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Basic Worldview:
103 Science, the Bible,
and Creation

Origins - Section One:
Introduction and the Basics

Origins - Section One: Introduction and the Basics
Origins - Section Two: Premature Dismissals
Origins - Section Two: Application of the Basics
Origins - Section Three: Creation
Origins - Section Three: Evolution, Origin of Life
Origins - Section Three: Evolution, Environment for Life 1
Origins - Section Three: Evolution, Environment for Life 2
Origins - Section Three: Evolution, Another Planet
Origins - Section Three: Evolution, Origin of Species
Origins - Section Three: Evolution, Speciation Factors
Origins - Section Three: Evolution, Speciation Rates
Origins - Section Four: Time and Age, Redshift
Origins - Section Four: Philosophical Preference
Origins - Section Four: Cosmological Model 1
Origins - Section Four: Cosmological Model 2
Origins - Section Four: Dating Methods, Perceptions, Basics
Origins - Section Four: Global Flood Evidence
Origins - Section Four: Relative Dating
Origins - Section Four: Dating and Circular Reasoning
Origins - Section Four: The Geologic Column
Origins - Section Four: Radiometric Dating Basics
Origins - Section Four: General Radiometric Problems
Origins - Section Four: Carbon-14 Problems
Origins - Section Four: Remaining Methods and Decay Rates
Origins - Section Four: Radiometric Conclusions, Other Methods
Origins - Section Five: Overall Conclusions, Closing Editorial
Origins - Section Five: List of Evidences Table
Origins Debate Figures and Illustrations

Section One – Introduction: Plotting the Road Ahead

In this study we will take a closer look at the debate between evolution and creationism concerning the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the origin of species. As we discuss these topics, the study will be broken down into 4 main sections.

1.) The first section contains the introduction and a discussion of the elements necessary for clarity in communication and debate. This section is essential if there is going to be any productive analysis of the issues involved in this topic.

2.) The second section contains a preliminary application of those elements for clarity to some of the common objections and perceptions in the origins debate. This section is essential for overcoming the initial entrenchment and gridlock that typically short-circuit the origins debate before it gets underway.

3.) The third section contains a presentation defining and establishing the actual competing theories in the origins debate, evolution and creation. This section is essential to the primary goal of this study, which is to understand where the individual pieces or aspects of evidence fit into, support, or oppose the two positions. If we do not know exactly what the theories are, then it is impossible to keep track of whether or not they are actually supported by particular evidences and how the evidence fits into the overall framework of the theory as a whole.

4.) The fourth section contains the actual presentation of the evidence. This section is essential because once the two competing theories are defined, the evidence should speak for itself to clearly identify which theory is actually more scientific and more scientifically valid.

Finally, the study will conclude with a summary of the evidence in qualitative terms and an additional closing thought designed to provide a critical comparison illuminating the essential, qualitative difference between the two theories.

General Methodology and Approach: A Road Well-Traveled

We begin this article with full knowledge that we are heading off on a road, which has already been traveled by a host of writers, researchers, scientists, theologians, philosophers, atheists, agnostics, Christians, professionals, students, evolutionists, and creationists. Our goal here is not to tread any new ground. Nor is our goal to reinvent the wheel. Instead, our goal is to bring precision to what too often may seem to be a swirling barrage of claims and counterclaims.

Our goal is clarity.

Clarity is typically not a matter of making assertions and rebuttals, but a matter of understanding where each assertion and rebuttal fits into the larger framework of the overall argument. What role does each point play in the ladder of the debate? Answering that question is the purpose of this study: too capture each point in its proper position in the greater whole and to display the relative impact and outcome each point has on that greater whole.

Since this is the case, we will not be presenting any new, or novel, evidences or arguments here. Instead, once the framework of each theory is established, our approach will be to explain the evidence and the positions as briefly as possible in order to accomplish the larger goal of understanding the overall debate. The intended effect of this approach will roughly fit the description of keeping tabs on where things stand in the debate as a result of each point. Metaphorically speaking, this study should operate as a sort of running tally providing a snapshot of the current standings.

To reiterate before moving ahead, our basic strategy and intentions can be summarized as follows:

1.) First, to keep track of where each point fits into the larger scope of the debate.
2.) And second, to keep track of the relative impact that each point has on the status of the debate.

