The problem of proving, that there is no proof

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The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby sepia » Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:47 am

This thread should be there for the discussion of a point made in other discussions here: If I claim, that there is no evidence to support a claim, how do I know? At first I will state, that with evidence or proof I mean argumentations. Sometimes things on which argumentations are based on are also called evidence or proof, like fossils for evolution, but I mean the argumentation based on it.

I could look for evidence, but if I don't find it, this doesn't mean, the evidence does not exist. I can think about 3 alternatives to the absence of evidence:

1) Lack of Knowledge: I don't know how to search for evidence or don't understand the evidence.

2) Inofficial Evidence: The evidence is hidden from the public. Maybe because of a conspiracy or because it is very new and not yet published.

3) Alien Evidence: The evidence is known by a culture or individual, which has no contact to us. For example aliens may have already solved a mathematical problem we are still struggling with.

But there is a way to prove that there is no evidence: By proving a point impossible we also prove that there can't be evidence for it, respectively that all supposed evidence for it has to be wrong. For example the prove that the square rout of 2 can't be the fraction of 2 natural numbers is also the prove that there can't be prove for such a fraction being the square rout of 2.

So we need alternatives to the claim "there is no evidence for sth." Here are my suggestions:

1) "Show me evidence for sth." - this doesn't shift the burden of prove on me.

2) "I can see no evidence." - but how to exclude that I'm too stupid to deal with the issue? Maybe by telling where I have searched evidence.

3) "There is (officially) no evidence known by experts (on earth)." I'm not very happy with the formulation, but since we have science producing a kind of collective knowledge and not just private opinions, I think we need one option in this way.
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby Lausten » Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:52 pm

I don't like comparing mathematical proof to other types of proof. It is very different than proving something like the physical properties of tangible things. And both are very different from proving the cause and affect of things in the past. Understanding historiography is also very important in the God discussion because we are trying to prove what someone was thinking based only on what they wrote and maybe a few artifacts they left behind.

You also did not mention what a "premise" is or attempt to define the default position. In the courts they use "innocent until proven guilty", with God I like to use "non-existant until proven otherwise".
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby sepia » Thu Sep 20, 2012 5:09 pm

I'm sorry, I cant follow you in any point.

I don't see a problem by comparing mathematical proof to empirical evidence. Both are here to make a claim plausible. And at least one of them has to exist, that a claim is plausible.

And where and why should I mention, what a premise and what the default position is?
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby dobbie » Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:26 am

sepia wrote: I don't see a problem by comparing mathematical proof to empirical evidence.


Mathematical proof can be quite different from empirical proof. A math formula might not comport with reality, thanks to hypothetical input that went into the forumula.

Only when a math forumula is shown to bear out with real observations (empirical data), it's a most useful tool indeed. Until then it's a hypothesis. It might well lead the way to empirical evidence, yes. But until then, one should beware of math sets or math constants, until they are shown to have their counterparts in empirical evidence.
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby sepia » Fri Sep 21, 2012 11:27 am

Which of my claims have to do with this?
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby Lausten » Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:02 pm

Which of my claims have to do with this?

You said that "we need alternatives to the claim "there is no evidence for sth." " because "By proving a point impossible we also prove that there can't be evidence for it."

I'm saying that works in math because math has strict definitions. 2 + 2 = 4 because we have defined those symbols to mean something. With more complicated math, like Einstein's, it can take 100 years for evidence to be found that verifies the math correctly predicts the real world, but for that 100 years, the math was considered sound.

You setup a difficult task for yourself by taking away the possibility of additional physical evidence, you said, "but I mean the argumentation based on it." If I understand you correctly, you are saying, "based on the evidence we currently have, can we know the answer?" In the Einstein example, science said "No" for 100 years. They said, we're pretty sure, and we can get to the moon based on it, but until we have instruments to measure precisely the location of a distant object (Venus) whose light is being affected by a large mass (the Sun), we can't say for sure.

In the case of God, I think we are in that similar 100 year waiting period. We have all the evidence and "proof" I could ever want, and accept the proofs based on premises that have worked for 1000's of years, but we haven't run THE experiment that proves it conclusively (or in this case, disproves it). This is where the default position comes in. If we had chose not to have a default position with Einstein's theories, if all rocket scientists had continued to insist that anything is possible, that once we got 100 miles away from earth, the ship might go spinning off in wild directions, then we wouldn't have got to the moon. Instead, we choose to accept the math until it was disproven, and move forward.

For God, we don't have a mathematical proof, so the default is non-existence until proven to exist. Then the more important questions can be asked, like, "how do you live your life?" Do you live like you will be judged in the end and thrown in to a firey hell if you read the wrong Bible interpretation? Do you spend massive efforts figuring out if Sunday or Saturday is the actual sabbath?

