By Elias Ayala (MDiv & M.A.T.)
No! Let me explain what I mean. Fossils are what we might call “data”. Data are the facts we observe (i.e. fossil remains). The raw data merely provides us with that which we observe, in this case, the fossil record. However, the data must be distinguished from the concept of “evidence”. Data becomes evidence when it is employed within an argument to support certain premises. When we utilize data to support an argument, then the data becomes evidence if it is used correctly and does in fact support the premises of my argument.
In like fashion, my answer to our initial question is the same for the Christian. The fossils do not provide evidence for creation in and of themselves. They become evidence when utilized in an argument for creation. Of course, we cannot also forget the reality that data does not speak for itself. Data must be interpreted, and hence the debate often shifts into a discussion of who is interpreting the data correctly. I will not digress into the important area of worldviews and interpretation but I think it is still important to point out.
Within the apologetic context therefore, it is important for us to keep the distinction between “data” and “evidence” clear so that we do not make the mistake of giving the impression that we affirm that the data speaks for itself: It doesn’t! While no one is perfect at this (myself included) we need to always be sure to make the proper distinctions when we are discussing and debating these issues with unbelievers, and with one another within the household of faith. When the proper distinctions are not made, then confusion and ambiguity abound in our interactions and communication and clarity is sacrificed.
The debate between biblical creation and evolution is very detailed and involved. Furthermore, the debate is also very nuanced and requires clarity and proper definitions and distinctions. This can be difficult when we couple it with the reality that we often do not share the same worldview with whom we are debating. When two competing systems of thought collide with one another, it becomes more difficult to debate the details. But if we are conscious of our worldview and the worldview of others, we are then in a better position to understand why people disagree with one another. Being aware of all this is a helpful step in the right direction when doing apologetics; for indeed, apologetics requires logic, rationality, clarity of argument and respectful demeanor, as well as making proper distinctions and defining our terms.