Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Evidence versus proof

Published: Monday, April 11 2011 11:30 a.m. MDT

“Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a scientific proof. Proofs exist only in mathematics … not in science. …Scientists prefer theories for which there is more and better evidence to theories for which there is less and worse evidence. Proofs are not the currency of science.”

When “evidence” is discussed, it is usually noted in the context of science or law. As an article on Wikipedia accurately explains, “Scientific evidence has no universally accepted definition but generally refers to evidence which serves to either support or counter a scientific theory or hypothesis.” In law there is more precision in the delineation of types of evidence (to be discussed next week).

It should be indisputable to both critics and believers that there is scientific data which supports the historicity of the Book of Mormon. The strength and significance of such evidence might be debated, but it cannot be logically or ethically argued that there is no evidence.

Some critics, who recognize that evidence is simply data that supports a proposition, seek to diminish any evidential strength for the Book of Mormon by claiming that there is no “direct” evidence for the Book of Mormon and that LDS scholars therefore must posit “parallel” evidences instead.

Such an accusation is loaded with problems. As we shall see in our next installment, the definitions “direct” and “parallel” are somewhat ambiguous. Even so, however, the Book of Mormon is supported by “direct evidence,” and more importantly, the discipline of archaeology relies strongly on indirect or “parallel” evidences when forming hypotheses.


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