The Merriam-Webster dictionary
defines proof as:
the cogency of evidence that compels acceptance by the mind of a truth or a factPlease visit the link provided for the complete story.
the process or an instance of establishing the validity of a statement especially by derivation from other statements in accordance with
principles of reasoningPlease visit the link provided for the complete story.
something that induces certainty or establishes validityPlease visit the link provided for the complete story.
Why do I care? Because that means that proof is in the mind of the skeptic.
In other words, it is impossible to prove something to me that I do not accept as fact. All of the evidence can point to a conclusion you want me to
accept, but the subject is still not proven until I, as skeptic, state it is.
For example, take one one of my pet subjects, the dangers of smoking. A non-smoker can tell me all day long that smoking will kill me. They have not
proven their point until I accept their premise that smoking is dangerous. They can tell me about tests that have been done, and I can find flaws with
the tests. They can tell me how many doctors agree on the subject and I can dismiss the doctors' statements as opinion. In short, no one can force
their proof upon anyone else.
In this forum (ATS as a whole), I see posts every day that contain the word 'proof'. "I have proof of ____", "I can prove _____", "Here's
proof that ____". They have evidence, not proof, because proof cannot exist without skeptics being convinced.
I realize that common usage of 'proof' tends to include 'evidence'. But in reality, proof is still in the eyes of the skeptic. I want to know what
everyone here thinks about this, and this forum seems to me to be tailor-made for this discussion. What could not be proven to you? What would you
consider good, reliable evidence to prove something to you? Or what can you not be convinced of, regardless of evidence, and therefore cannot be
And, perhaps more importantly, when should we as society force acceptance of a concept upon those who have not yet accepted our proof?
[edit on 19-6-2008 by TheRedneck]