“Emotional Blocks or Plain Bigotry,” or Something Else?
Allegedly, “it was Darwin, above all others, who first marshaled convincing evidence for biological evolution...” (“Evidence Supporting...” 1999). Creationists insist that their point of view is substantiated by evidence, so it is natural that evolutionists claim to bolster their theory by pointing to evidence. Frequently, evolutionary scientists proclaim to have found original, striking evidence that confirms beyond doubt the factuality of the naturalistic view of origins. One hardly can scan the morning paper or search the Internet without seeing a new piece of “evidence.”
Is such evidence piled so high that creationists have no hope of climbing high enough even to stage an argument? As Trevor Major noted: “Indeed, newspaper stories frequently talk about ‘creationism’ versus ‘evolution’ as if belief in creation were exactly that—an ‘ism’—whereas evolution is an established fact” (2000). Stephen J. Gould put it strongly, if not without contradiction:
“[E]volution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don’t go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s in this century, but apples didn’t suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered” (1983, pp. 254-255).
And perhaps Dobzhansky summarized the prevailing view of the scientific community when he wrote: “Evolution as a process that has always gone on in the history of the earth can be doubted only by those who are ignorant of the evidence or are resistant to evidence, owing to emotional blocks or to plain bigotry” (1983, p. 27).
Are creationists so skewed in their perceptions of the data that they are blind to a mountain of undeniable evolutionary evidence, ignoring the proverbial elephant in their own living rooms? Are they just ignoring what the New England Skeptical Society calls “the mountain of evidence for evolution” (see “Intelligent Design”)? Francois Tremblay echoes: “How do [creationists—CC] refute the mountain of evidence for evolution?” (2003). Richard Dawkins affirms: “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that)” (1989, p. 7, emp. in orig.). Gould, Dobzhansky, Dawkins, and many others would be troubled by the fact that there are those who, “hampered” by a belief in God, “just don’t get it.”
Consider this important principle: If someone labels data, even a large set of data, as “evidence” for his theory, the data may or may not support his theory. The law of rationality dictates that a person draw only such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence (Pugh, 2002, p. 29). However, a person may label anything as evidence, whether or not it supports his theory. Quite simply, a lot of data may not support a particular view simply because a person says it does. More data does not necessarily equal stronger evidence. We must analyze each new piece of data to see how, and whether, it bears on the origins discussion. This is a Scriptural process. “‘Present your case,’ says the Lord, ‘Bring forth your strong reasons, says the King of Jacob’” (Isaiah 41:21). Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to “test all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Jesus rebuked the apostles for initially questioning the evidence for His resurrection (Mark 16:14; cf. Gray, 2005, pp. 216ff.).
Sadly, personal prejudice or wishful thinking might cause one to believe that theory is fact without full knowledge or understanding of the facts. For example, consider the University of California at Berkeley’s “Understanding Evolution” Web site (“Understanding Evolution,” n.d.). In 1956, American geologist Clair Patterson announced that the Earth was 4.5 billion years old. He based his old age for the Earth upon “evidence” from radiometric dating. Since then, it has been shown that radiometric dating systems are unreliable because they are based on groundless assumptions (see Jackson, 2003, pp.13-22; cf. Harrub, 2003). However, the Berkeley site continues to offer radiometric dating as an evidence for an old Earth and naturalism (“Radiometric Dating,” n.d.).
Similar criticism has disproved other alleged evidences for evolution, such as homology, horse evolution, the geologic column, and many others. Living things, such as viruses, may exhibit microevolution but not macroevolution (cf. Harrub, 2001). We could go on. What of that mountain of evidence for evolution? If we may subtract evidence supported by radiometric dating methods from the mountain of evidence, should we remove other portions of the mountain? How much of the mountain would be left if we removed all the pieces that resulted from irrational conclusions?
Bruce Silverthorne observed: “Evidence...makes us honest when we are asked to form and explain premises” (2004, p. 145). Both evolutionists and creationists should be honest when addressing the evidence. The Christian must be careful of “pursuing the inquiry with so fixed a determination that the Bible shall be found true, as to lead him to accept shallow sophisms for sound arguments, and to disregard the force of serious objections” (McGarvey, 1974, p. 3). Unfortunately, many will fail to analyze data, will feel that the “evidence” for evolution is too strong, and therefore will blindly subscribe to evolution. Our plea is that they will pay close attention to what scientists and others offer as evidence supporting their theory.
“Intelligent Design” (no date), The New England Skeptical Society, [On-line], URL: http://www.theness.com/articles.asp?id=31.
Dawkins, Richard (1989), “Book Review,” The New York Times, section 7, p. 34. April 9.
Dobzhansky, Theodosius (1983), “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution,” Evolution versus Creationism: The Public Education Controversy, ed. J. Peter Zetterberg (Phoenix, AZ: Oryx).
Gould, Stephen Jay (1983), Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes (New York: W.W. Norton).
Gray, Phillip A. (2005), Training Manual for Cultural Combat: Apologetics and Preaching for the Postmodern Mind (Altamonte Springs, FL: Advantage).
Harrub, Brad (2001), “Are Viruses Really ‘Evolving’?,” [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=1017.
Harrub, Brad (2003), “When Dating Methods Don’t Agree,” [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=703.
Jackson, Wayne (2003), Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth (Stockton, CA: Courier), second edition.
Major, Trevor (2000), “The Intelligent Design Movement [Part I],” [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/articles/2514.
McGarvey, J.W. (1974), Evidences of Christianity (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
“Evidence Supporting Biological Evolution” (1999), A View from the National Academy of Sciences, [On-line], URL: http://books.nap.edu/html/creationism/evidence.html.
Pugh, Charles (2002), Things Most Surely Believed (Sugarcreek, OH: Schlabach).
“Radiometric Dating” (no date), University of California at Berkeley[On-line], URL: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/history_23.
Silverthorne, Bruce K. (2004), The Pest Control Technician’s Guide to Christian Faith (Salt Lake City, UT: Millennial Mind).
Tremblay, Francois (2003), “The Intellectual Poverty of Creationism,” [On-line], URL: http://www.liberator.net/articles/TremblayFrancois/IntellectualPoverty.html.
“Understanding Evolution” (no date), University of California at Berkeley, [On-line], URL: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/.