Evidence and Proof

Question from Pachomius aka yrreg:
What is your concept of evidence and proof?

Please give five examples of evidence as of proof.

By stating what five things are evidenced by what evidence.

And what five things are proved by what proof.

I understand there is a difference between evidence and proof, of course they are connected.

Answer by SmartLX:
As he’s written elsewhere, Pachomius here basically wants an atheist’s definitions of evidence and proof so that he can reference them as he attempts to prove the existence of God, pre-empting anticipated objections by the atheists he’s trying to convince. Those atheists are regulars on the James Randi Educational Foundation forum, so his work’s cut out for him. (Hiya JREF.) Besides, no other atheist is obliged to accept my definitions, so the best he can really do is pre-empt definition-based objections by me personally.

That said, I’ll give him an answer, because I’d like to see what he has to offer. In my concept, evidence and proof are indeed connected, but here’s the difference between them:
Evidence for a claim is an object, event or argument which makes the claim more likely to be true.
Proof of a claim is an object, event or argument which makes the claim certain to be true.

Therefore proof is the ultimate evidence, but evidence is not necessarily proof.

Here are five examples of evidence that would at least make me re-evaluate the probability of a claim:

– A man’s unique dental imprint on a woman’s arm would be evidence that he bit her.
– Markers appearing in the middle of the second pair of human chromosomes, which normally only appear on the ends of chromosomes, are evidence that our (ape) ancestors had one more chromosome pair at one stage, and two of them later fused together.
– A man’s amputated arm growing back seconds after he bathed in the shrine at Lourdes would be evidence for the shrine’s advertised healing properties.
– A prophecy in the Bible which predicted the day and time of three 21st century earthquakes, which then actually happened, would be evidence that its author had some prior knowledge.
– An increase in the number of Christians worldwide which coincided with a similar decrease in the number of atheists would be evidence that non-believers were converting to Christianity in large numbers. (The reality is that Christianity today mostly increases through reproduction or, in some populations unaccustomed to missionaries, at the expense of more established religions.)

Proof is a lot harder to come by. As absolutes, proofs may only exist in pure mathematics, and even then they rely on axioms which are questioned by some philosophers. Each of the following five examples, however, would be good enough for me in its own context that I would unreservedly accept the given claim:

– Seeing a gaping wound in my leg after an accident, but not feeling any pain after several hours, would be proof that I had lost the feeling in that leg. (The wait would be necessary to make sure I wasn’t simply in shock.)
– If a positive integer is divided by every positive integer between 1 and itself (non-inclusive) and none of the results are integers, that proves the integer is a prime number.
– As JBS Haldane famously said, the discovery of fossilised rabbits from the Precambrian era would prove that there was a serious flaw in the theory of evolution, given that rabbits are thought to have evolved well after the Cambrian era.
– If when we first arrived on Saturn’s moon Titan we found that a stick figure ten kilometres tall had been burnt into the surface by a laser, it would prove that intelligent life had been there before us.
– If there’s an afterlife, its existence is proved to everyone after they die through their own continued existence. (Of course, this is no help to the living.)

In the end, if people think they can establish the existence of God I don’t care whether they call their material evidence or proof. I judge it on its own merits.

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