What Ought We Make of the Word “Proof?”

4 thoughts on “What Ought We Make of the Word “Proof?””

  1. Dr. Groothuis, nice article. I inform those who ask for scientific proof for God’s existence if they ask scientists in certain fields for the same level of proof. Besides, proofs also depend on specific disciplines and the nature of required proof for the discipline. Proof in mathematical formulas call for a different type of proof than whether it will rain tomorrow in a specific area. In fact, forecasting the rain depends a lot on theory as does specific areas of quantum mechanics. Hence, the difference between scientific theory and scientism.

  2. Good stuff here, and a matter of instruction that needs to be made more. Just last week I used an example to help my class understand how presuppositions work to interpret evidence regarding its use a s “proof”. I drew a large indistinct footprint on the board and asked if they had ever seen this before. They immediately recognized it as a bigfoot footprint. So I said there were four kinds of people who would evaluate this:

    1) Those convinced that bigfoot exists who would uncritically assume that this was evidence.
    2) Those convinced that bigfoot exists who would critically evaluate the evidence.
    3) Those open to the idea of the existence of bigfoot who would critically evaluate the evidence.
    4) Those convinced that there is no bigfoot who would uncritically write the evidence off as a hoax or some false identification.

    It’s an illustration that most people are amused by more than they are passionate about, so it helps them to see the range of presuppositional attitude toward evidence that is possible without derailing the flow of the class.

    The course was on apologetics, and that class in particular started from the reasonable usefulness and limitations of evidence in apologetics and applied it to the appeal of the gospel in apologetics. It seemed to be effective and I saw the proverbial lights go on in their eyes. However, I think it may also be useful to help teach otherwise untrained people how to evaluate reports of scientific discoveries as well as political propaganda and I may use it again in the future.

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