Furthermore, it is important to state that achieving clarity in a debate is primarily a matter of achieving clarity concerning the implications of the evidence. But clarity concerning the implications of the evidence is not possible without a fundamental understanding about debate and the examination of ideas. Without these principles, clarity and reasonable (i.e. logical) comparison between concepts is not possible, nor is good communication between opposing parties, a better understanding of an opposing view, or effective persuasion. All are impossible apart from certain decisions that intelligent persons make when entering into difficult discussions or examinations. And for the purpose of achieving an effective comparison of the competing views on this topic, the remainder of this introduction has been broken down into the following 7 essential elements for clarity and effective examination.

1.) Equity: If Not a Fresh Start, At Least a Fair Start
2.) Giving the Evidence a Chance to Speak
3.) The Origin of Theories
4.) Evidence and Interpretation
5.) Identifying Direction
6.) Proof by Presupposition and Characterization
7.) Identifying and Assessing Explanatory Amendments

Equity: If Not a Fresh Start, At Least a Fair Start

As we said during the introductory paragraphs above, the intent of this study is to identify where each point fits and the impact that it has in the larger framework of the overall arguments. To do so, we need to describe each of the competing positions with equity. The emphasis here is the objective choice to use equity.

By equity, we do not mean that all arguments or interpretations are equal, equally reasonable, or equally valid. By equity, we mean that the examination of the evidence, the presentation, and any debate or discourse must be conducted with equity. Rules and standards must be applied equally. Criticism and scrutiny must be applied equally. Terms must be used consistently. In short, what we mean is equity in procedure. Then, after the debate and analysis have run their course, the competing positions can truly be valued as either better or worse than one another, because the assessment process will have been conducted with equity.

Such equity is a choice of the objective mind. It is the choice not to raise straw men arguments in the attempt to win a debate by painting a weaker version of your opponent, one that is much more easily defeated. It is the choice to actually let the evidence be heard and presented. And it is a choice to actually let your opponent present his case.

Lack of equity usually starts with the desire to dismiss an opponent quickly either without or before actually having to examine the evidence or positions for what they are. The goal is to get the other side thrown out of the match or disqualified before you actually have to begin the examination. Or, at the very least, to get the audience either favoring your character or distrusting your opponent’s character before the contest begins.

There are many ways to achieve a premature dismissal of the opposition without having to examine the evidence. However, two in particular are worthy of comment due to the fact that they are common to this particular subject of origins and evolution.

The first strategy takes aim at the opponent’s conclusions. It involves painting your opponent as though his defeat has already taken place, as though his conclusions have already been decisively disproved. Along these lines, it may even be suggested that the opponent has merely reinvented himself superficially in order to cover up or distance himself from a conclusive prior defeat. Consequently, since his defeat has already been established, there is no need to discuss or examine the evidence again at the present time. Metaphorically speaking, this strategy attempts to disqualify an opponent on the grounds that he’s already been beaten and, therefore, is no longer an eligible challenger.

Let’s take this out of the realm of the abstract by putting a familiar face on it. In debates about origins and evolution, the suggestion is sometimes made that modern creationism, and perhaps even more specifically intelligent design theory, is simply a new veneer, an updated, trendier, and more acceptable face for an already defeated foe. On this note, one of the benefits of our format is that, in reviewing the evidence itself, we will also be able to examine exactly when any alleged defeat of creationism occurred and by what evidence. Furthermore, this approach of portraying your opponent as a slicker package for an obvious error has the following effect. The more rational that your opponent sounds and the better his arguments and his presentation of the evidence become, the more the audience will suspect him as adept at causing confusion or deception rather than being convinced by his proofs.

The second strategy takes aim at the opponent’s methodology. It involves painting your opponent’s approach itself as invalid. It can even involve suggesting that the opponent is being misleading about who he is or why he believes what he does. Consequently, since the opponent builds his arguments in a manner that is either inappropriate or based upon unsound reasoning, there is no value in wasting everyone’s time by letting the opponent put on a parade of his faulty processes. To use a similar metaphor as above, this strategy attempts to disqualify an opponent on the grounds that he does not play by the rules.

