A Question About Evidence, Proof and God
There are various legal standards of proof available, depending on the type of case and legal circumstances.:
PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE
The lowest standard of proof is known as the ‘preponderance of evidence.’ The preponderance of evidence standard comes into play when the plaintiff satisfies the burden of proof by offering evidence that demonstrates their claims have a greater than 50% chance to be true. In other words, if a claim can be demonstrated to be more likely to be true than not true, the burden of proof is met. The preponderance of evidence standard applies primarily to civil law cases.
CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE
The clear and convincing evidence standard has a higher standard of proof than preponderance of evidence, but lower than proving beyond a reasonable doubt. Where the preponderance of evidence only requires the plaintiff to ‘tip the scales’ towards demonstrating fault, the clear and convincing standard needs to demonstrate that fault is ‘highly’ and ‘substantially’ more probable to be true than not true.
Another way of putting it is, to meet this particular standard, the evidence must establish a significantly greater than 50% probability that a claim is true. In comparison, preponderance of evidence requires a mere 51% or greater probability and beyond a reasonable doubt requires closer to 100%.
BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT
Used in criminal cases, beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard of proof within the American judiciary system. This standard requires the prosecutor to provide sufficient proof such that no other plausible account or conclusion is possible, except that the defendant is guilty. With the defendant assuming innocence until proven guilty, the burden of proof rests completely on the prosecutor.
While proving beyond a reasonable doubt means demonstrating the defendant is most certainly guilty, it does not mean you need to prove absolute certainty. To meet this standard, the prosecution team needs to demonstrate there is no reasonable doubt that the criminal act took place. It is up to the jury to determine whether doubts are reasonable or unreasonable.
PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE VS BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT
When comparing preponderance of evidence vs reasonable doubt standards, the latter has a much higher burden of proof than the former. As mentioned, to define preponderance of evidence, the plaintiff is only required to show that the incident most likely happened. Beyond a reasonable doubt has a much higher standard since the prosecutor must eliminate any reasonable doubts to prove guilt.
Proof v Evidence
Proof requires evidence, but not all evidence constitutes proof. Proof is a fact that demonstrates something to be real or true. Evidence is information that might lead one to believe something to be real or true. Proof is final and conclusive.
In his book ‘Faith v Fact’, Jerry A Coyne raises a key question: whether the drama of ‘creation’ inevitably culminates in humans (or something like humans) who are capable of acknowledging the playwright. In what may be the most crucial and stringent assertion of the book, he contends that “if we can’t show that humanoid evolution was inevitable, then the reconciliation of evolution and Christianity collapses.”
“…Evolution is inconsistent with theism because the outcome is not inevitable but highly improbable…”
Does the attainment of a desired end need to be improbable or inevitable to point to God?
Coyne contends that “arguments for God are wanting because religion’s methods are useless for understanding reality.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson asserts that: “The good thing about science is that it’s true, whether or not you believe in it.”
However, this line of thinking is much too narrow and therefore inaccurate.
Facts are true whether or not one believes in them. Science is an impressively reliable but fallible means for ascertaining facts. Indeed, facts are true whether or not science itself believes in them.
According to Coyne this is why religion does/can not contribute to knowledge…
The predictions of science are indeed based on experience. But the belief that past experience is a reliable predictor of the future — the faith that the world will behave the next moment as it has in the past — is not a confidence based on experience.
As David Hume made plain, it’s an assumption necessary for that confidence. And it is worth noting that appealing to past experience to justify such claims just begs the question.
Huxley commented, “Those who refuse to go beyond fact, rarely get as far as fact.”
Of course, there is a danger in pathological faith that is so averse to this pain that it is unreceptive to challenge by facts or to interaction with others having contrary views.
In love, we might call this obsession. In religion, we call it fanaticism. In science, we recognize entrenched paradigms or falsification-resistant core beliefs.
The wonderful thing about science is that it entails a more straightforward (though still somewhat murky) procedure for rejecting false answers. But it achieves this, in part, by asking smaller questions.
Present to varying degrees in all domains, faith itself is not a pathology. It is a means to both apprehend and experience reality, in conjunction with other means.
So here’s the question:
As we currently understand evidence and proof, are the pandemic, climate change, slavery, the Holocaust, Putin’s War, and Trump’s Big Lie etc evidence or proof of the existence or nonexistence of an omniscient and omnipotent deity?
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