Trying to explain to a friend that evolution is science

I have a friend whom I have very civil discussions with about religion and evolution. He is a young earth creationist and though I have provided tons of evidence, including fossil records (his response to this is that all we know is that this thing existed and died. It could have been a species that died in the flood.). He refutes carbon dating by saying the atmosphere was different in biblical times. He also makes a claim that we have only actually observed evolution removing traits from species in modern times. He is adamant that evolution is a leap of faith and that it is not science. I am simply searching for a way to convey to him that it is. He acknowledges microevolution. I asked him what, in his mind, was the barrier between micro and macro evolution and he said I’m not a scientist but we are making assumptions by saying it happens. I’m not out to just win an argument. I just don’t feel like I have the knowledge or resources to convey to him the true amount of evidence we have for evolution.

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I’d personally say that if he isn’t a scientist himself, and if he isn’t trying to teach about science in his church, don’t bother. Non-scientists generally have a LOT of misconceptions about what science is and how it works that extend far, far beyond just talking about creation and evolution. Trying to convince someone that “evolution is a fact, get over it” when they have no scientific training and don’t even understand what science is, let alone how it works, is just going to confuse them.

If he is trying to teach about science in his church, on the other hand, despite not being a scientist, then you need to convince him of something completely different: namely, that he needs to get properly trained before he attempts to do so. This is simply because if he’s going to teach about science – or indeed anything else – he needs to make sure that what he’s teaching is factually accurate. James 3:1 is the operative Bible verse here.

Cody, welcome to the forum! These questions are ones that come up frequently and have no simple answers. I am sure as you explore the resources on the site, you will find many relevant articles as well as siliar posts on the forum.
Despite the fact that you may get frustrated, and perhaps even hurt by your friend’s rejection of what you believe is a reasonable position, remind yourself that it is not your job to convince him that evolutionary creationism is the best thing since bacon. I think if you present that there are other interpretations of scripture that hold a high view of scripture yet provide freedom to integrate scientific truth you will have more success. Walton’s books are a good place to start.
It would help us answer your questions better as well as build a better relationship if you feel like you can share a bit more of your story, as well as your friend’s. It helps to know educational background, church background, etc. to whatever extent you feel comfortable.
In any case, we welcome your voice and look forward to hearing more from you!

Dear Cody,
I just listened to the Francis Collins podcast that has a suggestion for you. Francis said the most convincing scientific evidence for old Earth is present in our DNA - no carbon dating, no fossil record. The gnome project shows how old we are. Have a listen.
Best Wishes, Shawn

But please remember, we are not responsible for our neighbor’s belief. Each person is responsible to knock on the door and seek.

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Lots of young earth creationists have been taught that to question a literal interpretation of creation (which they will say the Bible clearly teaches was in six days some 6,000 years ago) is to question whether or not the Bible is dependable. If the Bible isn’t dependable, they say, then the whole basis for one’s faith comes crashing down. This is an unfortunate theology to have and takes a lot of processing and paradigm shifting to move away from and most people who are stuck in it won’t ever be moved by scientific arguments. Sometimes the best thing you can do is point out that lots of Christians find a way to harmonize the fact of evolution and ancient earth with respect for the Bible’s authority. It really isn’t this false choice of science or the Bible as many people have been taught. It is unfortunate and frustrating to watch people you like and think of as generally intelligent people cling to nonsense and support their choice with ridiculous assertions that they should know better about. But you’ll probably just get more of the same. Any facts you bring up, he’ll go check on some creationist propaganda website and they’ll have some response that will make sense to him even if it is laughable from a scientific standpoint. But you could always invite him here to share what he thinks are the best pieces of evidence for a young earth.


I look forward to this podcast–thanks, Mr Murphy. I also always enjoy a chuckle from the typos I get on my computer–like this “gnome project!” Blessings.


First of all, and I know you have acknowledged this but it bears repeating…, convincing the other person that you are correct and they are wrong is not a terribly sound basis for civil discussion. Putting a few cracks in his armor and questions in his head might be a better goal to aim for. You are after all only one person compared to who knows how many people in his life who has reinforced this way of thinking that he has. And another thing to consider is your ultimate goal, because beliefs are not isolated things but intertwined with everything else we believe such as a belief in God. While I couldn’t even believe in Christianity without evolution, it may be a challenge for him to believe in God within the context of evolution. So sharing how that works for you may be even more important than the evidence you have for evolution.