Once again, we need to take this strategy out of the realm of the abstract by putting a familiar face on it. Debates about origins and evolution sometimes begin with the perception that modern creationism does not begin with science, but with an unfounded faith – faith which then tries to don the disguise of science in order to retroactively justify its unproven assumptions and falsely portray itself as scientific. The implication is that the creationist side of the debate simply wants to dress its views up in scientific clothing, even though that is not how those beliefs originate. In plain terms, creationism is dismissed on the charge that it is unscientific. In this way, creationism is disqualified for unacceptable methodology. After all, if creationism only turns to scientific language after the fact to disguise that its true origins are an unproven faith, then all of the evidence and argumentation is mere window dressing rather than being discovered, constructed, and established through the required scientific processes.

More needs to be said concerning the charge that creationism is disqualified because it results from unscientific processes. Our format provides an advantage on this point as well. In reviewing the evidence itself, we will be able to examine whether or not creationism can be considered a valid theory indicated by the evidence. If the creation model is potentially falsifiable but remains a conclusion indicated by the observable evidence, then it must be regarded as following the required scientific processes. However, we will pick up that question in a later section and, for the time being, return to our present point.

This brings us back again to the issue of equity. The desire to dismiss an opposing point of view without having to examine the evidence or arguments is not equitable. Trying to dismiss and opposing view without an examination of the evidence is like convicting someone without a trial. While it may be convenient to justify such a premature dismissal on the grounds that the opponent is “wrong anyway,” it’s just not fair to dismiss a conclusion without an examination of the evidence.

If an opposing point of view has been already defeated, an examination of the evidence will only serve to remind everyone of why and how it was defeated. If an opposing point of view uses invalid or unsound methodology, then the faulty nature of those processes should be easy enough to expose during an examination of the evidence and issues. Furthermore, such an examination will also serve as an exhibition and vindication of valid and sound methodology. But if a previous defeat is difficult to demonstrate and if methods are not easily or plainly shown to be faulty, then an opposing view should not be dismissed on such grounds. If a previous defeat is difficult to demonstrate and if methods are not easily or plainly shown to be faulty, then prematurely dismissing an opposing view on such grounds is not only without equity, it is unreasonable. It dismisses conclusions without a sufficient demonstration from the evidence.

Equity will always allow an examination of the evidence. It will always allow flaws and strengths in a point of view to be brought to light by that examination. And it will never seek to dismiss conclusions without demonstration through examination.

2.) Giving the Evidence a Chance to Speak

As we stated early on in the introduction to this article series, our intention is not to present new arguments. Instead, our approach will be to define each theory and then to identify the evidences along with the claims about that evidence made by each side, in all cases using as brief of a description as possible. And from there, our format will simply be first, to keep track of where each point fits into the larger scope of the debate and second, to keep track of the relative impact that each point has on the status of the debate.

The reason for this format is simple. We believe that clarity on the question of origins, evolution, and creation is simply a matter of two things.

A.) First, identifying precisely what each theory (creation and evolution) entails in its current, most prominent form.

B.) And second, to let the evidence speak with the intention of identifying to what extent the evidence does or does not point toward or against one of those two theories.

Once these two items are accomplished, we believe that clarity will emerge and it will quite plain which one of these two competing theories is far more reasonable (and scientific) as an explanation of the known evidence.

The fundamental intention of this article series is to let the evidence speak and to keep that evidence from being obscured by questions about where each piece fits in the overall framework of the larger argument or obscured by exactly what each piece does or does not demonstrate or indicate. That is why we emphasize equity. A lack of equity in format or tactics, such as straw men arguments or unfair early disqualifications, are attempts to win a debate without letting the evidence speak.

3.) The Origin of Theories

In science, all theories start with observation. This is a simple fact as the quotes below establish.

ScienceScience covers the broad field of knowledge that deals with observed facts and the relationships among those factsScientists use systematic methods of study to make observations and collect facts. They then work to develop theories that help them order or unify related facts.” – Worldbook Encyclopedia, Contributor: Joseph W. Dauben, Ph.D., Professor of History and the History of Science, City University of New York.

Scientific Method, term denoting the principles that guide scientific research and experimentation, and also the philosophic bases of those principles…Scientific method also involves the interplay of inductive reasoning (reasoning from specific observations and experiments to more general hypotheses and theories) and deductive reasoning (reasoning from theories to account for specific experimental results).” – "Scientific Method," Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 99. © 1993-1998 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Inductive MethodInductive method is the reasoning process by which a person starts from particular experiences and proceeds to generalizations…It is the basis of the common sense upon which people act…Inductive method is also used together with deduction to make scientific discoveries. In deduction, people draw particular conclusions by reasoning from general premises (see DEDUCTIVE METHOD). To make discoveries, scientists first obtain general theories by using induction. From these general theories, they then deduce new, particular predictions. These predictions are tested by observation and experiment. The test results may be used in a new inductive step to obtain a better general theory. Using only deduction, people could not arrive at new theories. Using only induction, people could not correct and improve theories. By combining these methods, science is able to progress.” – Worldbook Encyclopedia, Contributor: Morton L. Schagrin, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, State University of New York, Fredonia.

