Let's put this common refrain to rest~ something that I hear all the time in arguments concerning religion.  It goes something like this:

" Remember, you can't prove a negative!"

Really people?

This has become much more common, especially in the arguments amongst Atheists and agnostics concerning certainty, and it really puzzles me how people can be skeptical and free-thinkers, yet take to an idea so easily and not question it.  I will elaborate on this a little more once I have the time, but let me start all of those "can't prove a negative" types off with a question~ " I am not sitting at my desk."  Thats a negative claim.  Are you telling me that there is no way to confirm or disprove that?

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If you have evidence that God is real, then the method you used to gain this evidence must be repeatable by others, or your evidence is not really evidence. What is evidence? Evidence is that which acts on our senses.

What is truth? The belief that something is as it is thought to be. For example: An apple is red. You judge that to be true by searching your memories of evidence for something that is a red apple which is used to strengthen your belief that it is true.

Can you believe something is true, or can you know something is true?According to your rules of logic, both cannot be true. Or can they be? If belief = knowledge, then they could be both true.

The rules used by logic are tools we use to augment our perceptions just like the scientific method is. Both tools are valid.

This will be a lengthier response than I would prefer to give, but here's how I would lay out the fundamental parts of knowledge:


Interaction, observations, etc. become data, which can be stored either internally (memories) or externally (recorded). 


For the purposes of decision-making, humans regularly generate evaluations of this data to drive optimally-beneficial choices.


"Belief" is merely the recognition that you have previously made evaluations on a topic (with the data available at that time) and is only relevant as a 'sunk investment' of effort.


Given indications that an evaluation must be re-done, there are two options to follow: rebuild the evaluation at additional cost (the physical solution), or establish attention blocks to hide the issue with only minor investment (the mental solution).


The goals of science, philosophy, and any intellectually-rigorous approach to the world is to consistently follow the physical solution, despite the additional short-term costs. "Dogma" is the willingness to follow the mental solution because it 'protects' the integrity of their past evaluations with only a lazy effort.


So the real enemy is dogma, while 'belief' is a neutral and generally inconsequential part of decision-making. Knowledge is strictly data, not belief, and 'truth' (I would rather call it veracity) can be measured by how closely one's mental picture matches against the physical picture. 


The scientific method, at its core, is merely a set of techniques for filtering out non-contextual data (which are invariant across time and space) from the higher-level contextualized data (such as social interactions, etc). Since interactions only filter up, not down, contextualized data can be pre-emptively eliminated from evaluations of non-contextual, invariant phenomena.



Jason, that is exactly the foundation I have been working from. Exclusion by logical contradiction is commonly applied a priori (to borrow from Kant), while my argument is to extend that capability to a posteriori exclusion based on any set of acquired data.


"Compatibility" is really based on identifying EITHER/OR relationships and using positive proof of one TRUE to preclude the possibility of a second TRUE. This preclusion is functionally identical to a FALSE, so it simulates positive proof of a negative statement.

Cane, you say, "I do know that without evidence, we cannot really determine if something is true or not." We may not be able to prove something is true without evidence (though I'm not sure about that in the case of things like math), but it is easy to prove that something is not true without evidence if you can show that it is logically impossible. This has been done repeatedly on this and the "100% Certain" thread (providing ample evidence), and yet you really seem to want to ignore the idea.


If you insist that nothing can be known without evidence, then yes, you cannot prove a negative. Unfortunately, "you cannot prove a negative" is a self-negating proposition, since it is, after all, a negative itself, so how do you know it's true? (Hint: It isn't.)


You can, and apparently are, simply assuming it as an unquestionable axiom, but we have shown you over and over that this axiom is very questionable, and in fact appears to be demonstrably false. When your axioms are punctured, you need to take a step back and look at a larger picture. You don't seem to want to. That sounds like dogma to me.

I do not agree that you can prove anything without evidence. Logically, all you can do is form a belief that something without identity cannot exist. That does not mean that in fact it does not exist.


You can have evidence of an identity and come to a belief that it exists, but to know it exists, you need evidence.


I can give you the identity of an apple, but if you never had any kind of evidence to your 5 senses of an apple, all you can do is believe that an apple exists, but you cannot know it until you see, taste, feel, hear, and/or smell an apple.


Just because you do not have an identity of something, does not mean it does not exist. If you have a conflicting identity, the identity is wrong. That's all.

Cane, you don't agree because the axioms you are reasoning from are demonstrably incorrect, which you refuse to address. You simply reassert your incorrect axioms.


And if an identity can be shown to be logically impossible, then the thing referred to by the identity cannot exist. Period. Some other, perhaps very similar, thing can exist, but not the one shown to be impossible. It is strictly illogical to assert that having a "wrong" identity doesn't preclude the existence of the thing referred to. A "wrong" identity is a reference to a different thing. An impossible identity is impossible.

And over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

A very astute reply to my argument, but one must be careful.  There are two traps here. The first is defining a logical impossibility.  For instance, take the statement "there are no invisible blue monkeys."  A negative statement for sure, and false absolutely, since being invisible prevents the monkey from being blue by definition.  But have I "proven" anything.  There is no argument to be had, and no balance of evidence to be weighed.  We have not proven anything, the statement falsifies itself.

The second trap is bounding the domain.  If a friend of ours tells us he is afraid of all the large invisible gorillas roaming about, how are we to prove they do not exist?  I'll leave that for further argument, but we can certainly give our friend a secure place to sit by restricting the domain.  We tell him "There are no large invisible gorillas that I can feel sitting in this comfy chair over here."  Now we've proven a negative statement, but only in regards to one chair.  Our friend still has a problem with the kitchen and outdoors.

There is no way to prove a negative. You can prove with the scientific method that something is in all likely hood that it exists, but you cannot determine that something does not exist. I cannot determine that God does not exist due to lack of evidence toward his existence because lack of evidence does not mean that there is not evidence not yet found.


If you like, you can talk about reasonable doubt, but what that really means is do you believe or not. You believe there is no God, I believe in the tooth fairy, and Christians believe in life after death. Belief requires no evidence. Have fun people!!!

indeed. one can prove a science
there's no proof of god

ever. sorry.. meanwhile in realityville
loosen up world:

What does it mean?

Hello Drake Everren,

I have been talking about evidence, belief, knowledge, truth, and logic. 


You have added the terms evaluation, decision-making, dogma, and data.


Does data=knowledge or does data=evidence. You have used both meanings I think. Data is memories that we recall which I assume is knowledge, and data is things that act on our senses.


I agree with your definition of belief.

"Belief" is merely the recognition that you have previously made evaluations on a topic (with the data available at that time) and is only relevant as a 'sunk investment' of effort.

Here is what I think decision-making is: The process or method of coming to a belief of whether something is true or not.


I agree that as you gain more evidence, you need to again go through the process you used to convince yourself of whether something is still true or not. I think that process can be called decision-making. 


"Dogma" is a word that describes how the "knowledge" is gained by only using the tool, logic. I contend that you only gain belief using logic, but no knowledge. Knowledge requires evidence. Belief does not require evidence.


I think we are on the same page for most things, but where we part company is how our definition of knowledge is applied.


To believe the identity of something, you need evidence that that something exists. Once you gain that belief, you can use your decision-making process to determine if it is true. When you gain this belief, you can believe you have knowledge, but you really have a belief the knowledge exists.


Can you say that knowledge is the results of the decision-making process to determine if something is true? The result is belief in that something's truth. Is that knowledge? Or is knowledge the memories formed when reaching a decision?


What is knowledge? Does it really require evidence?


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