“Until I see some proof of God’s existence, I think it’s stupid to believe in him.” Sigh. This statement. Nowadays it seems like almost no one understands what proof means. Or they at least don’t use it correctly when talking about philosophical and logical things. I think it may have two separate meanings, the everyday and the logical. One is for inductive reasoning, the other is for deductive.
First I will describe how I think most people view proof. They use inductive reasoning, they think of the way things become true in science. Someone makes a guess, then sees if it lines up with how the world works. This is done through research, experiments, and things of the like. People demand physical evidence if they are to believe something. So when they say that there is no proof of God’s existence, they completely ignore all philosophical arguments for his being. They mean that science has not been able to discover God in nature, so he doesn’t exist. (By the way, there is a good amount of historical/archaeological evidence for many Biblical narratives, but that’s beside the point.) But there are many problems with this, which I will expose in a bit. I just didn’t want to end a paragraph with a parenthesis.
Now I will describe the deductive definition of proof. Proof means a necessary conclusion. It means you start with some statements (axioms, but I guess you could say evidence) and you can show how from these statements a conclusion you make cannot be disputed. It has to be true. For example, the famous syllogism: All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates is mortal. That is proof. Something that can’t be questioned. That’s how all philosophy should be done, but usually it can’t be cause thinking is a messy business.
I want to say that there is nothing at all wrong with using the inductive definition most of the time. The error occurs when you think it has any bearing on philosophical discussions. It almost never does. Most things in philosophy simply cannot be proven or even suggested by the physical world. They dwell in the world of thought and ideas. They are only available to introspection.
Now let’s think about some problems with using science for philosophy. For one, how do we know that the physical world even exists? Science cannot answer that, it assumes its existence. For two, science is completely inductive logic. That means that absolutely nothing in it is 100% certain. This is called the problem of induction. Finally, concepts such as God, the soul, and the value of art are by definition separate from the physical realm, and thus can’t be studied by science. I guess it is possible to study the value of art scientifically, but you miss the point.
Finally for what the main point of this post was supposed to be: it is nearly impossible to prove anything in the deductive sense and it is impossible to prove anything in the inductive sense. This is explained in a little bit of detail in my previous post about the Epistemic Trilemma. In short, extreme skepticism is not as ridiculous as you may think. If you have the need to have absolute proof in everything you believe, then skepticism is for you. But don’t be that guy.
So when you say there is no proof of God’s existence, be sure you mean what you say. Either say, “There is no physical evidence of God’s existence,” or say, “There are some philosophical arguments for God’s existence, but I think that the arguments against are better,” all the while knowing that there is almost no proof of anything in the sense you mean. (Or should mean.)
Hmm. I feel like this post was really badly written and doesn’t explain anything. I hope not. If so, I’m sorry. “Keep in mind that I have no idea what I’m talking about.” Oh well. It took a little while and I’m tired, so I’m going to go ahead and post it.