Empiricisma philosophical approach that views experience as the most important source of knowledge. It is the philosophical outlook of most scientists. Empiricists try to answer as many questions as possible by using information gathered by the senses.” – Worldbook Encyclopedia, Contributor: W. W. Bartley, III, Ph.D., Former Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, Stanford University.

Scientific theory – In attempting to explain things and events, the scientist employs (1) careful observation or experiments, (2) reports of regularities, and (3) systematic explanatory schemes (theories). The statements of regularities, if accurate, may be taken as empirical laws expressing continuing relationships among the things or characteristics observed. Thus, when empirical laws are able to satisfy curiosity by uncovering an orderliness in the behaviour of things or events, the scientist may advance a systematic scheme, or scientific theory, to provide an accepted explanation of why these laws obtain.” – Britannica.com

Science, philosophy of, Elements of scientific enterprise – From the beginning, scientists themselves have been interested not merely in cataloging and describing the world of nature as they find it but in making the workings of nature intelligible with the help of compact and organized theories…Empirical data and their theoretical interpretation – First are the empirical elements. The task of science is to explain actual events, processes, or phenomena in nature…those empirical facts…On the one hand, the facts in question may be discovered by using observational methods – Britannica.com

In fact, concerning the fact that theories start with observation, Worldbook Encyclopedia makes the following comment and cites Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as an example of this trend.

Science, How scientists workScientists use a number of methods in making discoveries and in developing theories. These methods include (1) observing nature, (2) classifying data, (3) using logic, (4) conducting experiments, (5) forming a hypothesis (proposed explanation), (6) expressing findings mathematically, and (7) modeling with computers. Most scientific research involves some or all of these steps. Observing nature is one of the oldest scientific methods…In the 1830's, Charles Darwin carefully observed plants and animals in many parts of the world while serving as a naturalist with a British scientific expedition aboard the H.M.S. Beagle. Study of the specimens collected on the voyage helped Darwin develop his theory that modern species had evolved from a few earlier onesForming a hypothesis requires talent, skill, and creativity. Scientists base their proposed explanations on existing information. They strive to form hypotheses that help explain, order, or unify related facts.” – Worldbook Encyclopedia, Contributor: Joseph W. Dauben, Ph.D., Professor of History and the History of Science, City University of New York.

The fact that the observation of empirical data serves as the basis for theorization is an important point. In order to maintain clarity, we must be able to distinguish the observations, the empirical data or evidence, from the theory that attempts to explain them. We will discuss the practical applications of this process more a little later on, but for now this leads right into our next point.

4.) Evidence and Interpretation

An indispensable element that often goes overlooked in debates is the ability to discern between evidence and a particular interpretation of that evidence, between the observed data and the various theories explaining that data. Often times, particularly in debates on topics such as origins, evolution, and creation, we’ve heard a particular interpretation so many times that we confuse the interpretation for the evidence itself. But, in order to achieve clarity and in order to allow the evidence to speak, we must be able to identify and maintain the distinction between what is evidence and what is interpretation.

In the segment above entitled “The Origin of Theories,” we discussed how all scientific theories begin with the observation of empirical data. And when it comes to debates about origins, one central fact that is often misunderstood is that both views are looking at and utilizing the same evidence. It is simply not the case that evolutionists and atheists are looking at one set of empirical data while creationists are looking at an entirely different set of empirical data. The empirical data doesn’t change. To change it, you’d have to change the entire world, or rather the entire universe, around us. Consequently, it’s only the interpretation of that data that differs. And that is why it is so important to let the data, the empirical evidence, speak.

One of the main premises of this article is that if we can distinguish between what is empirical fact and what is an interpretation of that fact, clarity will emerge with ease. This essential issue will be a recurring theme of this study. Our next segment will continue to explore the implications of this distinction. 

5.) Identifying Direction

In the section above entitled, “Giving the Evidence a Chance to Speak,” we stated that we believe clarity is a matter of two things. The first was identifying exactly what each theory entails. And the second was identifying to what extent the evidence does or does not point toward or against one of those theories.

