googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: A Monopoly on the Evidence

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Monopoly on the Evidence

I guess all writers have their own style. I know I do. For example, I know that I often begin sentences with “I” and “For example.” Anyway, when dealing with a subject that is often misunderstood – like evolution is – I constantly try to seek out new ways to explain the most commonly misunderstood parts. I sometimes try putting my arguments into different words hoping that I strike upon a way to make my point clear. In a recent comment I made to a visitor, I happened upon still a different way to make a point I've made many times before.

I've said over and over that evidence is neutral. It isn't “for” any theory. Rather, theories are invented in order to explain the evidence. A theory might seem to explain the evidence rather well but then later, the theory could still be rejected in favor of a new theory. As theories come and go, the evidence is always the same. The universe just keeps chugging along like it always has and nothing has changed except the theory.

For centuries, the prevailing model of the universe was that the heavenly bodies circled the earth. It's not an entirely unreasonable conclusion. When we look into the sky, the sun, moon, and stars appear to be moving around us in predictable patterns. At the same time, we don't feel like we're moving. The geocentric model seemed to explain well what we were observing. Of course, as we began to observe more of the universe, there were things that weren't explained well and the Ptolemaic model was eventually replaced by our current understanding. In all this time, though, the “evidence” didn't change; we just found a better way to explain it.

What is true of the sun, moon, and stars, is true for all of the evidence for any theory. Every phenomenon simply is and we invent theories to explain what it is, why it exists, and why it behaves the way it does. That's science.

Does anyone disagree with anything I've said so far? Certainly I've made it all very simple and there are some things I could elaborate on but I can't see any point that could be contended. Right? Okay, then. Creation and evolution are no different than any other theory. The scientific evidence for creation is the same evidence that is used for any secular theory of origins. It's the rocks and the fossils and the oceans and DNA and everything else that exists in the physical universe. So, keeping what I've said in mind, why do evolutionists repeatedly say, “There is no evidence for creation”?

Let me try to explain in still a different way how ridiculous that comment sounds. Take something like rock layers. Evolutionists believe that the strata were laid down gradually over millions of years. Where fossils appear in the strata supposedly approximates the time the creatures lived. Therefore fossils found in lower layers represent creatures that lived before the those found in higher layers. Now, because secular theorists have explained the rock layers this way, it seems to be their contention that rock layers cannot be explained any other way. In other words, because evolutionists have explained rock layers with their long age theory, the layers can no longer be used as evidence for a recent creation!

Evolutionists are playing a game of “dibs” on the evidence. Once they explain anything according to their theory, they refuse to let it be considered in any other light. That is why the rock layers can't be young because they've already said they're old. Similarities in features on different animals can't be because of design because they've already said it's because of common descent. There is no evidence for creation because they've already used it all as evidence for evolution!

Admittedly, some theories seem to explain certain things better than other theories do and if evolutionists want to say their theories explains the evidence better than creation does, we can have that discussion. In the meanwhile, I refuse to sit back and let evolutionists pretend they have a monopoly on all of the evidence. I will not be shamed into silence by the absurd statement that there is no evidence for creation. Perhaps Daniel Patrick Moynihan said it best when he said, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”


Steven J. said...

I think the term "evidence" is used mainly for facts that give us a reason to prefer one explanation to another. When I was a juror in a murder trial, the defense lawyer offered reasons to doubt the word of the star witness; he did not claim that the witness's statements were neutral and that either side could equally well have presented them to support its case.

Theories explain facts in the sense that they tell us why the facts are this way rather than some other conceivable way. And they don't just explain the facts that they were created to explain; ideally, they predict future discoveries that are not predicted (and may even be forbidden) by rival explanations. An explanation that is compatible with any possible observation or discovery is, by that same token, not much of a theory, since it can't very well tell us why things are this way rather than that, nor do they make testable predictions of further discoveries.

Note also that some explanations may be better than others in the sense of explaining more details of a phenomenon, or explaining them more precisely. Copernican heliocentrism was superior to Ptolemaic geocentrism because it could account for the phases of Venus; Keplerian heliocentrism was superior yet because it could more precisely predict planetary motions, and do so without resort to epicycles. So while the general observation -- planets moving across the sky -- was explained by all three, some details were evidence for one theory against others.

