08 Aug 2011

Proof and Evidence

I recently witnessed an assertion about proving god’s existence to atheists by a Christian that made the following claim:

Ask 1000 people what proof/demonstration by God it would take to belief in Him and you may get 1000 different responses. At the end of the day each person has different doubts and needs, and their proof of God’s existence will be different to meet their needs.  ~Anonymous

I think statements like these highlight the fundamental difference between a person that talks about evidence and proof, and a person that actually knows what evidence and proof actually are.

Proof and evidence aren’t words that can simply be exchanged for each persons perspective. Something either proves a hypothesis or it doesn’t so if the data analysis from two different people determines that the evidence either proves or doesn’t prove something one or both are incorrectly analyzing the data.

Any data analysis will rely wholly on human ability to comprehend data, meaning not only does a matter of faith become a matter of flawed and failing human interpretation of data (evidence) it is also singularly held as opposed to a far more reliable and self policing requirement of peer review. Peer review, multiple testing cycles, and the fact that in real science one must make a hypothesis PRIOR to making conclusions are why “creation science”, “intelligent design”, and other pseudosciences don’t convince the non-believer that god is real – not because many of us fail to interpret the creationist data set properly, but because the data set itself doesn’t meet the standards of the Scientific Process – a process that we know works.

Rather than the conclusion that proof is different for each of 1000 people, a better conclusion would be that the interpretation of data is different for 1000 people and all 1000 of those people will often come to contradicting or nonsupporting conclusions about the same data-set. So with this question nothing has been proven to anyone – some or even all parties have accepted incredibly flawed data – and interpreted it according to their arbitrary requirements for proof. If science worked this way any experiment  could net 1000 different results for 1000 different reasons because results would be decided by prejudices and not logic.

I think Benjamin Franklin provided us with an excellent example of why the Christian’s conclusion here is problematic. He is quoted as saying:

I love beer – micro-brew, fancy, dark, bitter, and strong (anything that isn’t owned by the Big 3 breweries really) so this statement greatly appeals to my love of beer and were I a less scrupulous person I’d without a doubt use beer as the ultimate undeniable proof of god’s existence and benevolence. Beer seems to be the most divine thing I can think of…yet – despite my obvious and undeniable bias toward beer I simply have to reject it as evidence for any sort of god because I know that doesn’t meet the standard of evidence.


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Matt is a former Christian who, through facing his own doubts found a life without faith. Now atheist he dedicates his life to helping people transition through stages of belief via private counseling. Matt is currently working on his first book - Embracing Doubt, and contributing to the dialogue between atheists, Christians, and skeptics.
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  • Aaron

    For christians I simply refer to 1 Kings, in chapter 18.

    In it god and baal are put to the test. Baal doesn't do anything but god does at the command of elijah.

    The bible sets the groundwork to prove how a god exists. Therefore, ask the believer for a sign. No sign? Well that's the test in YOUR book how to prove it.

    Guess he's not real either.

    Just be happy we don't live in a bronze age society. After all, the prophets of Baal were put to the death for being liars.

    • Eamonn P Keyes

      Evidence and proof?
      Hmm….I'd say that answering the millions of prayers that must have gone up from the extermination camps in Germany might have been proof. And it is, of sorts, for one of two things. One, that there is no god. Two, if there is a god, then, unlike the caring, loving creator he is portrayed as in Christianity, he doesn't actually give a toss about his creations.
      And I can almost hear the responses of "Ah…but how do you know he didn't?" .
      I'd suggest that when you get to your afterlife, you ask the victims how they felt about that.

  • http://www.crosspointecommunitychurch.org Phil DiLernia

    Ugh … Matt don't you think it would be proper to stop posting until you deal with the 11 pages of actual science that I sent you? It's been over 3 months and I believe you have found time to ridicule those who believe and wax on and on and on about lack of evidence and science and proof … yada yada yada. How's about just posting my letter to you on here and allow all your followers to respond since it seems that you are too busy to deal with the info I sent you.

    • http://www.ragingrev.com RevOxley

      I'm working on it…How bout this…you provide me with the sources for all of the information in those 11 pages so that I can more easily work through it and I'll get done MUCH faster.

  • http://www.crosspointecommunitychurch.org Phil DiLernia

    And Eamonn's post is utterly ridiculous. People's evil behavior proves there is no God?? How ridiculous that is. In fact, people's evil behavior proves the NEED for God. The fact that Eamonn thinks that Germany's behavior was evil demonstrates that there is SOME STANDARD with which to make that determination. I believe that standard is set by God – both by His Word in the Bible and His Spirit which influences even those who don't believe like Eamonn that what Germany did was evil. Otherwise what if some German said "you believe what you want … we believe what we want. Don't push your beliefs on us Germans. If you don't like it then too bad." However, you, Eamonn, and I would believe that this would be an unacceptable response from Germany. Because there is a common human understanding and that common spiritual genetic comes from God.

    • http://www.ragingrev.com RevOxley

      Can you prove that claim?

    • Sarah

      I don't think Eamonn was saying that the fact that there are evil people disproves god, but rather the fact that those evil people were allowed to continue being evil, despite the countless prayers that most certainly went up begging for a god to save the innocents from the concentration camps proves that there is no god. Or at the very least that he doesn't care about his chosen people/creations/what have you because he allowed the suffering to continue.

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  • ronald ring

    on 9/11/2001 millions of watchers were praying for the poor people trapped above the flames of the towers, relatives prayed for those calling on phones from the planes, net result all on the planes died, the towers collaped onto hundreds of rescuers many of them good christians, not one survivor from above the flames. To a rational person it prove the the utter futility of prayer, but they were at it again immediately. Ronald

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