The ‘knockout punch’ syndrome
Why creationists are sometimes too quick to embrace the latest apparent ‘evidence’ for biblical creation.
Posted on homepage: 1 July 2013 (GMT+10)
People often tell us excitedly how ‘the lights came on’ for them after being exposed to a creation message for the first time. Many become passionate ‘creation evangelists’ in their fervour to share the very same type of information that changed their own lives.
But sometimes they find it tough going. It often means answering question after question to remove the stumbling blocks that have built up in people’s minds over the years. Thus, many Christians mistakenly presume there must be a better way to reach larger numbers of people in one fell swoop.
This leads to a phenomenon I call ‘Looking for the knockout punch’. In boxing parlance, it refers to a single ‘winning blow’ that will take down the opposition in one attempt. Similarly, many Bible-believers are eager to find some startling piece of evidence as ‘ultimate proof’ of biblical creation. Of course, we’d love nothing more than to be able to reach millions with such a ‘knockout blow’. For one thing, it would certainly make our job a lot easier. But, in terms of evangelism, this is not really likely. People rarely get converted on the very first occasion they are witnessed to anyway. Moreover, I don’t recall an example where a single brilliant evidence has led to mass conversions.
Sometimes such well-meaning individuals ask why we don’t use (or why we even recommend against) a particular exciting-sounding argument or creation evidence. Some even get angry and tell us, “Stop it! At this rate, we’ll have nothing left. The evolutionists have all the evidence.” It’s an understandable reaction if someone has been using a favourite argument for many years. However, wisdom is needed, particularly if the argument is not sustainable. It might simply not be the knockout punch we expect it to be.
Let’s have a brief look at some ‘knockout’ evidences still doing the rounds. (See references at the end for more information, also our major article, ‘Arguments we think creationists should NOT use’, at creation.com/dontuse—regularly updated as new information comes to light.)
After these examples, I will then fully explain why any ‘evidence’ on its own does not have the potency we think it does.
Human and dinosaur footprints in the same rock layers in the Paluxy River at Glen Rose, Texas.1 No major creationist organisation accepts the validity of these claims. That should cause one to stop and think, because many of these organizations, like us, have multiple scientists peer-reviewing such claims as per the scriptural admonition of seeking safety in a multitude of counsellors (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6). But why hang your hat on this one, when there is already substantiated evidence of a recent existence for dinosaurs, such as soft tissue found in T. rex fossils that are supposed to be millions of years old (see creation.com/schweit2)? And what about the depictions of dinosaurs (see p. 14, this issue) on Bishop Bell’s tomb in the UK? He was buried in AD 1496 long before books showing their reconstruction from fossils existed.
In 1977 a Japanese fishing trawler netted a carcass of a supposedly extinct aquatic ‘dinosaur’ known as a plesiosaur. This was a claim that CMI once used, but a research article in our Journal of Creation definitively showed that this was the rotting remains of a basking shark.2 The original Japanese descriptions of the skeletal remains were cartilage, like sharks have, not bone like plesiosaurs. There have been several other plesiosaur-like carcasses washed ashore that have been identified as decomposed sharks, including by DNA. Why use an easily discredited claim when there are lots of ‘living fossils’ that are not in dispute? For example, coelacanth fish were thought to have died out along with dinosaurs millions of years ago, because their fossils have been found in dinosaur-bearing strata. Until its discovery in modern times, this fish was thought to be a ‘transitional form’ (see box p. 26). But we now have film of them alive and well, swimming in today’s oceans!3 We can use something like this to demonstrate to people why they need to be very sceptical of what they are being taught about other alleged ‘transitional fossils’.
That Charles Darwin recanted on his deathbed. This one comes up frequently and was based on a claim by a Lady Hope. It even appeared in the American Baptist Journal. This is almost certainly not true.4 But even it if was, what would be the value in such an argument? If a leading creationist became an evolutionist, would that be proof of evolution?
Thin moon dust layers prove a young age for the moon. The story goes that NASA was concerned about the Apollo lunar landing vehicles sinking into the dust. Like all dating methods, the argument was based on assumptions, i.e. measuring how much dust is coming into the moon and extrapolating backwards in time. Because they believed in a moon that was billions of years old, they were expecting several feet (about a metre) of dust. Of course they encountered only a thin layer of dust. But this cannot be used as evidence for a young moon. It has been established from actually measuring the dust influx to the moon that the original assumptions (based on estimates of meteoritic dust coming to the earth) were wrong.5 Thin dust layers as an argument for a young moon can be easily refuted by knowledgeable opponents.6
Noah’s Ark was found by Chinese evangelists. This recent spectacular claim gained a lot of media attention. Of course, we would be as excited as anyone if the real Ark were found. A senior CMI representative visited Hong Kong to undertake detailed discussions with those who had been involved in making the discovery to ascertain whether the find warranted further investigation. Unfortunately, the evidence is overwhelming that this claim is a hoax. As a brief example of just one of the problems—verified by other experts also—there are repetitive marks on the wood which have clearly been made with a modern high-speed rotary planing machine. Also, carbon-14 dating, which often gives results older than the true age, showed that most wood samples from the site were far too young—only tens or hundreds of years old. One sample of wood contained radiation that showed that the trees must have been alive during post-1955 atomic bomb testing (see reference for details).7
Do evolutionists really have the most evidence?
If asked, most Christians would probably believe that evolutionists have the most evidences on their side. Believing this is intimidating, and is a factor in them looking for the ‘knockout punch’.
