The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines proof in a noun form as:
- The cogency of evidence that compels acceptance by the mind of a truth or a fact
- The process or an instance of establishing the validity of a statement especially by derivation from other statements in accordance with principles of reasoning
We live in a society that is very demanding of “proof” for just about everything. People want “proof” of what they’re told. In the commercial and marketing worlds, the term “proof” is even used as a selling point. You can expect “proof” or “proven” to go along with consumer pitches and legal arguments.
But in the scientific world, it is generally not preferable to use these terms because they imply an absolute result. Doing science means embracing anomalous results and expecting evidence to result from tests. Evidence can be supportive or not, but to say something is scientifically proven is inaccurate and a misnomer.
There’s no such thing as proof in the world of science
While people generally like to be completely certain of many things in their everyday lives, this simply isn’t the way science works.
Keep in mind the definition of proof—there is no room for error when you say something is proven. It must be undeniable truth or fact, with 100 percent sureness.
A common example would be the “Theory of Gravity.” Few, if any people, doubt that gravity exists. There is overwhelming evidence to support its existence—the fact that nobody suddenly floats off the earth is good enough, but then you consider the measurements of gravitational pull, the way objects weigh differently on earth versus the moon and other such pieces of evidence, and it becomes undeniable.
However, one cannot prove that gravity exists. Its universal acceptance as fact does not mean it can be proven to be fact.
Nobody can prove the existence of electrons, or that life evolves in relation to its environment, or that there exists such a thing as dark matter or energy conservation. But that’s not the purpose of science. Science isn’t about proof, it’s about the collection and analysis of evidence. Philosophically, it’s impossible to truly prove anything. The evidence will never be 100 percent infallible for anything, especially regarding the behavior of the universe. All science that currently exists isn’t based on what’s been proven, but rather the best evidence that we currently have. It just happens that there is a lot more evidence for some positions or statements than others.
The purpose of this post is not to create skeptics and to allow people to dismiss something as “only a theory,” but rather to give a greater insight into how a scientist should operate when testing hypotheses and analyzing evidence. The universe is an endlessly interesting place, and just when we think we know something for sure, it tends to surprise us. Contact Soil Advocates at firstname.lastname@example.org or 289-221-0164, we can help you to find or develop the “proof” you need for your projects cost-effectively.