Prove God! [Part1]
This has to be the single most commonly made demand on me as a theist on the internet. Curiously I don’t recall ever having been given this demand in a real conversation (that is a conversation which takes place fact to face for those of you who still communicate in the old-fashioned way!) but one that only happens on the web. I have no idea if there’s something to that or not.
I am going to defend the view that this is an unreasonable request and therefore, if I am right, not meeting an unreasonable request is quite reasonable.
Wikipedia begins defining the philosophical use of ‘proof’ by saying it “…is an argument or sufficient evidence for the truth of a proposition.” That’s not a bad place to start but it is a matter of fact that different people have differing opinions on what makes the evidence sufficient (and also what may even be considered to be evidence) which means the definition ends up being somewhat vacuous. Often when I ask people what they mean by the word they say that a proof of x is something which makes unbelief in x impossible. In other words this evidence would be so compelling that they would not be able to deny it. This sounds very much like something which philosophers might call a formal proof. Another comment such atheists often make is that since not everyone on the planet believes in God that there cannot be proof of his existence which is sufficient to make them theists. One You Tuber, so confident that no proof for God can ever be provided, promises to close his account should proof of God ever be provided! Evidently such people think proof is something which would convince almost everybody on the planet since it's so demonstrable. Let us use this as a working definition.
Now there are a whole range of problems with this approach and in Part 2 I will give a few reasons why. For now, however, here is a task which will demonstrate one major problem.
What is the evidence for the following things? Actually think about it as you read them and also think about whether the evidence would be enough to prove [in the sense identified above] the matter to yourself and then whether that proof would be sufficient to prove it to another human being. You may wish to list what evidence you could summon.
1] That you know the name given to you at birth.
2] That the earth is not flat.
3] That the person you call ‘mother’ is your biological mother.
4] That torturing someone for no reason is wrong.
5] That there are minds other than your own.
6] That the colour you call ‘red’ really is the same colour everyone else calls ‘red’.
7] That this world we live in is not just a virtual reality game or dream [Matrix/Inception].
8] That you think what you think you think.
Is your evidence so great that you would claim to have ‘proof’? You will probably know where I’m going to go in Part 2 already if you took this challenge on and thought about it…