'Proof'

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Yazata, May 13, 2011.

  1. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    I think that little nugget is designed to illustrate the idea that someone who doesn't want to believe probably never will, no matter how much evidence they are presented with. But it's not accurate, or at least not comprehensive enough.

    There are many people out there (including myself) who would genuinely re-evaluate their position even if only presented with legitimate and compelling evidence rather than actual proof. Let's not forget that there are plenty of precedents in the Bible (for example) for the provision of such.
     
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  3. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    I think it is also a tool to blame the person who doesn't believe for their lack of belief - thereby exonerating the proselytizer of any fault and relieving them of any responsibility for the other person's belief, while preserving the proselytizer's integrity.

    IOW, "To those who believe, no proof is necessary. To those who do not, no proof is possible." suggests interpersonal politics are at work.
     
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Right, and mathematical proof, which is essentially the same thing.

    It's the 'General Philosophy' forum in the 'philosophy' hierarchy on Sciforums. This thread is making a critical point concerning imprecise, poorly-defined but nevertheless rhetorically aggressive usage of the word 'proof' in a number of threads in this and the neighboring 'religion' forum.

    I don't know what you meant to communicate there.

    You do seem to be suggesting that there's something called "scientific proof" which is entirely different than "logical proof". Presumably this 'scientific proof' is both more convincing and more appropriate here on Sciforums, even when people are discussing religion in the philosophy fora.

    Unfortunately, I don't know what this "scientific proof" actually is. And I'm pretty certain that nobody else around here does either, including you.

    My experience as a university science major was that the ideal in science is that it conform to something reasonably close to the second definition in the first post:

    In physics, that deductive validity is often pretty obvious, since it ideally takes the form of logical derivation of mathematical formulae. That's what all that mathematics is doing on the pages of advanced physics testbooks, it's deriving results that might be useful in revealing relationships between variables or in calculating something.

    In sciences like biology, it's usually more informal. But even if arguments are stated in ordinary language instead of formal mathematical symbolism, there's always an assumption that conclusions do logically flow from the evidence and possess some logical connection to observations.

    Probably the most obvious way that 'proof' in science differs from the definition of 'proof' that I just quoted is that the premises in scientific arguments are rarely if ever known to be true with 100% certainty. Instead, scientific propositions typically have informal weights, ranging from highly corroborated and almost certainly true all the way down to speculative hypothetical guesses. But while the weights assigned to conclusions are going to vary depending on the weights assigned to premises, it's always expected that deductive connections will exist between premises and conclusion.

    (This btw, is the kind of problem that's motivated the creation of fuzzy logic. This is logic that replaces two-valued (T or F) truth assignments with a continuous range of truth values from 0 to 1.)

    In other words, what I'm arguing here is that "scientific proof" isn't something that's separate and disjoint from "logical proof". Instead, scientific proof is an ilustration of logical proof in action, when it's applied to discovering new and hitherto unknown things about the physical universe.

    Perhaps part of the confusion about this subject is due to the fact that scientists, mathematicians and logicians typically use the word 'proof' to refer to the chain of deductive reasoning that ties premises together with the conclusions that are drawn from them. While out on the street among laymen, the word 'proof' is often used to refer to a single slam-dunk observation that somehow makes a particular conclusion inescapable.

    'The new information was proof that George committed the crime.' Of course technically speaking, the new information isn't 'proof' at all, it's 'evidence'. Proof, the chain of deductive implications in other words, is what ties the new evidence together with the conclusion that George is probably guilty.
     
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  7. Regular0ldguy This is so much fun! Registered Senior Member

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    Proof is a tough nut, because True is a tough nut.

    Is there an objective truth? I suspect yes, because when I try to subjectively decide how things should be they don't cooperate, so something is making things they way they are other than my mind. I'm going to call that thing "reality" and/or "truth."

    How do we prove what's true? We try to convince. Sometimes everyone agrees. Sometimes when everyone agrees, it is hard to find any fault with their joint belief. That harder it is to find that anomaly, the more likely their shared belief "reflects" or "describes" reality. They don't get surprised by life.

    Sometimes everyone agrees and they find out their joint belief has some holes and doesn't work all that well. (lots of examples of that).

    Both groups had "proof." Proof, in the important sense (not a tautological/mathematical proof), is no guarantee of truth. It's just a tool we use to take our best shot.

    Only time will tell how good that shot was.

    So proof is just evidence. Some evidence is good, some not so good. But you can only tell in the end. Which never comes.
     
