googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: The Funny Thing about Facts

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Funny Thing about Facts

Contrary to the popular expression, facts don’t speak for themselves. Facts must be interpreted. Our conclusions about the facts also turn on what starting assumptions we use when interpreting the facts.

It’s been often said that the “evidence” supports evolution and there is no “evidence” for creation. The fact of the matter is that both theories have the same evidence. We all live in the same world and so have the same fossils, the same rocks, the same stars, the same molecules, and the same everything else. The evidence doesn’t necessarily support either theory; rather, either theory is an attempt to explain the evidence.

Consider a geological feature like the Grand Canyon. How was the canyon formed? According to secular theories, the canyon layers were laid down over a period of some two billion years and the canyon was later carved out by the Colorado River and other tributaries. Creationists believe that most of the layers in the Grand Canyon were laid down rapidly and the canyon carved out rapidly and catastrophically during the events surrounding the Noachian Flood. Both theories are using the same evidence yet each tries to explain the evidence in a different way.

Now, good theories should be predictive. If the creationist theory concerning the creation of the canyon is true, we might expect to find signs of rapid depositing of sedimentary layers. Do we find any “evidence” consistent with that prediction? Yes! The photo to the right shows strata that is tightly bent or folded. Such a find is inconsistent with long age interpretations because solid rock is not easily bent without breaking or cracking. However, soft layers of mud can be bent by rapid upheaval without breaking or cracking. So the creationist theory better explains this evidence than the long age theory.

Speaking of predictions, Darwin made some predictions he hoped would validate his own theory. Read his own words (from 2 different chapters of The Origin of Species):
“But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?...

“But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.”
Darwin predicted that, if his theory were true, that the geological record would be overflowing with fossils of “intermediate varieties” of species. During his lifetime, paleontology was a blossoming discipline and he was confident that future finds would confirm his prediction. Yet 150 years later, only a handful of debatable transitional fossils have been found – not the countless numbers he expected.

So, is this lack of “evidence” damaging to Darwin’s theory? Not in the least. The late, Stephen Jay Gould, a champion of evolutionary theory, was frank about the nonexistence of gradualism in the fossil record. In a 1972 paper, along with Niles Eldredge, Gould, proposed an evolutionary theory known as punctuated equilibrium. According to Gould, evolution occurs first in a very small group of individual organisms isolated from the larger, parental population. The smaller group rapidly evolves while the larger group remains static. Since the large group leaves the most fossils, and the smaller group very few, it easily explains the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record. How convenient that Gould would suggest a way to explain the LACK of evidence for his theory.

Since any theory is an attempt to explain the evidence, it is no wonder then that the evidence will seem to support the theory. Evolutionists may be wrong but I don’t think they are idiots so of course the evidence is consistent with their explanation. But even a theory that seems to explain the evidence very well can still be wrong. Fellow creationist, Todd Wood, said on his blog:

“In the history of science, there are often times when interpretation of data are uncertain, and a person could justifiably claim that there was evidence for two mutually exclusive theories. The obvious example would be Copernican vs. Ptolemaic astronomy. Copernicus' trick of switching the sun and earth's location helped explain some observations (like why Mercury and Venus were always observed very close to the sun), but his retaining circular orbits and epicycles did not make his model simpler or more accurate than the Ptolemaic. Furthermore, the Ptolemaic model had on its side the everyday observation of the sun's motion across the sky. Galileo did little to resolve this dispute, and Kepler's proposal of elliptical orbits was not universally accepted. It was not until Newton that the Copernican system (actually a heavily modified version of the Copernican system) really triumphed.

Today, we have no doubt that the earth rotates and moves around the sun, but would it then be fair to say that there's "no evidence for the Ptolemaic system?"”

The Ptolemaic Model endured from the Greeks until Galileo. It seemed to explain the “evidence” very well but it was very wrong notwithstanding. It could still be said that there is “evidence” for the Ptolemaic system, but the heliocentric model is a better explanation of the evidence.

So we have competing theories about things like the origin of the universe, the world, and of humans. Both models have the same evidence available to support their theories. The question falls to us – which is the better explanation of the two? More directly, which one do we believe is the correct explanation?

I think everyone knows where I stand.


Steven J. said...

Darwin did not, in fact, predict that the fossil record would be overflowing with intermediate species ... although the quoted passage refers to the absence of intermediates between species. Now, in my experience, most young-earth creationists accept speciation within "created kinds" or baramins: they accept, e.g. that a common ancestral pantherine could give rise to both lions (P. leo) and tigers (P. tigris). But there is very little fossil evidence of these sorts of fine-grained transitions; that is what punctuated equilibrium was invoked to explain -- not the absence of intermediates between, e.g. reptiles and mammals, or reptiles and birds (examples of both exist in abundance), but the absence of intermediates between lions and tigers or horses and zebras.

Darwin, for his part, explained the paucity both of such interspecies transitions and larger-scale intermediates in terms of the "extreme imperfection of the fossil record." Fossilization itself is extremely rare (the overwhelming majority of individuals do not become fossils, and quite possible the majority of species leave not a single trace in the fossil record), and fossils, once formed, may be buried under miles of later sediments (and hence practically undiscoverable), or exposed on the surface and eroded away before they are noticed, or simply never looked for (only a tiny fraction of the fossils thought to actually exist have been uncovered and described).

I think that the idea that the Grand Canyon was carved out within months after the layers were laid down is problematic: water cutting through stacked layers of, basically, wet mud and quicksand is not conducive to near-vertical walls.

RKBentley said...


Thanks for visiting my blog.

To be clear, I didn’t quite say, or mean to say, that Darwin predicted “intermediate varieties between species.” The quote of Darwin is clear. He believed that if his theory were true, there should be “innumerable transitional forms” in the fossil record. You may parse that however you’d like. He wondered why “every geological formation and every stratum [was not] full of such intermediate links.”

Of course, he proposed why they weren’t found in abundance and you have offered further reasons. However, I stand by my assertion that you are merely attempting to explain why there is a lack of fossil evidence for your theory. In his day, he still predicted many such fossils would eventually be found. From your statements, you seem resigned to the reality that an abundance of such fossils will not be forth coming.

As to your comments on the Canyon, it’s very possible that the Canyon was carved after the sediment was somewhat hardened. There’s no reason we must insist that it was carved while the mud was still soft. Even so, within my own lifetime we have observed the eruption of Mt. St. Helens where rock walls many feet tall were laid down (full of fine layers) then carved out in a matter of days. It is not difficult to imagine similar forces at work - though on a much larger scale - to carve the Grand Canyon in a short time.

By the way, I did notice that you did not address how your theory might explain how rock strata can become so tightly bent without breaking.

Thank you for your thoughtful and civil comments. Please come back often.

God bless!!