I know you were avoiding the application of this to the God question, but I needed a relevant example. What I'm suggesting is, we don't need alternatives to "there is no evidence for sth", we need a system for evaluating what evidence we have. We need to agree on a level of evidence required to make a claim and to take actions based on that evidence. To apply to religion again, what evidence does religion have that says they are more essential to the functioning of this society and thus deserve special status like tax breaks and protection from satire?
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby sepia » Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:40 am

Okay, now I think, I understand the point with mathematical vs. empirical proof. But there is still something confusing me: Why is there a default position, that something doesn't exist, as long as we have no prove, that it exists?
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby Lausten » Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:20 pm

Why is there a default position

This may not be the best answer, but one of the big problems with not having that as the default, is the door that opens when you take the opposite position. If someone says, "It cannot be proven that God does not exist, therefore he could exist, therefore it is logical to act as if he does exist, therefore follow his arbitrary laws or you might end up in hell." Then, I could say that about anything, "It cannot be proven that Ganesh does not exist, therefore you should install a Ganesh idol in your home and don't wear slippers or a leather belt when you are around it." Or, the atheist example, "There is a giant teapot hovering in space on the opposite side of the sun. We can't see it. Prove that it is not there."
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby GrammarOfAssent » Mon Sep 24, 2012 5:59 pm

Shouldn't the default position be more neutral than that? Should the default stance assert neither existence nor non-existence?
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby Lausten » Tue Sep 25, 2012 12:07 am

GrammarOfAssent;
Why?
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby GrammarOfAssent » Tue Sep 25, 2012 2:21 am

Lausten:

Because it is intellectually honest. Assuming some thing as false means that a judgment about that thing has already been made. Judgments tend to demand reasons (and rightly so).

Until reasons can be considered for or against a thing, judgment must be withheld. If a proposition is assumed false...what is the point in trying to demonstrate the opposite?

A falsifiable hypothesis is not assumed to be false during scientific investigation (otherwise, why suggest it as an explanation anyway?). It is not assumed to be true (certainly not). Instead, it is a suggestion of what might be true. The scientific method is designed in order to generate reliable data for the evaluation and testing of the veracity of the hypothesis (which is a judgment of the mind).
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby Lausten » Tue Sep 25, 2012 1:23 pm

Assuming some thing as false means that a judgment about that thing has already been made.

I don't think I explained the idea of "default position" very well. It is not an assumption of falseness. It is a choice, a position, a place to stand so you can then move forward. It is a starting point for inquiry, not an end of the question.

Take the analogy of guilt and innonence in the American courts. We are supposed to treat people like honest citizens until we can prove them guilty. There are rules about how long we can detain someone who is a suspect and when we can detain them based on a minimum of evidence. If we can't prove them guilty within those limits, we have to let them go. When the process is complete, they can go out in the street and say they did it, we still can't arrest them, because we already failed to prove their guilt. It is not a matter of true or false, it is a matter of how we act toward the person.

I've discussed how this relates to the God issue already, so I won't repeat that.
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby Lausten » Tue Sep 25, 2012 8:00 pm

So, back to the original post. I'm actually happy with the three alternatives offered. It was only the "prove it is impossible" part that had me bothered. It is a worthy goal, but how do you apply it to the God question?

I can discuss the logic of Pascal's wager, but I haven't heard or thought of a way to prove God doesn't exist. I can discuss why I don't trust the Bible as evidence, but I don't have a way to disprove the claims. But there are lots of wild claims I can't disprove. Why should I bother?
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby GrammarOfAssent » Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:24 pm

Lausten:

It is a choice, a position,a place to stand so you can then move forward...

This is the part that is problematic. If it is a choice (i.e. a judgment) or a position...then it was taken without reason...arbitrarily. You do not have to do that in order to "move forward". In fact, depending on which position you take, it could actually be moving backwards (away from what is true).

You could just as simply, with less work and with less bias, "choose" to remain neutral.

Take the analogy of guilt and innocence in the American courts...I've discussed how this relates to the God issue already, so I won't repeat that

Using this analogy to is fallacious in the following 2 ways:

1) False analogy: Assuming that because both things (legal proceedings and "the god issue") deal proving a proposition, that both questions should be handled in the same manner.

2) Special case: Treating a person as innocent until proven guilty in legal proceedings is a specific way to deal with a specific sort of proposition (e.g. "You stole the crown jewels"). It says very little about how we should treat a proposition in philosophical discourse. An example: If you tell me your name, I am not breaking any rational rules by taking you at your word (even though you could be lying). Therefore, if you tell me that there is a flying spaghetti monster, I am not breaking any rational rules by taking you at your word. <= Fallacious
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Re: The problem of proving, that there is no proof

Postby Lausten » Wed Sep 26, 2012 10:16 pm

Grammar, you are one big pain in the patoot!

Stating that you are choosing a default position is virtually the same as staying neutral, if I understand what you mean by that, but you are not easy to understand so I'm sure you'll set me straight. By describing your position and your reason for it, you are specifically stating that you are not being arbitrary, you are using reason and you are not locking yourself out of hearing any new evidence that may guide you toward "the truth".

And what the hell rational rules are you talking about? There are many cases where it would be irrational to take someone at their word. You defined one right in your explanation. The Flying Spaghetti Monster. The FSM, bless his noodly appendage, was invented to make that very point, but you think you have come up with an example where you don't break "rational rules", even though you use "even though" right in your example. You are using a default position; "I'm going to accept that you just gave me your real name and proceed as if that is true, until further evidence tells me otherwise."

You are either a troll, or acting enough like one to be ignored.
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