The Problem With ‘Faith vs. Evidence’

Baby gorilla, Oklahoma City, Okla.
(Copyright © 2006 by Wil C. Fry.)

The difference between a Creationist and an Evolutionist is that one accepts on faith the words found in a very old book while the other accepts only hard scientific evidence. Right?

That’s that narrative I see when browsing writings by those who fall into the latter camp.

(In case you’re unaware, modern Creationists also point to mounds of “evidence” that supports the former view of the world.)

What about the average person (examples: you, me, your neighbor Jim, and your boss Alice)? Just over half (60%) of Americans believe in evolution, so let us say that’s you and your boss Alice, while your neighbor Jim and I believe in some form of Creation — deity-controlled forming of plants and animals, not left to chance.

You and Alice were overwhelmed by the evidence put forth in your public school science books, as well as by the exhibits you’ve seen in museums. You also read progressive newspapers and occasionally keep up with with new scientific research. But Jim and I chose to reject that view, sticking with what our preachers and our parents told us; lately, we follow the writings of Creation Scientists that we trust.

You and Alice secretly — and sometimes overtly — scoff at Jim and me because you think we’re simpletons to “accept on faith” something that uneducated nomads came up with a few thousand years ago while rejecting all of today’s overwhelming evidence. What you don’t see is that Jim and I see your belief the same way — and that you’ve missed something very important.

What you’ve missed is that you’re taking it all on faith too. At least that’s what it looks like.

My point is this: the average American — the overwhelming majority of us — has never actually seen any evidence that supports either view. Regardless of your view, you’re taking it on faith.

Patient Dragonfly
Dragonfly, Austin, Texas
(Copyright © 2009 by Wil C. Fry.)

(“Okay, now he’s gone off the deep end. I hope he can explain this soon.”)

There are a few (relative to the number of total Americans) — scientists, researchers, geologists, whatever — who’ve actually discovered the evidence for evolution, touched it, studied it, and compared it to other peer-reviewed studies. None of the rest of us have. Even if we see it with our eyes — in a museum or on TV — we’re taking someone’s word for it that it wasn’t contrived or misinterpreted.

We see it explained in books or on websites, but how is that quantitatively different from believing what Jim and I have been told all our lives by people we trust?

My point here is not that evolution is wrong or that creationism is wrong (or that either side is correct), but that average persons are accepting both sides on faith. A further point is that it’s nearly pointless for a proponent of one side or the other to hammer away at the opposition with their “evidence”, because their audience already believes one thing or another.

“But 99.99% percent of scientists agree on the evidence for evolution!” you insist in exasperation.

My response is (1) I’ve never met these people, not even 0.01% of them, and likely never will, and (2) I’ve never seen — and likely never will see — their actual evidence.

Go ahead: name almost any piece of evidence for evolution, and a creationist can (legitimately) argue that you haven’t seen it, discovered it, analyzed it for yourself — that you’ve accepted someone’s word for it.

Some notes I wrote along similar lines in 1996:

“…We are limited by our sensory perceptions, our capability to grasp abstract ideas, and, of course, the language we use to express all this to others…”

“Of course, there are many in ‘research’ today who engage in the practice primarily to ‘prove’ what they already accept.”

“…The facts [honest researchers] uncover are interpreted through their own frameworks of previous knowledge and experience.”

“Adherents to both groups usually lean so heavily on their presuppositions that [they] are very unlikely to change their views, no matter how strong the ‘evidence’ presented to them.”

(The creation-evolution argument is just an example here; the same could be said for nearly any discussion between someone who believes in a god and someone who doesn’t. Evolution just happens to be one of the more common methods used to pry one from his/her religion.)

  1. Shari says:

    yep (both sides are faith-based, and both sides have lots of supporting evidence). But saying so somehow puts you into the faith/creationist camp. Good job keeping it all hypothetical.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      “…saying so somehow puts you into the faith/creationist camp.”

      Well, I know evolutionists/atheists like to assert that everything’s on evidence, so yeah, most of them (Richard too?) will likely not agree here. I would SO like to say the same things — that X must be correct because of the hard evidence — but I recognize that the evidence itself must be taken on faith.

      On the other hand, the average person can do SOME vetting of informational sources. For example, background. If source A has a background of just making stuff up while source B is known for simply gathering information and trying to make sense of it, I’d be more likely to go with source B. (Oversimplified of course.)

      (I wrote a “treatise” in 1996 urging that the creation-evolution argument really doesn’t matter, but that was considered from a moral standpoint. I planned to type that up and put it online today; I’d forgotten about it until I found it recently.)

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