the definition of God. So its important to note that through historical records and archeological artifacts PLUS Quran and bible we can confirm the existence of jesus, Noah etc. But that jesus (pbuh) was a God cannot be proved in this way therefore proving that Jesus ever walked on earth is a completely different thing.

"Eyewitness testimony" can it be proved that the person claiming to have seen the God is infact saying the truth? well unless one has made videos... but unfortunately they can be edited so dont you think its not workable?

"textual documents and historical records". Historical records containing predictions might be indicative of the existence of God but only if the predictions are in considerable quantity and that none of them have yet proved its impossibilty to happen (e.g. timing difference). Also such informations contained in historical records which science has proved just recently is an evidence. Any other historical records should probably be seen as equal to the ones which a person can make today, in other words they should be considered as "faked for the existence of God" because it can be proved as a historical record but its correctness/truthfulness probably cannot be proven.
waiting for your thoughts over it.
Zoalord@live.com

Anonymous said...

As for the "Eyewitness" , in addition to what i mentioned above... eyewitnesses can be an evidence depending upon different circumstances e.g. two or more people from different locations and anonymous to each other sees God in the sky doing something and they report this information and its exactly the same in its all aspect.
But the main question here is;

Why would God appear to only few?
and If he can appear then how would the test of life be possible for those to whom he didnt appear?