Feedback archive → Feedback 2016
Ica stones, Acambaro figurines, and good arguments
Today’s feedback comes from Ross C. from the United Kingdom, who asks why we don’t cite certain controversial finds (such as the Ica stones and the Acambaro figurines) as powerful evidence against the evolutionary timescale. CMI’s Shaun Doyle points out some of the problems with using them in arguments for biblical creation, even if they are genuine.
I’ve recently been reading a lot about evidences for Dinosaurs and humans coexisting, and find the evidence compelling, however I was slightly disheartened that CMI reported that the Ica stones are hoaxes. I have done some further research and some very credible ministries—such as Apologetics press—have defended the authenticity of some of the Ica stones (not all) and also the Julstrud collection. Firstly, what is CMI’s position on the Julstrud collection as I could not find a clear statement in your articles? And secondly, do CMI believe the Ica stones are certainly hoaxes, or are CMI just maintaining a healthy skepticism towards them and an open mind to the possibility of their authenticity? I very much enjoy your articles on dragons and dinosaurs and hope to see more in the future.
CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:
These finds are controversial, with considerable understandable skepticism regarding their significance. Apologetics isn’t just about finding an argument that is valid and true, but it must also be plausible in the context in which we present it. Let’s formalize the argument:
- If the Ica stones/Acambaro figurines predate modern paleontology, the evolutionary timescale is false.
- The Ica stones/Acambaro figurines predate modern paleontology.
- Therefore, the evolutionary timescale is false.
This is a logically valid argument, and let’s say it’s also sound; i.e. the premises are true. Does this alone make the argument convincing? Not necessarily. The premises may be true, but not well supported with evidence, or there might be counter evidence that’s hard to explain, or acceptance of the premise may require the rejection of a deeply intuitive bias. In the case of both the Ica stones and the Acambaro figurines, at least the first two apply—the stories rely heavily on anecdotal evidence, and there is some uncomfortable counter evidence in both cases (numerous known cases of fraud and secrecy with the Ica stones, and reasonably powerful circumstantial evidence of fraud for the Acambaro figurines). Have I thereby disproved conclusively the Ica stones and Acambaro figurines? No. But I have warrant to be suspicious about them, and that’s not a good basis to make a convincing argument from.
The proponents of these finds know they’re unlikely to get an audience in the secular literature, but there is always the creationist literature. Why don’t they submit their studies to peer-reviewed creationist publications, such as the Journal of Creation? Creationists don’t have the ingrained perspectival bias against these finds that evolutionists do, but neither will they just accept these finds at face value; we want to see the evidence. It’s as likely place as any that they will find a fair hearing. But until they submit their finds to get a fair hearing from their peers, the rest of us have reason to be suspicious about these finds.
Compare this to a convincing argument for biblical creation, such as soft tissue in dinosaur bones. It was an inconvenient fact for evolution discovered and popularized by long-agers, has survived considerable skeptical scrutiny to convince the majority of long-age researchers, and now the long-agers are struggling to explain how it could be accommodated within their own timeframe. Clearly we have a much more confident place from which to argue in this area; most long-agers agree with us on the facts of the case. It’s the straightforward implication/interpretation that these bones must be much younger than 65 million years old that they struggle with.
Here’s the main point—we should make sure our arguments are not only valid and sound, but also convincing; i.e. that we have solid warrant for the premises of our arguments.
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