One thing you might try is putting him in your shoes and ask him how he would convince a flat-earther that the earth is round. You might do some research on the Biblical basis for a flat-earth in order to prepare for that. One thing I like to point out that while there are only 9 countries capable of putting a rocket into space to see the shape of the earth, there are over 140 different labs in 50 countries with over a dozen different methods of dating and not all are radiometric and not all depend on the atmosphere. We use them for art authentication which can also be extended to cave paintings which includes some in Australia which span the whole time from 50,000 years ago to only a few hundred years ago. This is a comparison which makes a conspiracy to deceive us about the shape of the Earth a bit more likely than one to convince us of the dates of fossils.

Another comparison for him to consider is that he is relying on just one understanding of one book out of many and to do that he is ignoring all the messages we have coming at us from so many sources, not only in the fossils we find in the earth, but light from many different sources in the sky, and the structure and behavior of the earth itself. Why should we believe that his one book as understood by only a few of those that read it is reliable, from God, and correct, while all the other understandings of that book, as well as all the other books and all the other information we are getting from the earth and sky are all deceiving us. It is a little hard to swallow.

The problem with that is that floods leave evidence also, so we can tell when something died in a flood. We know for example that there were several floods in the earliest human civilization 8-12 thousand years ago in Mesopotamia with human remains. So it is believable that stories of the flood wiping out human civilization came from there. But then we find hundreds of layers going back hundreds of millions of years before that with the gradual changes showing the evolution of organisms from the very different animals living then to what lives today.

Well that is not true and it is easy to google new traits that have been added in evolution experiments.

Science is certainly founded on faith. There is the faith in the scientific method, and there is the faith that there are no demons out there arranging the evidence to deceive us. But evolution is certainly science. It is the theoretical foundation of the biological sciences and underlies all the developments of the biological and medical sciences. For example, if you go to the doctor for an infection and they will do a test to see if the infection you are dealing with has evolved an immunity to the antibiotic he gives you a prescription for.

No… We are following the evidence which says that it happens. It is his assumption that his interpretation of one book is more reliable than not only the understanding of others of that book and all the other books, but also all the other evidence coming to us from the earth and sky. To me that looks like a very very very small god that he is devoted to compared to the God that communicates with the rest of us not only with the same book but also with the all the earth and sky as well.


A lot of neat examples can be learned from Christian geologists of the past. I think such examples can be really helpful to know and understand how scientists arrived at the conclusions they did.

Adapted from a book chapter by Davis Young the history of how flood geology came to be rejected by the Christian geological community:
History of the Collapse of “Flood Geology” and a Young Earth

A shorter summary:

Yes it is science; but it is also a leap of faith.

“Evolution” is an omnibus term including many components, from observed processes to grand theories, some of which have solid empirical evidence and some of which are mere hypotheses. Evolution as in “a change in allele frequencies in a population over time” is well documented with solid evidence, Evolution as in “Life on earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species—perhaps a self-replicating molecule—” has little supporting evidence and is a leap of faith.

What can you gain when you lose something? You can gain a new trait when you lose function. Desert mice gained black fur by a loss of function of the pigment regulation system. This was a beneficial loss of function mutation. So while your friend is not quite correct the general evolutionary trend is downhill, Darwin devolves. Nylonase has been touted as an example of evolution in a recent thread but ended with nobody trying to defend de novo evolution of Nylonase.

Many biologists have acknowledged the gap between micro and macro evolution. Consider microevolution as a change in allele frequencies in a population over time. Since this only involves changes in the proportions of existing alleles it can’t produce anything new; but if any allele becomes fixed then all other alleles for that gene are lost. There is no way this can ever add up to macroevolution no matter how long you wait.

The case of desert mice mentioned above is another type of micro- but since it came from breaking something previously working then continually breaking things won’t add up to macro- either.

James Stump shared an article that tackles this from another angle. ti’s worth reading.
It may not help convince your friend head on, but it may help you understand his thinking. It’s not as simple as just laying out proofs before a person who has spent years interpreting the same evidence through a different framework. I’d advise against simply dismissing him. He probably feels a moral/spiritual burden to hold his views out of loyalty to God. Help him see that there is a large community of equally devout believers who hold a high view of scripture who also believe in evolution and you’ll create the space for him to hear you.

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