So it is with rock layers. Certainly Noah's Flood implies a flood deposit. I don't think it implies multiple strata rather than a single undifferentiated layer, much less angular unconformities (where layers of rock poke up at an angle and have horizontal layers of rock laid down atop them), or faunal succession (different suites of fossils in different layers of rocks -- e.g. cetaceans and plesiosaurs in different rock layers, even though you'd certainly expect that the variety of species in each group would have overlapping habitats).

So it is with homologies and analogies among living things. Why should the wings of an insect-eating bird more closely resemble, in pattern, the wings of an ostrich or penguin, or even a condor, than the wings of an insect-eating bat? Evolution (common descent with gradual, opportunistic modification) offers an explanation: the last common ancestor of birds had wings and could fly (some of its descendants lost this ability), while the last common ancestor of birds, pterosaurs, and bats lacked wings and could not fly, and its descendants evolved wings three times independently, modifying tetrapod forelimbs in different ways due to different selective pressures acting on different mutations with different histories. The general fact of similarities is perhaps not evidence (since it does not enable us to distinguish among explanations), but the fine details are.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

As usual, thanks for your comments.

I'm not adverse to the phrase, “Such and such is evidence for my theory” because certain evidence lends itself better to some explanations than others. If I saw skid marks on a road after an accident, I would immediately suspect a car had braked hard rather than believe someone had drawn the skid marks on the road with rubber paint. After an accident I might say, “these skid marks are evidence that the car was trying to stop.” However, somebody with a competing theory might have a different explanation. He might say, “The driver wasn't trying to stop. I think he meant to hit the other car. Those skid marks are from a different accident that happened earlier.” In this case, both theories explain the skid marks. However, they are critical to one theory and incidental to the other.

So it goes with any event we didn't witness. We can look at the world around us and piece together a story that might explain why everything is the way it is. In the end, some things seem better explained by our theories than others and we might say, “this is evidence for my theory” to describe those things we think we've explained well but that still doesn't prevent anyone else from explaining the same evidence with a different theory. Remember, my main point in this post is to rebut the idea that there is NO evidence for creation.

You've also raised a good point by mentioning your experience on jury duty. I heard an analogy once that I thought was great and I've used it a few times myself. Juries aren't staffed only with scientists or lawyers or detectives or similar professionals. They're staffed with people of every experience and background. They are presented by the arguments given by the prosecution and defense (or the plaintiff and defendant) and trusted to use sound judgment to determine what is true. That's sort of what we do in the creation/evolution debate. We don't have to be scientists to determine which theory we believe to be correct. We can listen to the arguments and decide for ourselves.

Finally, concerning the points you've raised about the rock layers and homology, I believe creation offers the better explanations. I'm going to save that for some future posts.

Thanks again. God bless!!


Carvin said...

Rather than rehash things I think it's worth mentioning a large flaw in your argument.

Ultimately, I think this confusion stems from the fact that the way you are using the word evidence is the way common speech would define 'data'. Evidence can favor and in fact literally say something is false. Consider testimony, which is a type of evidence (the validity is sometimes questionable, but 'this person says this' is evidence); it literally says something. So, in other words, your semantics complaint isn't that meaningful.

Equally worthwhile is to mention that it isn't a monopoly on the evidence. If rock layers could support both I don't think anyone would mention it. But they don't. Rock layers contradict the Creationist model. It isn't a monopoly, the evidence is available. Creationist just can't use it because it doesn't help their model.

RKBentley said...


Thanks for your comments.

You said, “Rather than rehash things I think it's worth mentioning a large flaw in your argument.”

Oh. This is exciting. A “large flaw” in my argument would be worth more than “mentioning.” I usually think through my position pretty thoroughly in advance and would be surprised if I published something with a “large flaw.”

You said, “Ultimately, I think this confusion stems from the fact that the way you are using the word evidence is the way common speech would define 'data'.”

That's because “data” and “evidence” are virtually the same thing. One problem I've written about before is the fact that many evolutionists tend to conflate the evidence with their explanation of the evidence as though they are the same thing. I don't think they realize they do this but they certainly do it. Judging from your comments, I suspect you too are a little blind to this practice.

You said, “Evidence can favor and in fact literally say something is false. Consider testimony, which is a type of evidence (the validity is sometimes questionable, but 'this person says this' is evidence); it literally says something. So, in other words, your semantics complaint isn't that meaningful.”

