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Is there any evidence for evolution?
“There is no evidence for evolution!” This is a common catch-cry among some creationists. Is it true? It depends on what we mean by ‘evidence’. On the one hand, evolution is false. On the other, there is data consistent with evolution. But how can we integrate those two notions into a coherent case for creation? Kees M. from the Netherlands writes in (his original comments were in Dutch, but have been translated into English), and CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds.
Compared to the theory of evolution and creationism, I always come across the question whether people who reject the theory of evolution can be scientific.
I also keep seeing arguments why creationists (‘also’) give good (scientific) answers to the origin of the earth.
I think it is more useful (and easier) to also qualify the theory of evolution as pseudoscience.
I have often dealt with this subject. Not wanting to state things that aren’t true, I went in search of the proven scientific facts that the theory has at its disposal. There are none!!!! They have nothing more than Muller’s research from 1953. They don’t (even) know how proteins are formed, let alone how that happened with living cells.
Let them prove that it is rational to believe that everything came from nothing.
[Link deleted as per feedback rules—Ed.]
CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:
Thanks for writing in.
I don’t think we want to go so far as to say evolution is ‘pseudoscience’. If an evolutionist says that creation is pseudoscience, we can perhaps retort that evolution shares many characteristics in common with ‘pseudoscience’ (Is evolution pseudoscience?). But opening with a charge that evolution is pseudoscience is unlikely to be helpful.
Besides, in their broadest senses, I doubt that either creation or evolution are scientifically falsifiable. Does that mean both are pseudoscience? I think that’s a category mistake. Rather, I’d say they are both metascientific assumptions about the history of life. I say ‘metascientific’ because they both go beyond science, but not quite to the point of metaphysics which addresses what reality really is.
After all, there are several different worldviews that are consistent with naturalistic evolution. What binds them together is the assumption of methodological naturalism: i.e. that we should explain phenomena in nature by natural causes. ‘Evolution’ in the broadest sense just is the application of methodological naturalism to the history of life.
Now, many will say that the commitment to methodological naturalism is what distinguishes evolution as ‘science’ from creation as ‘religion’ (or ‘pseudoscience’ if they’re trying to make us look silly). However, evolution is often justified by theological arguments: i.e. ‘God wouldn’t make patterns of similarity look like natural causes suffice to explain them, therefore evolution did it.’ These theological arguments are bad, but they are still theological and thus go beyond what science can itself tell us. Thus, evolution is ‘metascientific’ and not strictly speaking ‘scientific’ in the sense of ‘speaking only about the natural world’.
But what about data and evidence in relation to creation and evolution? Well, one of the curious features of identifying both as metascientific theses about history is that it becomes practically impossible to falsify either scientifically. But if that’s true, then all the data we have can in some sense be ‘fit’ within either view. So yes, that means evolutionists can trot out data that’s consistent with their view. We shouldn’t be surprised at this.
However, just because all the data can be made to fit either view doesn’t mean it fits each view equally neatly. Indeed, I would say that the broad thrust of evidence in biology fits better in some sort of ‘design’ framework than an evolutionary framework, some of that evidence fits best in a young-age design framework, and crucial parts of that evidence are highly improbable given a purely naturalistic approach to the history of biology (The scientific case against evolution). I also think those crucial parts of the evidence will remain implausible on any naturalistic account of biology (I think mostly of abiogenesis, but there are certain aspects beyond abiogenesis that would fit into that category as well). Still, I would also say that some of the data we have is difficult to explain in any design framework, and perhaps a greater subset is difficult to explain in a young-age design framework. That doesn’t mean it can’t be explained by biblical creation, but only that we currently struggle to explain it. This shouldn’t surprise us either; it just means there’s still a lot we don’t understand (Unsolved mysteries).
What’s my point in all this? That the science of evolution isn’t a good reason to revise one’s beliefs away from biblical creation. Even if my assessment of the empirical evidence is skewed in the direction of the worldview I prefer, it doesn’t change the fact that the data evolutionists cite to justify their theory seriously underdetermines their evolutionary ideas. In other words, the scientific data by itself isn’t enough to justify belief in evolution to the exclusion of design. Indeed, much of the data is fruitfully consistent with design. More importantly, there are reasons to believe in design over evolution beyond science, like the Bible, theology, and philosophy. The scientific data supposedly in favour of evolution isn’t clear enough to refute such matters.
At any rate, be careful about calling evolution ‘pseudoscience’. It’s a rhetorical ploy that isn’t likely to work very well outside of people already convinced that evolution is false. Better to go with the more standard ‘same data, different interpretations’ line we typically suggest people use in the origins debate.
Creation Ministries International
Kees M. responded:
It took me a while to have time to respond to you.
The mistake many Christians make is that they think secular evolution scientists are listening to our arguments. They do not!