Identifying direction goes right along with distinguishing between evidence and interpretation. So, what is “identifying direction” and how does it relate to distinguishing between evidence and interpretation?

All evidence tells us something. Individual pieces of evidence both suggest certain interpretations as well as rule out other interpretations. But most importantly, individual pieces of evidence don’t necessarily point to just one single interpretation. In fact individual pieces of evidence seldom point to one and only one explanation. Typically, there is more than one way to explain the same piece of evidence and often a single piece of evidence can suggest more than one reasonable explanation. In order to achieve clarity it is essential not only to distinguish between evidence and interpretation, but also to determine whether a particular piece of evidence points to only one interpretation or whether that piece of evidence equally suggests a number of explanations. 

Furthermore, there are three potential directions that evidence can point.

First, evidence can point toward a particular interpretation. This does not mean that every piece of evidence, which points toward a particular interpretation, directly undermines the opposing views. Sometimes evidence pointing toward one interpretation only helps its own overall standing, but doesn’t necessarily hurt (or bear at all) on the opposing views. In the long run, the interpretation which should be accepted is the one that is shown to be favored by the most evidence. Second, evidence can point against a particular interpretation. And it can do so without necessarily providing direct support for the opposing interpretation, except perhaps by working to eliminate the competition. And third, as stated above, particular pieces of evidence might not point either direction more than the other. Maintaining clarity in a debate requires the ability to know which of these directions each individual component of the evidence is pointing. During the portion of this study where we review the evidence, we will rely heavily on making these kinds of identifications.

As stated previously, the strategy of this study is twofold. Our first strategy is to properly place each piece of evidence and interpretation within the larger framework of the whole debate. Our second strategy is to keep track of the relative impact each point has on the status of that debate. Identifying which direction particular evidence is pointing is a crucial element to keeping track of the status of the debate.

Once the direction of each piece of evidence is determined, all of the evidence viewed together should give us the whole picture and favor one interpretation with clarity.

6.) Proof by Presupposition and Characterization

When it comes to determining which direction the evidence is pointing, there is one major challenge that’s worthy of mention: presupposition. Presupposition is like a set of glasses that makes it appear as though the evidence is pointing more heavily in favor of one theory, when in reality the evidence on its own does not.

Let’s talk briefly about presuppositions. Perhaps the two most problematic ways that presuppositions interfere with clarity is either when presuppositions are themselves confused with evidence or when presuppositions are not properly identified as being a sub-point of one of the overall competing interpretations. Of course these two ways are closely related. And they typically manifest as attempts to disprove an opposing view by citing other elements from one’s own interpretation. But the fact of the matter is that you simply cannot disprove an opponent’s interpretation by citing parts of your own interpretation as though they were already proven. Neither can you prove an interpretation merely by citing one of the sub-points of that interpretation as though it were already proven. An opposing interpretation can only be disproved by citing specific evidence, which contradicts it. And each interpretation can only be proved by citing specific evidence, which supports it.

To expound a little further, there are only 3 ways to disprove any given interpretation. First, either a single, decisive piece of evidence or, perhaps more usually, a combination of evidences can be shown to be incompatible with a particular interpretation. Second, if more evidence is shown to rationally lean toward an alternative explanation, then an interpretation is generally considered to be defeated. Or third, a particular interpretation can be disproved if it is shown to be irreparably self-contradicting in its various components. But an interpretation simply cannot be disproved by citing a portion of the opposing interpretation.

Before moving on, it is also important to make note of another issue that is closely related to “Evidence and Interpretation.” In debates, not only can interpretations and presuppositions or sub-points of an overall theory be confused with actual evidence, but also the language, adjectives, and adverbs used by a particular side to describe or characterize the evidence can become synonymous with the evidence itself. Distinguishing between evidence and the presuppositions of one interpretation also requires the ability to distinguish between the stark characteristics of the evidence itself and the characterizations that a particular side would like to ascribe to that evidence.

A few, practical examples from the origins debate may serve to further illuminate this concept, but for the sake of expediency, we will cover those in a later section. For now we will cover our seventh and final point.