Most evidence can't “literally” say anything. I've sometimes referred to fossils as “dumb rocks” - “dumb” meaning they don't speak. Rocks don't speak so, as a creationist, I have no argument with the rocks; It's what some scientists say about the rocks that I disagree.

But you mentioned testimony. I've brought this point up many time. God, who created the world, gave us His written testimony about how He did it. In my case, I consider that as proof of how it happened yet most people on your side of this issue dismiss that “evidence.” I know there was global flood because we also have a written account of that event. I know about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus because we have written accounts of the ministry of Jesus.

On my blog before, I've written about Marco Polo's eye witness account of a creature whose description strongly matches a bipedal dinosaur. Isn't that “evidence” that dinosaurs might not have become extinct millions of years ago? Do you consider that “scientific evidence”?

So what other testimony might you mean? Is there any eye witness who attests to your model of the universe? Who on your side witnessed the alleged “millions of years” the rock layers were formed? Frankly, I'm surprised you would even mention testimony because all the written documents that we have from antiquity seem to support my position. Unless you're counting scientific papers as “evidence”; in that case, see my point above about conflating evidence with explanations.

You said, “Equally worthwhile is to mention that it isn't a monopoly on the evidence. If rock layers could support both I don't think anyone would mention it. But they don't. Rock layers contradict the Creationist model. It isn't a monopoly, the evidence is available. Creationist just can't use it because it doesn't help their model.”

You obviously are very ignorant of creation material written about the rock layers. Ever heard of Noah's Flood? It's that global catastrophe that formed most of the rock layers and fossils. I'm sure it's been mentioned more than a few times by creationists.

Thanks again for your comments. God bless!!


Carvin said...

Considering the flaw is in your post title, I think it's fair to call it large.

Actually, I did a bit of research and found that data, evidence and reasoning are the pattern of scientific discussion and progress. Data is any and all information, including erroneous information. Evidence is the subset of data that can support a claim; 'can' indicates that erroneous data is not included. Reasoning is the fully constructed, logical inference of a collection of data.

Here you go:

In other words, evidence must say something for it to be evidence. If it doesn't support a claim it is just data.

Anecdotal evidence, like Scripture, does not pass rigor. It has evidence of bias, like all anecdotal evidence. If you want to believe it, that's fine. But it's not science.

Rocks hold quite a bit of data. Sometimes this gives rise to evidence. Like those rocks in Australia that claim (practically say) that the earth has been around for at least 4.5 billion years. Investigation can truly be considered the process of listening to something.

You are welcome to take the same data to build evidence of your own, though I'm unsure how you would do so.

'Marco Polo's writings' can barely be considered data, considering no evidence exists that he was a real person. Considering it comes from the pages of an almost certainly fictional character, it does not strike me as data worth considering.

Also, modern birds are, by definition, dinosaurs.

To be clear, testimony is merely an example. It is useful, sometimes, as legal evidence. I wasn't claiming that testimony was useful in this situation, just that it is evidence that literally says a thing.

I'm aware of the Noah claim on layers. You can make poorly constructed evidence to it, mostly by ignoring most of the data. Noah is a single moment in time. Flood waters for a few hundred days, right? Such an event would create one layer change, not thousands. Again, Steven explains this stuff better than I.

I will admit that at the end I scrambled my definition of evidence, but I'm confident in how to define it now.

RKBentley said...


I'm not sure how to respond to your comments except to say that you're merely repeating many of the common errors I complained about in my post. You seem to be saying, for example, that rocks can't be evidence for a young earth because they're very old. It's like you've claimed dibs on the rocks but they're not "your" evidence. I'm telling you the rocks are young (if you can call something up to 6,000 years old "young"); you're telling me they're old. The rock themselves don't say anything.

God bless!


Carvin said...

The rocks say 'short of a better explanation, I'm 4.5 billion years old'. At best the rock might not contradict YE Creationism, if those rocks dating are completely inaccurate for reasons not yet explained. There is no contradictory indication that there is an error, only evidence that the earth is actually older than that rock.

Consider this. In a court case, a detective testifies that when he executed a search warrant he found a knife with the victim blood and the accused fingerprints in the home of the accused. No one else had the key to this home and there is no evidence of someone breaking in. Now, the defense can claim that this evidence is faulty, that it does not indicate that the accused is guilty is possible. But you can't possibly think that the evidence can support the accused. Unless there is more to the evidence, like, more fingerprints which belong to someone who could have framed the accused.

