Considerations of proof are important to informing of what can be believed to be known and what can be believed to be true. Given their significance, it is important that the effort be placed for discerning an accurate means for proof and for discerning the merits of prospective proofs.
In this era, prospective information and data has grown to massive levels, and it is more capable of being accessed and transmitted than in previous centuries. A vast multitude of individuals and groups propounding their various ideas and claims of fact, vie for having their views accepted by the public. In this, there is an incentive for proponents to claim proof of their claims and to try to claim the authority of a commonly acknowledged institutions and disciplines, in the effort to try to convince others to believe what they believe to be the case. In one’s day to day in experience, one can mind repeated instances of people, institutions, and media claiming that something has been proven. But there comes the consideration of whether or not these claims are correct, and whether or not these claims have been supplied with sound proof.
The efforts to attain knowledge and an understanding of truth are among the most valuable pursuits of life, and the thinking in regards to these matters shapes live in innumerable ways. But to ensure that we attain knowledge and understanding, we must have a sound basis for which we can recognize ideas as accurately representing what is factually correct, real, and true. This calls for us to examine claims of fact and claims of proof to discern their merits. This requires a measure of independent and critical thinking. By independent thinking, it meant that a person undertakes their own efforts in thinking about matters and in seeking to discern the merits of ideas. Now this does not mean that one’s thinking is necessarily correct, or that one does not need outside information, or that one is not accountable for one’s notions. It means that one must do one’s own work in thinking, and one is responsible for seeking to do as well as one can for thinking well and discerning good ideas and accurate knowledge. By critical thinking, it is meant that one should not prematurely accept or reject a notion, but should take mental account of relevant considerations, think through the basis for a notion and the implication of it, and work to discern its merits.
When faced with claims of proof, it is best to examine them and seek to figure their merit. These claims while they may be true, may also not be true, or may contain some smaller portions which are accurate, but also include others which are, or may have been based on an improper analysis of the matter. Claims of proof cannot necessarily be taken as a given that they are true. Likewise, those people and institutions which are commonly regarded as possessing authority on a matter or as trustworthy for knowing a matter, cannot be taken as a given that they are right. While we are capable of knowing the truth of the matter, we also have the potential of fallibility. Even those who are otherwise knowledgeable on a subject and well regarded, can at times be mistaken. And those people and institutions who hold prominent positions in a discipline, are affected by the social order and are not always necessarily based in the objective legitimacy of their merits. Thus it is important to analyze claims of proof, to seek to determine their merit.
In order to aid in this analysis, I would put forward the following as important general considerations for claims of proof.
Consider the case being made for it. What is the proponent putting forward to back this claim and to put forward that it has been proven? What evidence is being put forward? What is the reasoning they have used in their case? What are the methods which were used? What is the philosophy on which the order and methods of the subject were based? These things ought to be evaluated.
Consider the evidence. What evidence do the proponents provide for supporting their claim? Is this evidence valid? Has this evidence been properly analyzed? Has it been put together in a reasonable manner?
Consider the reasoning. What reasoning has been used in making the case for this notion? Does this reasoning tie together the evidence and make an effective claim for proof? What is the quality of reasoning? Is it well reasoned? If it is not well reasoned, how would this matter be considered under good reasoning? Does it hold up under reasonable inspection, to support that it is the case, avoid reasonable doubt, and render it more viable than alternative possibilities?
Consider the methodology. What methods were used to produce this claim and its supposed proof? Were these methods done correctly? Are these methods proper and sufficient for investigating the matter and producing proof for it? If not, what methodology may be sufficient, and could such claims be supported under it?
Consider the theoretical structure? Under what subject (s) and/or discipline (s) is the claim of proof derived from? Is this field sufficient for encompassing the relevant aspects the issue? What is the theoretical structure/ philosophy of subject and methodology that is being used? As in, what are ideas which serve as the basis of their considerations? What does it rule on in terms of the nature of reality, the nature of knowledge, the nature of sound reasoning and justification, and what the criteria would be for acceptable methods of investigation, analysis, and proof? Do their positions on these matters select correct ideas and criteria on which to design and guide their analysis and method? Are they sufficient and proper for considering the issue? Is it insufficient, if so what could be added to make it sufficient? If it is flawed in its system, what theoretical structure would work to considering the issue? And what would the claims made measure as to under a proper theoretical system and analysis of methods, reasoning, and evidence?
These considerations are important to figuring out whether a claim of proof is worth believing. A good theoretical structure can set the course toward accurate knowledge. A poor theoretical structure can lead considerations in the wrong direction and give a false image of legitimacy to poor ideas. Take for instance the predictions made in a horoscope. Under the theoretical structure of astrology, these would be considered factual predictions. But the theoretical structure of astrology is based on the incorrect notion that the position of objects in the cosmos controls the behavior of human beings and the course of events in time. A sound and sufficient methodology enables a good foundation for evidence and reasoning. A poor methodology can lead to false or inaccurate evidence and faulty reasoning. If a person tries to do a poll for voter preferences in an electoral race and only goes and asks a few people at one of the candidates’ political rallies, they aren’t going to get an accurate poll. The point follows with the rest of the considerations. If one uses incorrect evidence or poor reasoning, it will tend to produce poor results. Likewise, if one fails to gather sufficient evidence or doesn’t think things through sufficiently it can hurt the results. A sufficient and sound claim of proof needs to avoid insufficiencies and distortions in these aspects.
If a claim of proof has a poor or insufficient theoretical basis, methodology, evidence, and/ or reasoning, then it has fallen short of making a sufficient and sound case. If the case being made for something being proven is insufficient, then it should not be regarded as being fully proven. Now that is not to say the claim is necessarily false. There is a distinction in the considerations of whether something is true of false and whether something is proven or unproven. A claim can be correct, but at the same time not have a sufficient or sound proof given for it yet. The key is to continue forward with considerations of the matter, in order to move toward a further realization of correct knowledge and sound proof to validate it. If a case is found to be unsound and based in faulty elements, then it should not be regarded as proven. We should try to avoid being deceived into believing something is proven when it is not, try to keep an intellectual mindset to believe what there is merit to regard, and to aim correct understanding.
In this manner, do not just blindly accept claims of proof because they are presented or claimed be true by some social authority. Seek to discern whether they are sound claims of proof or not and whether the claims are correct or not. Seek to discern whether a claim of proof is sound or not. Seek to understand the merits of ideas. In short, embrace one’s own intellectual agency and direct it in the service of better knowledge and understanding.