Though occasional use is inevitable, I generally try to avoid the words proof and disproof, especially in discussions of epistemology and empiricism. I don’t know how many of you have met him yet, but Peter Hurford is a new commenter around here with a blog of his own, and from what I’ve seen so far, I would highly recommend dialoging with him on behalf of his aptitude and courtesy. He also asks good questions, the kind that get you thinking, as opposed to, say, the kind that piss you off. Recently on another blog, Peter made a remark that I felt compelled to reply to, and I wanted to repost a slight modification of that short reply here, just to see what people here might think of it.
Peter had remarked,
Interestingly enough, I’ve heard many times that all the beauty in the world is proof for God. But what of the ugliness in the world? Is this disproof of God?
Personally, when I run that sort of thing in my head, I substitute “proof” and “disproof” for “consistent / inconsistent with the hypothesis of” and then fill in the blanks with the hypothesis as needed. Is the beauty in the world consistent with the hypothesis of a majestic and splendorous God? Seems reasonable to me. Is the ugliness in the world inconsistent with the hypothesis of a majestic and splendorous God? I’d say if any only if the majestic and splendorous God was being posited as the only entity capable of initiating causal sequences ultimately experienced by sentient beings. I’d also say that the ugliness in the world is consistent with the hypotheses of 1) evil, but not omnipotent gods; 2) God’s righteous judgment of evil; and 3) the existence of free-willed, sentient beings who can commit both good and evil.
Interestingly enough, that is exactly the ontology I find myself in. Can anyone else really deny that they find themselves in such an ontology?