Tip: Ask for Evidence, Don't Ask for Proof

Mick West

Staff member
People sometimes use the words "proof" and "evidence" interchangeably. But proof is defined in two ways, depending on where you are from:

British and World English:
"Evidence or argument establishing a fact or the truth of a statement:"

American English:
"Evidence or argument establishing or helping to establish a fact or the truth of a statement:"

The difference there illustrates the problem, some people (mostly Americans) consider something "proof" if it's "helping" to establish something, but the rest of the world would consider that simply "evidence", and reserve "proof" for the collection of evidence that firmly DOES establish something.

Given this language difference, it's perfectly reasonable for a debunker to ask "what proof do you have that X exists", but it's also going to create confusion, and an impression of an unreasonable demand, if the person being talked to is more used to the British sense of the word. In their mind they have some good evidence, but perhaps not proof.

So to avoid confusion, I highly recommend that people avoid the word "proof" whenever they can substitute the word "evidence" without changing the meaning of the sentence.