As we try to explain, though, it’s not a matter of ‘creation facts’ vs ‘evolution facts’ because—and this is a key point—both creationists and evolutionists actually have the same facts. We all observe the same fossils, the same DNA and have exactly the same universe to discover. But we all interpret these facts according to our pre-existing worldview presuppositions. That worldview, in turn, then enables us to interpret these facts and they become ‘evidence’ for our cause. For example, when an evolutionary geologist looks at the many sedimentary layers in the walls of the Grand Canyon, he ‘sees’ it as evidence for millions of years of Earth history. This is due to his pre-existing belief (from what he’s been taught in the classroom) that these layers built up from slow, gradual deposition of sediments, year after year. However, a creationist geologist can interpret the exact same facts (i.e. layers in the canyon walls) and see these as evidence for Noah’s catastrophic, globe-covering Flood. Neither one was there to see those layers form in the past.
One’s ‘pre’-belief about history is the key filter
In short, there are no facts which can force a conclusion one way or the other when it comes to trying to determine what happened in the unobservable, unrepeatable past. When making a judgment on which set of facts/evidences makes more sense, both sides bring their own worldviews, experiences and biases to the table.
So, what you believe about where we all came from (our history) is a key to your interpretation of the facts. Science is changeable anyway. No scientist can presume to know everything there is to know. The best ‘evidence’ today (or rather one’s interpretation of it), can quickly be relegated to the trash can in the light of a new discovery tomorrow that we didn’t know about today! That is how even observable, testable and repeatable science works.8 And even if there was some ‘knockout’ evidence to be discovered, let’s remember what Jesus told us in Luke 16:31: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” There is plenty of evidence to believe the Resurrection actually happened, but most remained unconvinced (see creation.com/res).
The best strategy—a change of glasses!
So the real issue is helping everyone, even evolutionists, to understand that we all wear biased ‘glasses’ or filters that cause us to see the facts in certain ways. This especially applies to Christians, and it’s why this is a key component of CMI’s ministry to the church.
At the beginning of this article I mentioned how the lights came on for many hearing about creation. It was because we’d helped them change glasses (although they don’t always realize that at first). They no longer see a proverbial mountain of evidence that evolutionists supposedly have, because they can now see the same facts as a mountain of evidence for biblical creation. Simply, if more Christians understood how the facts do not speak for themselves, and how evolutionists interpret them according to pre-existing assumptions, they would (biblically):
- Be less troubled and intimidated by the seeming weight of claims of evolutionists when they parade their latest and greatest ‘evidences’ (John 14:27).
- Be able to break down the arguments that evolutionists use as a foundation to support their theory, by identifying, even demolishing, the worldview (with its presuppositions) that their own theory rests on (2 Corinthians 10:3–5). After all, that is what they seek to do to Christians, by trying to point out that somehow the Bible is scientifically wrong.
- Be more discerning about the evidence and therefore less inclined to try and compromise to ‘fit’ those evolutionary ideas into Scripture somewhere, mistakenly thinking that the ‘science’ is on their side (Romans 12:12).
- Be better able to give a defence for what we believe as Christians (1 Peter 3:15).
The coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) was previously known only from fossils (notice the exquisite preservation in the top-left photo below). It was presumed by evolutionists to have first evolved some 400 million years ago and to have been extinct for 65 mya. But evolutionists were astonished when fishermen off the coast of Madagascar in 1938 hauled a live coelacanth to the surface in their nets.
Other coelacanths have since been caught, e.g. in Indonesian waters. The lower photo shows a preserved specimen caught in 1974 off the Comoro Islands, Africa. One might ask, ‘Why no evolution in all this supposed time?’ Evolutionists proffer that they were so well adapted to their environment that there was no ‘selection pressure’. This is obviously deficient when one realizes that the ‘environment’ also includes the food/prey they eat and the predators that eat them, which by their own beliefs are constantly evolving. Thus, to suggest that everything around them evolved while these fish experienced no change in hundreds of millions of years, is ridiculous (see creation.com/stasis). Rapid burial in a global Flood, rather than the long-age evolutionary paradigm, best explains the coelacanth fossils and the many hundreds of other such ‘living fossils’. For a tremendous resource with brilliant photography, see Dr Carl Werner’s book, Living Fossils (creation.com/store).
Fossil coelacanth specimens (Latimeria chalumnae).
References and notes
- Silvestru, E., Human and dinosaur fossil footprints in the Upper Cretaceous of North America? J. Creation, 18(2):114–120, 2004; creation.com/paluxy. Return to text.
- Jerlstrom, P., and Elliot, B., A tail of many monsters, J. Creation, 19(2):74–75, 2005; creation.com/monsters. Return to text.
- Catchpoole, D., Correcting the headline: Coelacanth yes; Ancient no, 13 July 2007; creation.com/coelacanth. Return to text.
- Grigg, R., Did Darwin recant? Creation 18(1):36–37, 1995; creation.com/did-charles-darwin-recant. Return to text.
- It is not just that the moon measurements contradicted the Earth rates, it is also that the influx to Earth had been miscalculated, and the cause of this error is known. Return to text.
- Snelling, A., and Rush, D.E., Moon dust and the age of the solar system, J. Creation, 7(1):2–42, 1993; creation.com/moondust. Note that even if the original measurements had been right, the evolutionists could have claimed that the assumption of constant rate of dust influx was clearly wrong. Return to text.
- See creation.com/noahs-ark-or-what; creation.com/c14-dates-hk-ark; and creation.com/hkark-position-statement. Return to text.
- See creation.com/its-not-science. Return to text.