Need Help With A Debate I'm Having

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #69

I’m so glad you read it, and seem to have enjoyed it! I found it really helpful in my once-scientistic funk. I’ve often said I wish I’d read it at the beginning of that funk, rather than the end of it. Would have saved me a couple of years out wandering in the wilderness!

(Mervin Bitikofer) #70

…and now I’m into the larger “Gospel in a Pluralistic Society” book. It may have quite a bit of overlap, but I don’t at all begrudge it that. Thanks again for sharing your treasure.


What’s your definition of faith?


The definition I use for faith is a belief held in the absence of evidence. I would also define evidence as independent and verifiable facts that support a falsifiable claim.


Do you distinguish between evidence and proof?

(Peter Bussey) #74

I suggest you broaden the conversation to the Big Bang. Does he accept that God might have started the universe off in this way? If so, then physical processes formed the Earth, eventually, and biological processes then formed the various animal species, in due course too. This is how it was done!

(Christy Hemphill) #75

21 posts were split to a new topic: To accept evolution you must adopt an atheistic worldview

To accept evolution you must adopt an atheistic worldview

Like the argument that it is evolution or creation this is also a false choice. Although we can assert that evolution is a sound explanation of how life probably occured on earth the actual mechanisms of how thngs have changed it is still a matter of investigation. God is the ultimate author of all changes. There is nothing to stop God providing the conditions were certain things may more probably change in a particular way. There has for centuries been a debate about how God may use the secondary causes within the world to bring about divine will. Yet even if God does nothing certain patterns in nature may bring about things eventually as God desires.

You may not be able to convince your brother but you can be reasonably certain in your own mind that God and evolution are not incompatble. It may take other experiences in life to be more convincing to him and provide a basis for personal faith.

(Robin) #92

Sounds like your brother is a closet fundamentalist. The universe, at 13.8 B years old is statistically too young for all to have been done by chance. This is a fact. That the Universe has had a beginning seems to be attested by evidence. I would also say that your brother has never had a serious illness of any sort. Just have one small thing go wrong with you and see how much the rest of our body is dependent on that ailing part. The amount of detail that went into our anatomical design (ooops there we go with ID again!!) certainly weighs against accident and/or chance — not enough time for that in the scheme of things.,


It depends on the context. In common vernacular, “proof” is understood to be “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”. In this context I would say that evidence and proof are one in the same since proof is understood to be tentative. To use a less controversial example, people are freed from prison after being found innocent even though they were proven guilty in a court of law. Some scientists still talk about “proving a theory” by which they mean proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

If we are talking about specific philosophical or metaphysical positions, then absolute proof and evidence would be different. Obviously, there is nothing tentative about absolute proof. An example would be mathematical proofs which are considered absolutes.

To accept evolution you must adopt an atheistic worldview
(Clive) #94

“Some scientists still talk about “proving a theory” by which they mean proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” I’ve not heard of that phrase in science. ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ is the test of a person’s guilt in a criminal matter; in civil matters the test is ‘on the balance of probabilities’. In science it is: is the hypothesis disproved. In science we ‘prove’ nothing but are guided by the rejection of those things disproved.

To answer the first question tho; the difference between evidence and proof is that evidence is facts, events or relationships that are used to build up a picture of a particular circumstance or to provide the basis for a position. Proof is used in either maths, logic or law. In lay terms proof of course means whatever the questioner wants it to mean. It is usually used rhetorically in an atempt to trump an opposing position, e.g. “where’s your proof?”, when the question should be “what is your evidence?”

(Stephen Matheson) #95

I agree with you, but unfortunately Taq is right: some scientists do still talk about “proving a theory,” though in my experience and in my areas of work/expertise (life sciences), it is somewhat rare for people to talk this way. When they do, it stands out, jarringly, at least to me. The last time I remember being startled by a paper’s talk about “proof” was when reading the paper that established the whole-genome duplication in the yeast lineage. There it is in the title, first word: “Proof.” I don’t like it, but it’s still something that some scientists do.


Actually it’s quite fitting to see “proof” and “yeast” together. (If you bake bread, anyway)


Scientists don’t add on the “reasonable doubt” part, but it is implied. Should scientists not use the word “proof” to avoid confusion? They probably shouldn’t, but the fact remains that they do use the word, and they use it in the context of a provisional but well supported conclusion. For example:

"Given the size of vertebrate genomes (>1 × 10^9 bp) and the random nature of retroviral integration (22, 23), multiple integrations (and subsequent fixation) of ERV loci at precisely the same location are highly unlikely (24). Therefore, an ERV locus shared by two or more species is descended from a single integration event and is proof that the species share a common ancestor into whose germ line the original integration took place (14)."

That is from a peer reviewed article in a well respected scientific journal. The authors don’t mean this to be taken as a math proof or a statement of absolute proof. They mean it in the colloquial sense of being proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The only thing I would add is that the position needs to be falsifiable in some way. If any observation, no matter what it is, will lead to the same position then you don’t have evidence. We could use DNA fingerprinting as an example. If we assay the DNA sample and declare it a match no matter what the results are then the DNA technique isn’t evidence. There has to be some sense of risk in the position and the evidence.

(Steve Schaffner) #98

That may be the way science is done in Karl Popper’s imagination, but in my experience, real science is more often about weighing evidence for and against a hypothesis, or about the relative probability of competing hypotheses, than about rejection of hypotheses

(Jay Johnson) #99

One could make the same observation about competing interpretations of the Bible. For instance, we can weigh the evidence for/against the hypothesis of a literal, recent Adam vis-a-vis the hypothesis that “the man” in Genesis 2-3 is figurative. Personally, I assign the probability of the first scenario as somewhere in the single digits, but that is something very different than an outright rejection of it. Unfortunately, most Christians look at competing interpretations in a binary completely true/completely false framework, which creates division and stifles dialogue.

Not to mention, I’m getting tired of being called a deist and an atheist and a heretic for believing that God could use evolution to create…

(Phil) #100

Also it is the refining process, where a hypothesis is modified and better defined to best explain the data. While you see some cry foul when that happens, refining is a very biblical process.

(George Brooks) #101


Remind them that if human prayer is answered by God, that is not deism.

And tell them that Christians can become Weather forecasters without becoming Atheists, because weather forecasters are allowed to think God uses evaporation to help him make rain storms!

(Jay Johnson) #102

Says who? Every weather forecaster is a DECEIVER, a direct descendant of the FATHER OF LIES! Do you have a better explanation for the constant, predictable appearance of clouds and rain at every outdoor wedding?

(system) #103

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