How important is it to be able to prove what you say? Is it always sufficient simply to say, this is what I think? If not, at what point do you cite someone else or some source? And, how do you pick your sources? Above all, how, in this world of information overload, do we even know what to believe?
Lets say we were talking about the anticipated weather over the next 3 months. If I said, I reckon its going to be really cold and snowy, would you immediately panic and stock up on food and candles? If I said to you that I read about the winter forecast in [insert name of shoddy tabloid newspaper here], would my assertion be any more credible? What if I said to you, go onto the Met Office website and you’ll see a link on their home page to the latest seasonal forecast, would you look up the link before believing me? What if I worked for the Met Office and had a doctorate in meteorology, would such illustriousness make you implicitly trust everything I say about the weather?
What is it that makes us trust something, believe something, credit some things as accurate, as ‘facts’ that are true and other things as phoney and false?
I cannot offer any evidence for a belief I hold. Beliefs are by definition unproveable. But are beliefs all wrong? I have made reference in the past to my Christian faith. Faith is by definition a matter of what we believe. And believing anything is based on the presumption that the source of the information can be trusted. I trust the Bible. This informs my beliefs. But are they facts – can I prove that the contents of the Bible are factual? No, of course not.
So, how important is proof? That depends on whether you state something is a fact, or a belief, and if you are clear about the difference.
I know that Christmas is only a few weeks away. This is a fact, its checkable and accurate.
I think its going to pour with rain for the next week. This is a belief that might look like a fact. Its a short term belief. By the end of 7 days you’ll know if it was fact or not.
Jesus Christ was the son of God. This is an uncheckable belief. How can anyone check or verify this? This is the realm of the unproven but is no less valid for me and millions of others.
Nothing has to be proven, not by anyone. But please don’t dress up a belief as a fact.