What might be the cognitive biases

So a recent page discussing “What might be the spiritual origins of YEC”, noted that there seems to be a certain underlying impetus or inclination for its adherents to further this position beyond what actual facts would support.

During the course of that discussion, I observed yet again what to me is a similar and obvious cognitive habit(for lack of a better word) among defenders of evolution to essentially do the same… an inclination to wildly exaggerate the evidence, or the significance of the actual facts at hand.

I outlined numerous examples I had read in a biologos article some years ago; and there are plenty of others I could note. But in a following discussion on that very thread, I found it happen yet again, in an almost comically obvious demonstration of the same pattern.

These kinds of argumentation errors - that I find both so ubiquitous and so egregious - suggest to me cognitive biases (essentially variations of confirmation bias). And these kinds of approaches enervate my skepticism… If a position is so obviously true, then simply present me with the actual, basic facts - without radically exaggerating either the facts themselves, or the significance of those facts… just present the actual facts and let the actual facts speak for themselves. If the case is so strong, so obvious, so airtight, then just present the facts and let them speak for themselves.

But when I so consistently see such wild exaggerations, regularly overhyping or downright misrepresenting the most meager or trifling of facts as if they present unassailable and final proof of evolution… well, it makes people who are skeptical like me start to wonder if perhaps this emperor isn’t as well dressed as he claims… and makes its proponents appear to me as crusaders committed to propping up a desired outcome, and willing to grasp at any evidence however paltry, rather than being an even-minded scientist who takes a critical eye to all data, willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

So now, as to the most recent example of what seems to me such egregious exaggeration, it is so obvious I would almost think it an intention irony… And note, I don’t mean to call out David specifically, as he has been generous and kind with his discussion and answers to my questions… but nonetheless, the way the discussion unfolded is simply too perfect a demonstration of this pattern; and thus I can’t help but point it out as a perfect example of the very cognitive bias I see in practically every defense of evolution, especially when arguing against ID theories.

So as to my new favorite example…

I had observed:

One member asserted:

And later in the discussion, the same claim was repeated:

Now, this claim is indeed most intriguing to me, as it would refute many ID claims I have heard. And seeking truth, not an ideology, as I am, I want to know about any evidence whatsoever that impacts the topic, whichever “side” benefits or is harmed by the evidence in question… I am truly curious. thus I asked for specific examples:

And the answer I was given:


As kind and respectful as I can be, I can’t describe this in any way other than to call it “moving the goalposts”, or some kind of equivocation. Now I don’t for a minute think this was conscious or deliberate, but I can’t help but see this as an example of the same ubiquitous confirmation bias I noted above. Grand claims are made that sound enormously impressive, and which, if true, would be a slam-dunk for evolution and a similarly unassailable rebuttal against various ID arguments.

And then when I actually dig down further, and explore the actual evidence cited, I so often find that these grand, categorical claims are based on the most scanty, irrelevant, or miniscule evidence - the grandiosity of the claim is a result of the wishful thinking, imagination, or exaggeration of the disputant, it is not found in the data itself.

Hence my overall skepticism is only enervated by such habits. If evidence for evolution (or abiogenesis) is so categorical and clear, why do its proponents not simply lay out the actual data as it is, and let the actual evidence speak for itself, without the routine and rather extravagant exaggerations? On the other hand, if such aggrandizement is necessary in order to make the case… perhaps the evidence isn’t quite so conclusive as it is advertised as being?

(all that said, if someone wants to present evidence of actual “complex” macromolecules as noted above, I am still all ears…)

It would appear that you are still disallowing God’s sovereignty and providence over the molecular realm.

If there is evidence of complex macromolecules forming in the absence of “direct” or demonstrable intervention, the kind that would indeed be attributable to God’s subtle, providential and sovereign working…. I would be all ears.

The point of my above post, however, is that I constantly hear claims that “complex” macromolecules have been demonstrated to have formed in this manner… but when I ask for the actual evidence, I am presented with evidence that “simple” macromolecules can so develop.

If you want to believe, by faith, that these things indeed happened in such ways, you are welcome to do so…. I prefer to hold out for actual evidence, myself…

That’s a point that I’ve made on several occasions. When I make it, I’m specifically referring to young Earth claims and not to evolution.

This is because the age of the Earth is a question that is quantitative in nature. Radiometric dating is a measurement technique, and accordingly the results that it spits out come with specific numerical indications of random and systematic error. Many of the principles under which it operates are universal, apply to every area of science, and are fairly straightforward to understand. This being the case, the extent to which YECs are exaggerating their case is something that is quantifiable, measurable, and clear-cut.

Discussions about evolution, on the other hand, are going to be much more nuanced, for several reasons. First of all, evolution is a much more complex subject, with a lot of different moving parts. Abiogenesis, common ancestry, speciation and so forth are all different aspects to the subject that tend to get conflated under the catch-all umbrella of “evolution,” so you’ll often hear people claiming that “life can not come from non-life” and thinking that somehow falsifies the idea that humans and chimpanzees are related. It doesn’t.

For the same reason, the evidence for evolution comes from a wide variety of different directions. Some of these directions may seem pretty flaky when taken on their own (e.g. the extent of the fossil record, or the lack of a complete explanation for how life got started in the first place), but others are much more compelling (e.g. comparative genomics).

Additionally, there is no unifying set of principles behind the arguments for evolution. Most (but not all) of them are qualitative rather than quantitative in nature, and accordingly it is much harder to actually quantify who is exaggerating what, to what extent, and what the implications of those exaggerations are.


Patience, Daniel, Patience. :slightly_smiling_face: It may be forthcoming and your judgement otherwise may be premature.

Do you or did you not reject evolutionary science (my senior memory is not sure)? There is certainly plenty of ‘actual evidence’ regarding it.

Talk about exaggerations and moving the goalpost!

Do we have someone here claiming to judge evolution on the basis of picking at details on evidence for abiogenesis? So the argument here is basically that the emperor has no clothes because of where the hemline is on the shirt of one of the emperor’s advisors.


I believe that the terms “complex” and “simple” are relative to different things. “Complex” macromolecules is referring to polypeptides. “Simple” in the context of the articles (guessing, as the abstracts don’t specify, and I don’t have access to the whole articles) is peptides as opposed to nucleic acids.

One example that can be looked at for interspecific evolution is Cenozoic mollusks, since the fossil record for them is dramatically better than for (e.g.) vertebrates. Sequences of interspecific-level change through time include those in Busycon sensu strictu, Neoterebra, Macrocallista, and Solariorbis.

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You are prey to the cognitive bias of incredulity which is where Hoyle, Dyson, Davies, Penrose, Polkinghorne, Margulis all lose the plot. It is the most pathetic fallacy.

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