Arguments vs. Evidence in the Creation Debate

I would take it as tacit agreement with, and avoidance of, my point.

I mean it as lay terminology, analogous to a legal proceeding. Scientists focus on the evidence, not rhetoric. ID proponents and creationists do not engage with the evidence, pretending that hearsay is just as good; hence their emphasis on argument over evidence as seen here.

I find the common claim that both sides are merely interpreting the same evidence differently to be profoundly dishonest, as it is almost always made by those who don’t bother to become engaged with evidence and therefore have no basis for making such a claim.


Sure, I agree that there is a lot of false and misleading rhetoric on the part of ID proponents and creationists. But our hope here is that everyone will engage the evidence honestly and as much as they can. If creationists want to interpret the evidence differently, they can give it a shot, as long as they do it honestly. I don’t think we’re going to achieve progress by attributing bad motivations to the other side before the interaction has even begun.


IYO, how can that happen if we’re not explicitly distinguishing between argument and evidence?

They sure can, but they don’t.

They rely almost entirely on hearsay, while frequently misrepresenting themselves as being directly engaged with evidence. Anyone who makes the claim that “both sides interpret the same evidence” has to have examined at least a subset of said evidence to make such a claim in good faith.


If we want to be rigorous, in my view, an argument for X is a reason for why we should believe X is true. Evidence are facts (i.e. bare empirical data that is agreed upon as valid by both sides) that are used as part of an argument. Thus, you cannot have evidence without an argument. Arguments are not necessarily empty, misleading rhetoric. Darwin makes a lot of good arguments for evolution in The Origin. There are arguments for the existence of dark matter. Any sequence of logical statements that states (roughly) we should believe X because of propositions Y and evidences Z is an argument.

We should distinguish between arguments and evidence. We should differentiate between the data and the conclusions people have drawn from the data. But we also shouldn’t say things like that “you don’t need arguments to show that evolution is true, only evidence.” That’s more of a rhetorical statement rather than a substantial, logical one, which is why it was confusing to me. No matter if you’re arguing for evolution or creationism or conservatism or communism, you need arguments to support your stance.

Sometimes among scientists who are working from a shared framework with similar presuppositions, we only use the term “evidence” instead of “argument”. But that is hard to apply here when talking to creationists who have very different presuppositions.

As I said, we’re trying to move onto a new path forward here. We’re trying to leave the past baggage behind.


It could be so. Who knows what another is thinking? But, there’s another way to look at it… Sometimes a day at the museum is just something to do. Sometimes it is a life-changing, teaching moment.

Not every conversation has to be an argument. If you sense a fight, do you walk toward it or away? This is an individual response. To each his own.

But both sides don’t agree on the evidence in this case. One side is ignoring evidence and substituting rhetoric from those who actively misrepresent evidence. That’s the problem.

When did I say or imply that they were? In fact, I explicitly wrote in response to you:

And you even responded to that comment. Why pretend that I wrote something completely different now?

I’m sorry you’re confused, but I stand by it. That’s how strong the evidence is.

Yes, if you are arguing, you obviously need arguments. That’s just circular (emphasis mine).

The only shared framework there is a scientific one.

That’s because they are presupposing a pseudoscientific framework in which rhetoric is more important than evidence.

I don’t see how you can do that if you don’t actively refute frankly dishonest equivocations between rhetoric and evidence.

Do you not see that Joshua is refuting your claim wrt to Behe’s latest book, in the case of the polar bear? Behe is falsely presenting an interpretation as a fact and Josh is concentrating on that. That’s what has to be done; it just needs to be more clearly framed IMO.

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That’s doesn’t make sense in a scientific context. Most of the explicit arguments we make as scientists are about the relative significance of our work, as in cover letters for manuscripts and grant proposals, not truth.

When testing hypotheses, we should try to avoid making arguments.

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You implied so here:

By your own admission, arguments and evidence cannot be compared. One is a subset of another. It is nonsensical to say that “there is so much evidence that there is no need to make an argument to prove X”. Given that each piece of evidence E is part of an argument A (that presumably proves X), the statement is self-contradictory.

If your point is that both sides need to agree on the data before arguing for their respective positions, then I support you there. In contrast, “evidence” is a term with non-neutral connotations that begs the question against one’s own side, because as you said, it is always a component of an argument for something. Thus, it’s not always productive to deploy it in a contentious debate like this.

I’m talking about the context of the thread: What Are Your Favorite Arguments For Evolution?. I’m not talking about what Behe said. Or are you accusing @J.E.S of being dishonest?

Are you really claiming, while on your high horse about evidence and going on about being rigorous, that you would describe your inference as my implication?

There’s nothing implying anything of the sort there, nor is there anything to infer, particularly when I made a perfectly explicit statement: “Evidence is a component of an argument.”

I never admitted anything of the sort. For evolution, evidence alone is much stronger than any argument with no evidence (or with phony evidence). Of course, I am contrasting, not comparing. :grin:

I never wrote what you put between quotation marks, as I am perfectly aware that science never purports to prove anything.

So what’s the point of your passionate defense of the premise of this thread?

I never wrote that it is always a component of something. One can always make arguments without evidence or with phony evidence.

Since your premise is false, I don’t accept your conclusion.

I’m talking about the context of the whole forum. I inferred that from what you wrote.

I’m saying that there is a problem with ignoring most of the evidence in favor of looking at arguments. Whether his motivation for doing so is honest or dishonest, I don’t know.

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This is where empiricism can be important, at least for scientific discussions. “It looks designed” is a subjective opinion, not an empirical or objective measurement. Not only would we need to agree on facts, by we would also need to agree if we are talking about scientific facts.


The same goes for “DNA sequences are similar,” without ever acknowledging that their identities and differences put them in nested hierarchies.

The statistical significance of a phylogenetic signal is also an objective measurement, one that design supporters and creationists often ignore. That is one bit of evidence that they seem to have a hard time interpreting.