7.) Identifying and Assessing Explanatory Amendments

Finally, it is also important to mention that theories often require modification in light of subsequent experimentation and additional data gathered after the initial theory is described. These additions or changes to a theory might be described as additional explanatory amendments. They are additional because they add mechanisms or elements to a theory. They are amendments because these mechanisms or elements were not part of the original understanding of the theory. They are explanatory because the function of these mechanisms and elements is to explain how the theory can accommodate potentially unsupportive or harmful evidence.

Given this function, amendments to a theory rarely provide such a good explanation of the evidence that they help to actually prove a theory. While it is possible for an amendment to “just click” and make a great deal of sense out of additional pieces of evidence, it is typically more appropriate to think of explanatory amendments as either keeping a theory level on the scales rather than giving it additional supportive weight.  Subsequently, having to add an explanatory amendment to a theory can’t really help to disprove the opposing view. Explanatory amendments are about a theory’s own internal maintenance and not external criticism of an alternative view. They merely bolster the theory to which they are added.

Not all explanatory amendments are equal. Some fit more naturally to the original theory and others are more extraneous, unrelated, and forced. Some are more logical, plausible, or observationally based. Others are more contrived. Some are speculative, which isn’t entirely problematic, but explanatory amendments can be assessed and compared with regard to which ones are more, less, or perhaps equally speculative. And simply put, the less speculative, the better the explanation.

It should be stated that the need for an explanatory amendment does not necessarily mean that the theory is disproved. That depends on to what extent the explanatory amendments to a theory are either artificial and extraneous to the evidence and the original theory or are somehow able to aptly compliment and dovetail with the original theory and make even more sense of the evidence. But ultimately, any theory that is in need of a great deal of explanatory amendments in order for it to accommodate evidence, particularly if those amendments are highly contrived and add increased improbability, the more the explanatory amendments themselves serve as indicators that a theory has failed and is incompatible with the evidence. And, in the end, the theory with either less amendments or with the least extraneous amendments is shown to be the better explanation.

Just what explanatory amendments are and how they function in both theories and debates will become clearer through the examples presented in the rest of this study. For now, it is simply important to make note of the necessity to both identify and assess the relative value and effects of explanatory amendments. In particular, we should weigh the relative probability and extraneousness of additional explanatory amendments. This is essential for maintaining clarity in communication, examination, and debate.

Exemplifying Clarity

In order to better depict how the 7 essential elements for clarity function, let’s consider an illustration. The point here is not to be exhaustive since we’re only attempting to provide a depiction of some basic concepts. Furthermore, it should be noted that the different theories in scenario below are not intended to represent or correspond to either side in the debate between evolution and creationism. With that said, let’s consider the following illustration.

Suppose that 2 hikers were out for a walk one day and they stumbled across a beach covered with rocks. They quickly noticed that a large patch of those rocks were colored with a very bright, single color of paint in the form of a large, unbroken area. Now let’s see how a few of our essential elements for clarity would apply.

First, we might consider the application of “The Origin of Theories.”

In our segment on how theories originate, we established that scientific theories arise as attempts to explain and understand observed phenomena. In our example, we might imagine how after noticing the painted rocks, the two hikers might use their initial observations about the rocks to suggest possible explanations for how they came to be painted. The first hiker might suggest the possibility that someone hand-painted the rocks. The second hiker might suggest that the paint was instead spilled or dumped onto the beach. Then maybe one of the hikers would joke about the paint forming naturally on the rocks or the paint arriving on drops of rain the night before.

This exemplifies 2 things concerning how evidence relates to the origin of theories. First, this exemplifies how evidence can point toward some explanations, such as the “hand-painted” or “spillage” theories, while at the same time ruling out others explanations, such as the “rain” or “natural formation” theories. And second, this exemplifies how particular aspects of the evidence can suggest more than one, equally logical explanation. In this case, the considerations that the rocks were painted and in a single, unbroken patch suggests and fits equally well with either a hand-painted or spillage theory.

Second, we might consider the application of “Evidence and Interpretation.”

In our segment on maintaining the distinction between evidence and interpretation, we mentioned 2 important items. First, we mentioned how often times in debates, we’ve heard a particular interpretation so many times that we confuse the interpretation for the evidence itself. And second, we mentioned that this can give rise to the impression either that both sides are looking at different sets of evidence or that one side is ignoring some portion of the evidence altogether.