In practice, only Christians start to question their belief in creation because they think that the theory of evolution is science and creationism is not. Very rarely do atheists dare to face the implausibility of their theory and accept the consequences. If they see that things are not right, they think the future will explain how things are. They’ve been thinking that for 162 years.
We must not try to placate them, we must save our children.
Many young people succumb to the idea that the theory of evolution is scientifically substantiated. It is not!!!!!!
The theory of evolution has no (!!!!) scientific basis. Our children but also our brothers and sisters should know this. They must understand that they do not have to succumb to the so-called scientific arguments of the theory of evolution, because there are none!!!!!
Our fellow believers usually only know the beautiful 3D images of national geographics, but do not know that the theory does not even have an explanation for the origin of a single protein.
The big bang and the gravity model explain almost nothing. Dating method rattle on all sides. Everything evolutionists say is easy to refute.
We should not try to spare their scientific feelings in conversation with them. They also see and call us a pseudoscience. Evolutionists also need the truth of Christ.
We have to save the church from those lies. The entire evangelical movement is about to succumb to that theory with all its disastrous theological consequences. We should not tackle the theory with velvet gloves. We have to refute them at the base. Not with all kinds of unwinnable academic discussions about animal species.
The theory of evolution can only proceed with their research if they can explain how a single protein and a single cell originated. They have no idea and hardly anyone knows.
CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:
Thanks for your response.
You’re correct; secularists don’t often listen to our arguments. Why? You’re right again that it crucially has to do with the notion that ‘evolution is science and creation is not’. And that is a big reason why many people in the church leave it.
But what exactly is the main problem, here? Is it that they fail to see that ‘true science points to creation rather than evolution’? That may be a problem, but it’s not the main problem. The main problem is found in how people think science is the standard by which we judge whether something is rational to believe. On this, please see Scientism and secularism … and Scripture?
‘There’s no evidence for evolution’?
Anyway, what about saying ‘there’s no evidence for evolution’? It sounds foolish to the ear of most biologists. Why? Think about how it sounds to your ears when a skeptic says, ‘there’s no evidence for God’. It sounds absurd, right? It should. There are plenty of facts about the world that are consistent with God’s existence. Indeed, there are several features that are best explained by the existence and activity of God (Philosophical arguments for God).
OK, but that’s very similar to what most biologists hear when someone says, ‘there’s no evidence for evolution’. After all, are there facts of biology that are consistent with evolution? Of course there are! Mutations happen. Children differ from parents. Some members of a population have traits that make them better suited to survive and reproduce than other members of the population (natural selection happens). All of these facts are consistent with microbes-to-man evolution.
And here’s another thing: there are some things that, at least superficially, seem like evolution is the best explanation for. Really? Think about this: why are rats and rabbits more similar to each other than either are to rattlesnakes? What’s the creation/biblical answer to that? I’m not sure there is an easily accessible answer. Do we need one? Maybe. Maybe not. But here’s the challenge we face: there is an easy answer for the evolutionist—rats and rabbits are closer kin than either are to rattlesnakes. All three reproduce sexually. The offspring of all three differ from the parents (and siblings) to some extent. If those two things hold true over a long enough timespan, doesn’t it at least seem plausible on a first look that these principles might suffice to explain why rabbits and rats are more similar to each other than either are to rattlesnakes? This is at the heart of what makes evolution such a compelling theory to so many. It draws on things we know to be true—animals reproduce sexually and their offspring differ from their parents (and each other). It also appears to be a simple and elegant explanation—it doesn’t invoke anything beyond nature to explain the situation, and it seems to explain so many things that otherwise seem to be without an explanation beyond ‘God can do what He wants’.
‘But can evolution bridge the gaps between rats, rabbits, and rattlesnakes?’ This is the same sort of issue as: ‘Can evolution create a single protein?’ And they’re really good questions. They hit evolution where it’s weakest as an explanation: causal adequacy. Explaining all the diversity of life solely through natural causes is absurdly improbable; genomes almost certainly decay rather than self-complexify—this is a powerful scientific argument against evolution (see Can mutations create new information?, A successful decade for Mendel’s Accountant, Genetic entropy: The silent killer, and especially our resource Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels).
Nevertheless, methodological naturalism really stops evolutionists from worrying about these sorts of questions very much. They assume that natural causes will always suffice to explain events in nature (especially prehistorical ones). They regard this as a ‘rule of the game’ for science—they “cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door” (Amazing admission). So, they assume that evolution, or some other naturalistic cause, is inevitably true. Unless you can undermine that assumption in their eyes, they’re very unlikely to consider what we have to say about the science. Indeed, since they regard methodological naturalism as essential to science, they won’t even regard your objections to evolution or your belief in design as worthy to be called ‘science’. As such, I don’t think a ‘brute force’ approach with just the science is likely to work very often (The ‘knockout punch’ syndrome).
Is science the best way to judge the truth of biblical creation?
