Fossil Record: Is That Just Your Interpretation?

People have long tried to dull the impact of the Bible by questioning interpretation, telling us ‘that’s just your interpretation’ as if the primary meaning of any Bible passages is at the discretion of the reader. While this is untrue, the accusation is nevertheless widespread, deeply engrained in our culture, and used often in criticizing theology.

If we were to apply the same line of reasoning to science, we would be sure of very little in nature. Today there is a news article explaining how some scientists are now questioning archaeopteryx, saying the specie does not belong in the same classification that shows a connection between birds and meat-eating dinosaurs. (see the article here).

The fact is that much of the conclusions that come from paleontolgy and other sciences have a lot to do with the perspective of the scientist, and not the data itself. Evolutionary scientists spend a great deal of effort attempting to sequence species in the overall tree, but when a theologian questions the existence of the sequence in the first place, the evolutionists laugh them to ridicule.

If the latest findings about archaeopteryx hold up over time, it supports the claim that scientists are capable of being swayed by their preconceptions before they see the data, rather than always making totally objective conclusions after they observe the data.

Of course, theologians are capable of the same fault, as evolutionists are quick to point out. So what are we to conclude? It seems that both theists and atheists are both capable of biased interpretation of data due to the perspective they have when they approach the data. It would also seem that even though this bias appears engrained, and examples can be given on both sides to show it is true, we nevertheless cannot conclude that either field is totally wrong or unknowable.

If science can overcome human bias in interpretation, so can theology. If theology is forever locked into subjectivity due to human interpretation, so is science. In reality, the popular media stereotypes both fields, holding science as totally objective and theology as totally subjective. Neither conclusion is true.

Further, the high level of emotion that permeates this discussion contributes to the human bias and blindness when it comes to certain data. If we can dial down the rhetoric and look at these issues in cold blood, we might find more common ground than we realized ever existed.

 

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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One Response to Fossil Record: Is That Just Your Interpretation?

  1. Melissa says:

    A very useful and interesting book about the subjectivity of fossil interpretation is Roger Lewin’s 1997 book, Bones of Contention (not to be confused with another book with the same title). He is an evolutionist, but he speaks very candidly of paleontologists throughout the past century and a half manipulating data to save face, further their careers, and prop up the theory of evolution.

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