Freedom from debate deadlock
How to assess arguments and make better ones
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?
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?