In our example, we might imagine that the 2 hikers have a really long discussion and eventually they are overheard by others. After a short time a crowd gathers. Now, for the sake of this point, let’s imagine for a moment that perhaps only the tops of the rocks were painted, not the bottoms. We might also imagine that as the 2 hikers continue to discuss the evidence, the second hiker repeatedly refers to the fact that only the tops are painted and whenever he does so, he uses phrases like, “Yes, but the paint was spilled only on the tops.” In fact, whenever the second hiker refers to the fact that only the tops of the rocks are painted, he always couples this with the word “spilled.” Whether deliberate or unintentional, the constant coupling of the term “spilled” with “tops of rocks only” might produce 2 impressions in the minds of both the nearby audience as well as perhaps in the mind of the second hiker himself.

First, it might create the effective impression that spillage is inherently required or implied by fact that the paint is only on the top portions of the rocks. This is an example of confusing the interpretation with the evidence. The fact that there is paint only on the tops of the rocks is evidence. The idea that the paint is only on the tops because it was spilled there is an interpretation of that evidence. But, in reality, the fact that only the tops of the rocks are painted is not at all incompatible with the hand-painted theory. Someone painting the rocks by hand might very well have only painted the top portions. There is nothing about hand-painting the rocks, which requires the full surface of the rock to be painted.

And second, it might create the effective impression that the first hiker is not considering or is perhaps ignoring the fact that only the tops of the rocks have paint. This is an example of how the impression can often arise in debates that both sides are looking at different parts of the evidence or one side is ignoring some of the evidence.

Third, we might consider the application of “Identifying Direction.

In our segment about identifying direction, we stated the importance of determining whether a particular piece of evidence points in favor of one theory, points against another theory, or doesn’t particularly help or hurt either theory more than the other. Our previous scenario in which only the tops of the rocks were painted already illustrated this issue. As we stated, if only the tops of the rocks were painted, that would be consistent with paint being spilled but it is also consistent with someone coming along and painting just the tops of the rocks with a brush. This is an example of how one aspect of the evidence might not particularly favor or hurt either of the possible explanations.

But let’s examine a few other examples. Suppose that all of the painted rocks had visible brush strokes on them. This would be an example of evidence that very strongly favors the hand-painted theory. Brush strokes are uniquely suggestive of hand-painting by brush. In contrast, brush strokes are entirely incompatible with a spillage theory. This exemplifies how some evidence can either point in favor of one theory or point against another theory. However, not all evidence that supports one theory necessarily hurts the other as drastically as this example of the brush strokes.

For example, let’s imagine that there were no brush strokes or that the brush strokes had not been noticed yet. Instead, we might consider the implications of splash marks. The absence of splash marks wouldn’t necessarily disprove the spillage theory, although it might present an element that is contrary to what we would expect to find if the spillage theory were correct. On the other hand, the presence of splash marks, while it certainly seems more consistent with the spillage theory wouldn’t necessarily disprove or hurt the hand-painted theory either, given the possibility that the painter may have been clumsy and at times spilled a little paint out of his bucket. The issue of splash marks is an example of how some evidence can help or hurt one explanation without necessarily helping or hurting the competing theory.

Fourth, we might consider the application of “Proof by Presupposition and Characterization.

In our segment about presuppositions, we remarked about attempts to disprove an opposing view by citing other sub-components from one’s own overall interpretation. Using our illustration, we might imagine the second hiker attempted to reject the hand-painted theory on the grounds that the painted rocks serve no purpose and are therefore unintentional. Should such an argument disprove the hand-painted theory?

Not really. The unintentional nature of the painted rocks is not a fact or a piece of evidence. It is actually a sub-point of the larger spillage theory. The painting of the rocks is only unintentional if the paint was in fact spilled. In short, the unintentional nature of the paint is only true if the larger spillage theory is itself true. Consequently, the second hiker is simply attempting to disprove the hand-painted explanation by citing a sub-point of his own theory as though it were part of the factual evidence. As we stated earlier, a theory can only be disproved by the evidence itself. You cannot disprove an opposing view by assuming that a sub-point of your own interpretation is as much of a fact as the evidence itself. This is an example of proof by presupposition.

However, this is also an example of how one side’s characterization of the evidence can become confused with the actual, stark characteristics of the evidence itself. Everyone might well agree that painting rocks on a beach is somewhat whimsical and probably doesn’t serve any relatively functional purpose. Some nuances of the definition for “whimsical” overlap nuances of the word “purposeless,” in the shared sense of being “playful.” And some nuances of the word “purposeless” overlap nuances of the word “unintentional,” in the shared sense of being “accidental.” But just because everyone might agree that painting rocks is whimsical at best doesn’t mean that it’s fair to say that everyone agrees the rocks received paint unintentionally or accidentally. Of course, this involves the logical fallacy of equivocation, in which the middle term of “purposeless” equates to “whimsical” initially but then switches to signify “accidental” or “unintentional.” And this exemplifies what it means to confuse the stark characteristic of the evidence with one side’s preferred theoretical characterization.

