What is the best evidence for evolution?
I am often asked this question and I think it is very interesting. People who do not believe in evolution naturally might ask this question. However, many people who do believe in evolution also ask this question, which might seem a bit odd. If someone doesn’t know the best evidences for something they believe in, then in reality they are simply expressing a fair amount of “faith” on their part, generally feeling that since there are apparently other “smart” people out there who supposedly do know what these evidences are… that’s good enough for them.
Some of you probably already know my own story detailing how I got started in researching evidence for the Christian faith and the creation vs. evolution controversy. I will recount just one small part here, because it is germane to the question we are addressing.
While attending the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, pursuing my degree in physics, I was preparing to give a lecture to the Physics Club on scientific evidence for creation. I had just started researching this area and felt led by God to choose this topic for a talk that was required by each student in that club. I felt that if within my talk, I did not address the “best evidence for evolution”, my presentation would be much less effective. However, I had no idea what these evidences were. The solution to my dilemma… ask my professors! Certainly they would know… they all believed very strongly in evolution, so it would be very natural for me to go to them for answers.
My first stop was with my main physics professor. He often gave me a hard time in class, because of my beliefs, but I still had a high level of respect for him and knew he would be willing to talk to me. When I asked him what the best evidences were, he responded by saying, “I don’t know”. I was very surprised. I said, “But you believe in evolution, don’t you?” He said, “Yes”. “But you don’t know any of the evidences?”, I responded. He said, “No.” My final reply was, “So you just trust other scientists?” “Yes,” came his response. I then asked my geology professor, because he was promoting evolution quite a bit in his class. His response… “I don’t know… go ask the biology professors!” Once again, I was very surprised, however, I thought if anyone knows the answer to this question, the biology professors would. To keep this article from getting too long, I will have to skip all the fascinating details of my interaction with the biology professors and just jump to the end… They did not give me even one example evidence and in anger told me “We have nothing more to say to you!”
I had another experience just months ago with a biology professor (from another state university) who, after saying he was too busy to talk to me for even 10 minutes, would not even take 60 seconds to write down a few bullet points in an email in response to my question.
Where am I heading with all of this? Am I saying that no one knows the answer? Am I saying that there aren’t any professors at any university who would respond to this question? Not at all. I am, however, drawing attention to an interesting phenomenon. A very large percentage of people, whether laypeople or professors, will not directly answer this question. In a sense, these people very confidently claim that evolution is a fact, but they are not willing to be the one to take a stand and present a specific defense for this belief. The main reason is that if they give you specific examples, it is generally fairly easy to show why they don’t actually qualify as evidence. And if they gave you their best shot and you demonstrated serious holes in their arguments (often using published secular literature) what have they got left?
I have tried numerous times over 29 years to get an answer to this question, and have on almost every occasion, failed to get a specific response. What I most often get is emotional responses that involve “elephant hurling”. For those of you not familiar with this technique, it is when someone throws out general, vague statements, usually as a means to intimidate. For example, they may say, “Well, ALL scientists believe in evolution. It’s been proven over and over by lines of evidence from EVERY area of science. No one doubts evolution!” These types of statements do nothing to advance one’s view or defend one’s beliefs. They are usually just used to get the other person to back down, especially when the person making the claims doesn’t have any concrete evidence.
My advice when you run into these types of responses is to not become defensive and attempt to launch into any kind of defense for creation, but simply, graciously, ask some follow-up questions. Assuming you were actually listening to what they said (which is a good skill to develop), you could ask the following questions (in direct response to the example statements I just listed):
- Could you define what you mean by “evolution”? (Very critical question to make sure you are discussing the same thing before going any further.)
- How do you know all scientists believe in evolution?
- What are some specific lines of evidence you are referring to?
- How do they actually “prove” evolution is true?”
- How do you know that “no one” doubts evolution?
You will obviously have to think of further follow-up questions based on what their responses are to these questions. The overall point is that you wish to draw attention to the fact that they really don’t have any specific evidence, even though they have made some very bold claims, in which case they are exercising a lot of faith.
It was not my intention in this brief article to actually list the specific evidences that are often claimed as being among the best by leading evolutionists, but simply to make a larger point, that many who claim such strong adherence to a belief in evolution, actually have little if any actual personal defense for such a belief.
I am intending to cover a few of the alleged evidences for evolution in next month’s Question of the Month… “Is there any evidence for evolution?
As with all of our other articles, much more could be said about this, but if you have any questions related to this month’s article or any other issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us!