  8. Nocturnumbra ... Registered Senior Member

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    Right, I'm going to stay out of the topic of religion, because it's just kind of pointless. Instead, I'm going to expand on some of the things about truth and tautological proof. Personally, I find the latter to be entirely important, albeit less...practical than the so-called relevant sense. To summarise for anybody who does not know...there is exactly one thing that we can logically prove, and that seems to be the existence of an objective truth. Ultimately, it comes down to the age-old question: "Can we as humans ever truly -know- anything?" Call it the Socratic paradox, or whatever you would like, but the answer is yes. Well, whether we can know things or simply prove things is another argument, but we can at least prove things.

    I'm not talking about "the sky is blue" or "I'm currently sitting at my desk" kinds of things. I'm talking about the difference between mathematics and physics. Why can we prove things in one but not the other? The simple answer is that physics utilises empiricism, whereas mathematics is purely theoretical. It is the most basic and elemental of all academic fields. We can -prove- that 1 + 2 = 3 because we -define- 1 as something that, when added to 2, makes 3. Therein lies the one thing that we can prove. We can prove truth. We can prove the self-definition. X = X. That chair is that chair. So on and so forth. It expands, as in mathematics, so that one can ultimately logically prove anything that is defined circularly. I can prove that reality exists because I define it as what does exist. Of course, that's merely my personal definition...how I use those two words. It wouldn't hold true for everybody, since they define them differently. But ultimately, it all matters how one defines things.
     
  9. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

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    Uh-huh. Meaning all of religion is castles built in air...and we argue turrets. Yeppers.

    Mkaaay, gonna listen to the nice man and...

    X=X, reality=reality., 1=1.

    I was just saying in another thread I have a persistent idea that I'm being dreamed by someone who stubbornly refuses to wake up and release me from a surreal and unpleasant existence.
    I really wasn't kidding... but I doubt anyone could prove to my satisfaction that this "delusion" is untrue.
    How do I know I am real?
    I don't.

    You can prove stuff in the context of this reality, you have no way of proving anything outside the context of this reality unless you go there.

    Ow...migraine...skull-icepick...oww...
     
  10. Nocturnumbra ... Registered Senior Member

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    Like I said, I find the existence of other realities or universes absurd. This language just wasn't made to incorporate "other realities", and I think it makes sense that way. First of all, if there were other universes or realities, we wouldn't be able to interact with them (if we could interact with them, they would be no different from part of this reality/universe), so they at least essentially don't exist. Secondly...like I said, it's a matter of language. When we use the words "is", or "exist", that specifically means in this reality. And there isn't even any point in saying "this reality" because that means the same thing as "reality". There is no other reality. There exists no other reality.
     
  11. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

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    Nope.

    Which makes it kinda subjective, neh?

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  12. Godless Objectivist Mind Registered Senior Member

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    I don't know why the system keeps referring me e-mails to this thread, when obviously my comment has been "moderately" deleted! So what gives moderator? If you deleted my comment, or there's some malfunction that I can't find my comment, why not also, get the system from further sending me e-mails. Oh Ya my comment somewhat; the only "PROOF" That I adhere to is the Proof of my liquor bottle, at the moment it's Wild Turkey 101 the proof is obvious it's in the name!

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  13. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

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    Yeah,that's circular reasoning, which hasn't gotten me to believe the Christians.

    Not without technology we don't have yet, but ok...so....
    Oh, I dunno...what if you could find some sort of proof but still not access it? It would still exist. Even if we don't know it's there and can't access it, it still might be there.
    I mean, no we can't go there, but it could still have some sort of existence.

    That would be like me saying that because I will never be able to afford to go to Monaco that it doesn't exist.

    Hypothetically somebody could give me a truckload of money.
    Hey, it could happen.

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  14. Regular0ldguy This is so much fun! Registered Senior Member

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    I think we are kind of hoping pretty hard on that objective truth thing. Its the kind of postulate that we feel pretty confident about because once we figure a system out we don't get surprised as much about what it does, but because we can't nail down every possible deviation from what we expect and because lots of great theories still are stuck with anomalous events they don't handle very well, we are stuck hoping there is the conservation of matter and energy and that the anomalies are shortcomings in our theories rather than a magical world screwing with us because it is inherently inconsistent or unknowable.
     
  15. Nocturnumbra ... Registered Senior Member

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    That doesn't make all too much sense in the context of proof. If we can find it, then we can access it. And it is all about the possibility. If we can find it, then it does exist. That's how existence works. And if we can't find it, then it (essentially) doesn't exist, as it doesn't exist to us, and never will. We kind of have to think in essential actualities...which is to say that there's no point trying to comprehend that which by definition is unfathomable.

    And...we would never be able to find any sort of real proof outside that which is logically infallible...ultimately, the self-definition. We could find scientific proof...but scientific proof is the type that can be disproven, and if it can be disproven, then it theoretically eventually will be...and the disproof will eventually be disproven, proving the original notion, and so on and so forth. It's what I call progressionary oscillation, and it means that any conclusion made in the relevant topic is ultimately temporary and as such, meaningless.
     