Fifth, and finally, we might consider the application of “Identifying and Assessing Explanatory Amendments.

In our segment about explanatory amendments, we stated that initial theories are sometimes later amended with additional explanatory mechanisms or elements, which were not present originally. We also stated that the function of these additional mechanisms or elements is to enable the theory to accommodate evidence that might otherwise be problematic. 

To illustrate this point, suppose we set aside the previous scenarios involving brush strokes or splash marks. Instead, we might suppose that the rocks were not only painted on the top but instead some of the rocks were painted on the top while others were painted on the bottom and still others were painted on one of the sides. Furthermore, rocks with paint on one portion were completely interspersed with rocks where the paint was on another portion. Like the brush strokes, such a factor would strongly favor the hand-painted theory because it indicates that the rocks were treated individually. Conversely, if the paint had been spilled on the rocks, the paint would fall from one general direction, and consequently, should always be on the top surface. If the paint is only on one side of each rock but not solely on the top side, then this information would tend to rule out the theory of a simple paint spill.

However, the second hiker might attempt to maintain his spillage theory by adding another explanatory mechanism to bolster his case. On this note, the second hiker might suggest that after the initial spill someone came along and shuffled the rocks around, so that as the rocks rolled into new positions, what was originally the top of each rock was now facing in all different directions. This would allow the second hiker’s theory to continue and it also provides an opportunity to further discuss explanatory amendments.

Earlier when considering the implications of splash marks on the nearby rocks at the edge of the painted patch, we stated that such splash marks are not ideally consistent with the hand-painted theory but that they could be explained if the painter had a bucket and was at times clumsy with the paint. This also constitutes a sort of explanatory amendment to the original hand-painted theory.

More specifically, the shuffling of the rocks equates to an additional mechanism while the bucket equates to an additional element. And contrasting the two gives us a chance to illustrate how even explanatory amendments can be assessed and compared. As we stated earlier on, not all explanatory amendments are equal. In this example, the idea that the painter would have a bucket is far less extraneous to the hand-painted theory than the idea of someone shuffling the painted rocks is to the spillage theory. The spillage theory does not necessitate a shuffling of the rocks in the same way that the hand-painted theory infers a container for holding the paint, such as a bucket. The bucket is more or less integrally related to the existing components of the hand-painted theory: the painter and the deliberate transportation of paint to the site. But the shuffling of the rocks would require a lot more work and it is work which has nothing to do with the initial theory. So, while the shuffling amendment would allow the spillage theory to continue just as clumsy spills from a bucket would allow the hand-painted theory to continue, the 2 amendments can themselves be analyzed and even compared. And, in the end, the theory with either less amendments or with the least extraneous amendments is shown to be the better explanation.

We have now finished our illustrative examples. As we move ahead, here is the complete list of essential elements for clarity one last time.

1.) Equity: If Not a Fresh Start, At Least a Fair Start
2.) Giving the Evidence a Chance to Speak
3.) The Origin of Theories
4.) Evidence and Interpretation
5.) Identifying Direction
6.) Proof by Presupposition and Characterization
7.) Identifying and Assessing Explanatory Amendments

These are the issues that we will be looking for and keeping track of as we explore the evidence in the debate over origins, evolution, and creationism. Our belief is that with these items properly identified and processed, that clarity will be the inevitable result and which theory is the more rational explanation of the evidence will emerge quite plainly. This concludes the introductory portion of this article. We will now move on to our next section, "Pulling It All Together" in order to discuss how some of these essential elements for clarity apply, not to an illustration, but to some actual preliminary issues in the debate about origins.

Related Images

Gene Pool
(Figures 1-6)

Defining the
Boundaries of Kinds

Gaps in the
Fossil Record

Geologic Column

Misperceptions of
Dating Methods
(Figures 1-8)

Dating Facts

Dating Procedures
(Figures 1-13)

Isotope Dating Chart

Figure 1

Figure 2 (a-d)

Figure 3 (a-f)