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Feedback archiveFeedback 2018

Freedom from debate deadlock

How to assess arguments and make better ones

Published: 28 April 2018 (GMT+10)

In today’s feedback, we address the concern that it is too difficult to tell who is right in the origins controversy, given that both creationists and evolutionists seem confident in their claims. Keaton Halley of CMI–US offers advice. 

Hi, I need some help. I hear so many creationists and atheists make bold, confident claims that are totally opposed to one another. For example, I hear creationists say boldly that the fossil record shows no evidence of transitional species. I then watch Richard Dawkins show a cute little graph showing transitional species. Or take carbon dating. Creationists show examples of it being faulty and unreliable. Evolutionists then claim boldly that its totally reliable. There are so many other examples but I'm sure you get my point. The thing is, someone is lying. Or they are deluded. My question is, how in the world can I be sure who is on the side of truth?

Thank you,
Michael B.

Hi Michael,

Don’t despair about figuring out who is right, as though it were impossible to do so. We all have a responsibility to evaluate arguments, paying attention to the worldview presuppositions people bring to the debate. We’ve already written much on how to assess arguments and deal with doubts. For example, see: Faith and facts, Confident Christianity, Fragile faith, Dealing with doubt, The ‘knockout punch’ syndrome, and Refuting Evolution chapter 1.

The evidence for the truth about God is clear enough for anyone who wants to find it, because God has revealed Himself to all, as the Bible says. Indeed, people are without excuse if they don’t believe in the true God of Scripture (Romans 1:19–20). So I’d encourage you to look beneath the surface a little more, and to follow the links above. Also, listen carefully to what is actually being said and examine the reasons each side has for their claims. I say this because our arguments are actually quite a bit more careful and nuanced than the examples you give of how creationists supposedly argue.

For example, we actually advise against making the universal assertion that there are no transitional forms on our bad arguments page. We do this for the very reason you cite—it would leave our case vulnerable to evolutionists asserting the opposite by simply pointing to fossils like Rodhocetus or Tiktaalik. So, instead, we advise creationists to say that there are only a handful of disputable examples, despite the fact that evolutionary theory would naturally lead one to expect “innumerable” transitional forms, as Darwin said. Then, if you’re concerned about a particular example, look at what we’ve written about those fossils, like the two linked above.

Also, the term “transitional form” is somewhat ambiguous, so when necessary we would clarify that mosaic creatures don’t count. Furthermore, even with many organisms that are allegedly morphologically intermediate, their genes tell a different story or their dates are out of the evolutionary sequence, or both. If you want to read more on this topic, I recommend Dr Sarfati’s book, The Greatest Hoax on Earth?

Likewise, we do not completely dismiss carbon dating as unreliable. Rather, we show that all dating methods are based on assumptions, and that prior commitments can trump radiometric dates in practice. Plus, we show that carbon dating is actually the enemy of billions of years because it reliably (!) conflicts with older radiometric dates.

Now, you are indeed correct that some people are deluded regarding these issues. But the Bible says that people in general “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). The Bible also tells us that this is a spiritual battle involving sin and self-deception:

“ … wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10–12)

If your heart is in the right place and you are willing to submit to God, and you honestly look into the case for creation, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble seeing the truth. But we are here to help with any specific challenges that you find difficult as well, so I encourage you to become more familiar with our materials. You might start with the introductory article: Created or evolved?

Keaton Halley

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Dean R.
To be honest I really had a dislike of science in high school. It really was a massive jigsaw puzzle and from memory presented evolution as fact. I still dislike the science scene because of the way it can be manipulated as it is in the media. I got into the origins debate because of my children who were only being given one side of the story (without its many failings and holes). What used to look like pretty similar roads from a distance on a map look entirely different up close and they do take you in different directions. One matches the Bible and has many supporting facts. Evolution on the other hand has become more like a religion and seems to be built on some dubious limited examples and consensus has replaced science.

Some reasons it is hard is because both sides are not being taught because science is political and philosophical and favours a bias which muddies the water. The other is the way the media saturate the evolutionary story, big bang, etc.There really is great opposition to biblical truth, an operant conditioning with punishment attached it would deem. If you really care about it (as CMI does) then persevere and enjoy the rewarding discoveries that support a young earth filled with design and decay.
Clifford R.
Pleasant delivery. Keaton’s articles are always delivered w a clear heart. Apologetics through CMI w the heart expressed through Rob Carter & Keaton. Blessings to you.
Mark Z.
Concerning truth John 3:11 says "Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen". The shepherd of falsehood shepherds the people to behave contrary to the truth. For example, giving false testimony. Where people make beliefs truth rather than saying I don't know. Using the judge for dealing truthfully, John 3:11, you can recognize their teaching is the way of falsehood.
Dan M.
The first thing we must understand is that the debate is not over the evidence or science vs. religion but over opposing world views. If you don’t want there to be a God ruling over you and all creation, you’re going to resist that world view out of self-desire. If you are open to the possibility that the scriptures are true and from God, He will show Himself to you as He has showed me and others.
It is exciting to see how the bible explains the world we see rationally and truthfully. Once you give it a chance you begin to see the truth in the scriptures explaining our fallen world and then God will give you His peace which surpasses all understanding Php 4:7, knowing the scriptures are reliable and from Him and therefore the resurrection also.
God forgive me for doubting you in the past. I was deceived by the cares and riches of this world. Mat 13:22, Mar 4:19
Mark G.
Great response to an honest question! Speaking with confidence has led many astray. It is not enough to be confident, one must also be right. We often have no choice but to study and this site has lots to offer, or else we must reserve judgment on any issue that appears confusing.

There is one exception and that is God's word. We don't require science to back it up before we put faith in it. It is true because Jesus said "Thy word is truth". What we would require is overwhelming evidence that God's word is false, not a few scattered claims. How do we know Jesus can be trusted? The Father raised Him from the dead as the spotless Lamb of God, worthy to exchange His spotless blood for our sins and worthy to open the scroll in the book of Revelation. Jesus us not sinful, deceived, ignorant, fallen nor is He a liar. That is why His precious blood was enough to save us all. the proof of His spotless life is the New Covenant in His blood. Our own salvation is the proof that He is the spotless Lamb of God, without sin and without error.

As a follower of Christ, I would believe Jesus, the great I AM over atheist Richard Dawkins any day. So should you.
Will the person walking in self-deception please stand up! It is not Jesus. He is seated at the right hand of God.
You can believe Him. I know, I trust Him with my life now and for eternity.

How about you? If you trust Jesus, give Him the benefit of the doubt for saying that God's word is truth.

Keep up the good work.
Grahame G.
This is an important issue that has been exercising my thoughts for a few months. Romans 1:18 is an excellent verse in considering this.

Further to that we have John 3:19-21 and 2 Cor 4:4. These all teach us that those who have rejected the truth cannot see the truth.

And deeper than that I would turn to Prov 1:7 and 9:10 and show that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. If someone does not fear God, then nothing they say is to be trusted. If someone who does not fear God claims something and it is in opposition to what those who fear God claim, then one can be almost completely assured that what the former claims is not true.

This is not perfect, because we are not perfect, but it is a very good rule of thumb and helps cut through a lot of the smoke and mirrors set up by the Deceiver.

And it applies to us as well, the more we fear God, the more clearly we can see. Understanding this has made things so much simpler for me and I hope it helps others as well.

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