  16. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

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    I was thinking mathematical proofs.

    Like we can mathematically 'prove' something is so but can't, say, travel to the nearest black hole and confirm it.
    Due to the fact that we have no spatiotemporal shortcuts and we don't live that long. And we don't have a spaceship.

    (What comes from being married to a math major in aftermath...hyuck, hyuck, hyuck)
     
  17. Nocturnumbra ... Registered Senior Member

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    We can't prove things about the physical universe because all we have in the physical universe are perceptions, which could potentially be flawed. Like I said, that's how we can prove things in mathematics but not physics. Mathematics is purely theoretical, whereas to learn things in physics, we must use both reasoning and empiricism, which, like I said, is liable to error.
     
  18. Regular0ldguy This is so much fun! Registered Senior Member

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    Especially around here.

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  19. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

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    I rather like the several posts you have made in this thread, and have grasped the point you are making, that because of our various perceptions, the only 'truth' we truly perceive is that which we define for ourselves, as in mathematics.

    Subjective truth. Seems quite logical.

    As far as objective truth goes, I observe only two.

    Gravity. (As experienced by self on this planet.)

    Change. (It keeps happening.

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  20. Crunchy Cat F-in' *meow* baby!!! Valued Senior Member

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    Yazata,

    Proof is a both a demonstration that something is true and a demonstration that all variables are known.

    Evidence is a demonstration that something is true.

    Unless you are dealing with mathematics where all variables are generally known, proof is the wrong word to use; whereas, evidence is much much better.
     
  21. Nocturnumbra ... Registered Senior Member

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    Another example of this would be "I agree with you agreeing with me", in the sense that I'm basically just agreeing with myself, which is quite necessary, logically. Of course, different parts of me might agree and disagree separately, but I as a whole would have to agree with myself, unless there's a problem with the definition of "agree".

    This is Courier. He is the even-more left-brained side of me. It's pretty obvious when he's talking....


    I'd like to add that there is a difference between completely and entirely knowing something and simply being able to prove it. Just because we as humans can prove something doesn't necessarily mean we can know it. It's just not how our minds work. I mean, I could say 2(3 + 5) = 4(1 + 3)...and it would be pretty easy to prove that with steps.

    2(3 + 5) = 4(1 + 3)
    2(3) + 2(5) = 4(1) + 4(3)
    6 + 10 = 4 + 12
    16 = 16
    X = X

    Of course, the problem is that I still could have made some sort of mistake along the way. And even with X = X, there is exactly one degree of separation from truth. Simply, to the human mind, absolute truth is unfathomable.


    This is kind of like when people say that there are only two things for sure: death and taxes. Change corresponds to death and gravity corresponds to taxes. I agree with the former, as it's a self-definition. Anything that gets born will eventually die, and we can know that "change" exists because if it didn't exist, we wouldn't be able to contemplate things. "I think, therefore, change exists." Of course, that's just how I'm defining change here...subjectively. We can't really prove anything about actual existence.... Anyway, gravity and taxes are a bit silly. We can't ultimately prove gravity (we can just be really quite close to sure about it, if we so choose) and taxes will pretty much definitely not exist forever, unless "taxes" is a metaphor for what game theoretics call "costs".

    From what I understand, this is pretty much what I've been trying to say. Of course, mathematics isn't the only example of a field in which all variables are known. In tautology, one eliminates all variables by creating a self-definition; it's essentially the same, although a broader category of sorts.
     
  22. wellwisher Banned Banned

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    Expectation plays a major role in the acceptance of any proof. If someone likes the NY Yankees, I can easily prove the Yankees are the best team of all time. The same level of proof for another team will not be enough since this is not what they want to hear.

    The yes-man daily proves how great his boss is, to his boss. Some days it may take more proof than other days. It depends on how inflated his ego is that day. In philosophy and politics, it is easier to prove that which the person wants and expects to be true. It is harder to prove that which they don't wish to be true.

    I can use half baked data to tell someone something new about the things they already believe, and that would be proof enough. But if I use the same level of proof to prove that which they disagree, it will not have enough to prove anything. Education can bias the proof equation based on what you are conditioned to believe is true.

    One way to look at this is, in the mind we sort of build houses of knowledge. Like any large house there may be a cornerstone theory, footings and support beams which support that house. Unconsciously, if someone tries to prove something than can crack a beam for example, it will be resisted, since this could cause sagging in the floor, requiring a major repair. That would be alot of work, making it easier to never be satisfied. If I tell you what you want to believe, I might add an extra support to your floor or curtains for the windows. That will be welcome with far less proof.
     
  23. NietzscheHimself Banned Banned

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    Absolute proof is either obvious or a delusional state brought on by a subconscious trigger.
     

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