I think we can create a context in which the science can have more force. How? Question whether science is the only, or even best, judge for whether believing in creation is rational. This may sound weird—how can science be a more effective tool for undermining evolution if we downplay its importance for knowledge?
Well, how do most people know that biblical creation is true? The science proves it? No. The Bible teaches it. The Bible is true in all that it affirms, and it affirms things that contradict the ‘billions of years’ evolutionary framework of history mainstream academia promotes. That implies the ‘billions of years’ history is false, and evolution along with it.
Why believe the Bible? Science? Again, no. One good reason to believe the Bible is that Jesus did (Jesus Christ on the infallibility of Scripture). And why believe in Jesus? The historical evidence we have for His resurrection is compelling. He interpreted His resurrection as a vindication of His teaching and claims. This is consistent with the existence of God (Argument from miracles: Jesus’ resurrection).
What does science have to say about the existence of God or Jesus’ resurrection? Well, God isn’t scientifically detectible, being independent of and prior to the physical world. Jesus’ resurrection seems to defy what we know through science; i.e. dead people stay dead. So, is science going to predispose us to believe in God and Christ? The prospects don’t look good.
Do you see how this raises problems only if we regard science as the judge of rationality? If there are other reliable ways of knowing, then science isn’t the judge of rationality. Indeed, is it even coherent to regard science as the sole judge of rationality? Think about this statement: ‘science is the only way to know things’. Can we know that statement through science? No! So, the statement refutes itself—science can’t show us that science is the only way to know anything. That means the idea is necessarily false—it can’t be true.
Further, science isn’t always the best way to know things. For instance, which method of knowing is more reliable for identifying what you’re thinking at any given moment—science or introspection? Clearly the latter, right? Or, how about this: which method of knowing is more reliable for recognising that torturing babies just for fun is morally wrong—science or moral experience? Clearly the latter (Why believe in objective morals?). Indeed, science can’t tell us whether it’s right or wrong to torture babies just for fun. Sure, it can tell us whether it’s beneficial to the baby or not. But that tells us nothing about whether it’s right or wrong. After all, from a scientific standpoint it’s clearly not very beneficial to me to sacrifice my life for someone I don’t know. But, in certain situations, it might be a morally good thing to do.
Indeed, how do you know when you were born? Science can’t tell you (at least, not to the level of precision we need to celebrate birthdays). For most people, it boils down to trusting their parents’ testimony, which is based on their memory faculties. Even if we cite a birth certificate, that is simply an official record of their remembrance (and perhaps also that of the person who delivered you). The funny thing is that it’s a very close parallel for how we approach Scripture—it’s God’s testimony.
Once we open up knowledge to more things than just science—e.g. philosophy, theology, history, introspection, reflective perception (e.g. simply reflecting on the notion of torturing babies just for fun is enough for most people to know clearly that such an action is morally wrong)—then we can justify Christian belief quite effectively, and biblical creation on that basis (Evidence for young-earth creationism). And once we have that in place, we have a well-reasoned framework through which to view the scientific data.
Put in this way, the issue is no longer about the science. We don’t need science to know or show that biblical creation is true. Rather, we view the physical data through biblical lenses because there’s good reason to believe the biblical lenses are reliable apart from science.
Now, can science still provide support or challenges to biblical creation? Yes. And when it comes to evolution, the more we uncover about the amazing complexity of life, the harder it becomes to explain life’s origin and diversity solely through natural causes. But these issues will only ever tend in one direction or another, and never to the point that scientific issues will dominate our understanding of biblical creation or overwhelm rational belief in biblical creation. We can’t definitively prove biblical creation with science, but neither can we falsify biblical creation with science. Now, we can still point out where science gels well with our perspective. There are plenty of places where it does! Biology is amazingly consistent with biblical creation, but evolution is wildly implausible as a causally adequate mechanism for explaining life’s origin and all its diversity (Is evolution true?). So, it can still help people come to a belief in biblical creation. But knowing that scientific challenges can’t falsify biblical creation gives us a much better standpoint from which to deal with such scientific challenges. Since we don’t need science to justify biblical creation, we don’t need to worry when science presents us with challenges. Instead, we can patiently explore ways to integrate the challenging data into a biblical framework, trusting God that there is an answer.
This is much better than relying on a few ‘scientific facts’ cherry-picked in support of our view. After all, evolutionists can do that for their view, too. That doesn’t mean their view is true! But what happens if we use this method, but some of our ‘facts’ fail? Our case for biblical creation falls, and likely so does our confidence in biblical creation (Swaying in the breeze).
Nature is messy, and we’re bound to come across things that are hard for us to explain. But we don’t just abandon a framework because we come across an anomaly. Instead, we look for ways to integrate it into our framework. And given that an omnipotent God acting in this world is crucial at certain key points of the biblical framework, it’s not hard to see how science is never going to definitively falsify the Bible. We can trust that same God that there is an answer, even if we don’t know what it is.
Creation Ministries International
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