RKBentley said...


Once again, the rocks don't “say” anything.

And there are legitimate reasons to be suspicious of radiometric dating. For one thing, it has been shown that it cannot correctly date rocks of known age. In other words, we can take a rock formed at an event like the eruption of Mt St Helen's, date it via radiometric dating, and see that the tests will yield an age older than the known age. So if the test cannot yield the correct age of a rock who's age we know, how can it be trusted to date rocks who's ages we don't know?

To your analogy about the knife: it is the job of the defense to explain why the bloody knife was found in his home. That is, they must offer a competing theory to explain the evidence.

I don't know why you find this concept so hard. Theories have to explain the evidence. You can say your theory is the better explanation but you don't have a monopoly on the evidence. You and I both have to explain things like how the rock layers therefore, the rock layers aren't evidence for your theory only.

God bless!!


Carvin said...

Interesting that you start off with something debunked. I'm sure you can find it if you were interested in learning a factual account of the bogus readings from Mt. St. Helens, but since I doubt you are, I'll give it to in summation. There were many errors in the dating process used.

1) K-Ar dating is meant for dating things older than 2 million years. Attempting to date things younger than that is going to have inaccuracies. It's like trying to measure a feather on a scale meant to weight humans. It's unlikely to get an accurate result. If you measure the feather with a small postage scale, you are likely to get something very close.

2) The lab that did this study clearly stated on their website that they could not measure K-Ar samples for rocks younger than 2 million years accurately.

3) Four out of the five material samples tested gave dates well below the minimum threshold for results. In other words, the scale says it's accurate for things between 50 and 200 pounds; with this sort of test, when you get 12, 35, 19 and 32, you can know that just means 'It's under 50'.

4) Even with the author of the bogus study's admission at points, he and his team did a poor job of properly separating the rocks to be examined from contaminate materials. Most likely the one sample within the range the test was designed for it was something not of the volcano.

5) This has not been repeated. This has not been put to the test of academic rigor. This was just a desperate attempt to give people who are unaware something to say when rocks say something that contradicts YE Creationism.

In short, it was hoax. The researcher may have believed his own hoax, but it's a hoax none the less.


You are clearly misunderstanding what I'm telling you about the word Evidence. Evidence supports a claim. It may be metaphorical, but it also right to say that support is speaking. I mean, if you are willing to ignore what words mean for the sake of argument, I find it no surprise that scientific evidence can so easily be disregarded.

As for competing theory, there is no competing theory. Or if they are competing, it is like a gymnast competing with with an infant to see who can do the most somersaults in a row. A result from a rock may say it is 4.5 billion years old, and actually be 4.3 or even 5.8 billion years old, but short of magic it is not under even one hundred thousand.

RKBentley said...


“Debunked”? Hardly! Of course I've read these objections and there are glaring problems with them. Have you even stopped to think about what you're saying. Let me ask you this: why do you think many radiometric dating methods aren't appropriate for dating young rocks? Do you know? I'll tell you – it's because if the rock is too young there should not be enough of the daughter element present to yield any result. The lab didn't return the samples saying they couldn't be dated. Neither did they yield a result like, “100,000 years +/- 2,000,000 years.” The tests were able to yield dates AND THE DATES WERE WRONG.

By the way, if K-Ar dating (as well as many other methods) cannot date rocks younger than millions of years old, then by your own admission radiometric testing cannot be used to conclusively disprove the earth being only 6,000 years old.

There are a few other errors in your response: Dr. Austin asserts that the samples were collected according to acceptable standards of geology. Also, similar tests have been done on other sites where rocks of known ages yield dates of millions of years.

Finally, there is a bias built into secular science that blinds them to an important detail. Notice how you said, “The lab that did this study clearly stated on their website that they could not measure K-Ar samples for rocks younger than 2 million years accurately.” It's mildly hilarious that secular scientists must already believe the sample is millions of years old before they can have its age tested but besides that, wouldn't such a requirement prevent secular scientists from even attempting similar experiments as Dr. Austin has?

The bottom line is this: if a dating method yields a date of millions of years for a rock known to be only a few decades old, how much confidence should I have in the date assigned to a rock of unknown origin?

God bless!!