How should we respond when our anti-evolution brethren insist on straw man arguments?


I’m amazed how often we deal with our Christian brethren who repeat the same frustrating, straw man claims no matter how many times we correct them—even in the same thread of one of countless Christian forums. Their popular favorites tend to be:

(1) “Evolution claims that everything came from nothing.” or sometimes "Evolution says that nothing exploded to produce everything

(2) “The Theory of Evolution explains how life began.”

(3) “Nobody ever saw a bacteria evolve into a non-bacteria.”

(4) “No cat ever gave birth to a dog.”

(5) “There is no evidence for evolution. It is just a bunch of guesses.”

(6) “Evolution isn’t science. It’s just a religion.”

(7) “The only reason some Christians believe in evolution is because they want to be respected by scientists/atheists/secularists/seeker-churches.”

Even more maddening is the popular combinations of nonsense in an illogical progression of disjointed declarations, such as:

“Evolution is a fairytale for adults” and “Nobody ever observed evolution happening”, yet minutes later the same people are saying, “That’s just adaptation. Sure micro-evolution happened. But macro-evolution never happens.” and minutes after that comes “All of the cat kind species developed from a single cat-kind pair on the ark during the first few centuries after they left the ark.” (That favorite of Ken Ham is becoming much more common now that the Ark Encounter is open. Of course, they refuse to call that hyper-speed macro-evolution, even though they claim that all lion, tiger, panther, leopard, cheetah, house cats, bobcats et al evolved in a 200 year period. An entire taxonomic family evolving in a few dozen generations makes real evolution look glacially slow by comparison.)

Is there a point when we should give up on the arguments about the science and deal more forcefully with the ethical issues? At some point it becomes impossible to avoid the fact that origins ministries are feeding well-meaning but gullible people lies which have the appearance of being quite deliberately dishonest. And at times it becomes obvious that some of the devoted followers of some of these origins ministries repeat the reprehensible behavior because they’ve absorbed by example the belief that “All is fair in spiritual warfare.” (I’ve even had Christian brethren try to justify various tactics by saying, “What? You don’t think atheists ever lie about the evidence? You don’t think evilutionists ever quote-mine? Don’t you care that people are dying and going to hell?”)

Even the adults who fall for the “Were you there?” argument have to realize at some point that (1) it is a very dishonest argument, and (2) it is a very illogical argument, and (3) it represents an attitude that turns people against the Gospel.

So, as Francis Schaeffer used to ask, “How should we then live?” Do we interact with our Young Earth Creationist brethren as if it is all a matter of evidence and the science? Or do we also admit, at least to ourselves if not also to our brethren, that there is profound folly and sin at work?

How often do our Christian brethren assume that being deaf and blind to evidence and logic proves their faithfulness to the Lord? Do we identify that sin and folly for what it is? Or do we patently pretend that explaining the evidence and the science one more time will actually get at the heart of the problem? Or do we simply assume our opponent is a lost cause and that we are responding solely for the benefit of third-party observers? (If our opponents were non-believers, it seems easier to give up on them. But when it is our Christian brethren, I wonder about our obligations to rebuke and correct.)

What do you think? Where do we draw the lines?

Criticisms vs. Attacks: Where's the line?
(Jay Nelsestuen) #2

There are similar problems in the King James Only movement. Dishonesty and quote-mining abounds at the expense of truth and accuracy in regards to textual criticism, for example. The only way to combat it is to teach and to rebuke the dishonesty. That’s what Dr. James White has done for the better part of 30 years; many people have been removed from that movement because of his work in both teaching the truth about textual issues and pointing out the blatant dishonesty of King James Onlyism’s promoters (Sam Gipp, Kent Hovind, Peter Ruckman, etc.). I think BioLogos is doing something similar, which I appreciate. I might not always agree with the way they choose to go about things, but @TedDavis’s newest article was a shining example of how to go about this.

In the end, however, if all else fails, shake the dust from your feet and move on. I’m content to agree to disagree with my YEC brothers and sisters. They’ll think I’m a God-forsaken liberal; I’ll still see them as Christians. It does have a lot to do with attitude.

(Phil) #3

Good points all, and something that may need further discussion and definition. I am sure you are somewhat like me when I tell myself I will not be annoyed , and will not respond to some of the nonsensical replies, but then find myself doing just that. One of the things we have in common with Paul, I guess.:{) The issue with intentional misrepresentation (doesn’t that sound better than …) is something that really is worrisome when it comes from Christians, and perhaps we do not hold the Christian community accountable as much as we should. It is difficult to define what is opinion, even perhaps opinion held in ignorance, and intentional dishonesty.

My feeling is that it is not the mission of this organization to be the policeman of the internet, yet when those things are presented on the forum, we need to be focused on presenting truth. But that is just me.


You could yawn and point them to the Talk Origins Index of Creationist Claims.

(Jay Nelsestuen) #5

This is key. As people who claim to have a corner on the truth when it comes to spiritual matters, we ought to hold ourselves and our brothers and sisters to a higher standard of honesty and accuracy when it comes to other matters such as the sciences. Consistency, folks.


If I mention, they always say, “No. I never read TalkOrigins because it is obviously biased.”

That’s why they rely on AIG, “The No-Spin Zone” of scientific websites.

(Lynn Munter) #7

I used to wonder what it would look like to sit down with someone in the YEC camp and go through the TalkOrigins and the TalkDesign lists of points one by one, and disregarding those where honest uncertainty still holds, figure out how many have been resolved in favor of evolution and how many have been resolved in favor of creationism.

I still think it would be a very enlightening project. Massive and time-consuming, but enlightening.