ARGUMENT #8: Theistic explanations are not scientific, because they only offer “negative evidence.”

Skeptic Michael Shermer writes, “Disproving evolution does not prove creationism.”[1] Later, he writes, “Design requires positive evidence, not the rejection of negative evidence.”[2] Darwinist Francisco Ayala writes, “If one explanation fails, it does not necessarily follow that some other explanation is correct. Explanations must stand on their own evidence, not on the failure of their alternatives.”[3] Thus, many skeptics of design argue that it doesn’t offer positive evidence for its view. Instead, it merely shows the limitations of naturalistic causes.

RESPONSE: While negative evidence is not conclusive, it is still good evidence. For instance, imagine if someone held a cell phone to their ear and said, “I am currently talking to someone on Alpha Centuri right now.” There are good negative arguments against this claim. For instance, how could they instantly talk to someone on Alpha Centuri, if it takes light years to reach that star? This negative evidence would be important in this case, because it shows the limits of natural law. In the same way, by showing the limits of naturalism, theistic explanations can be further supported.[4]

Moreover, by inferring design, we are not arguing for something that we do not know; we are arguing for something we do know. That is, since we regularly recognize the effects of intelligent causes, we are inferring something with which we are familiar. Groothuis writes, “The design inference is not based on ignorance of the natural world but on knowledge about it.”[5]

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[1] Shermer, Michael. Why Darwin Matters: The Case against Intelligent Design. New York: Times, 2006. 50.

[2] Shermer, Michael. Why Darwin Matters: The Case against Intelligent Design. New York: Times, 2006. 63.

[3] Ayala, Francisco José. Darwin and Intelligent Design. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006. 76.

[4] Phillip Johnson writes, “The Academy’s rule against negative argument automatically eliminates the possibility that science has not discovered how complex organism could have developed. however wrong the current answer may be, it stands until a better answer arrives. It is as if a criminal defendant were not allowed to present an alibi unless he could also show who did commit the crime.” Johnson, Phillip E. Darwin on Trial. 2nd ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993. 8.

[5] Groothuis, Douglas R. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011. 247.