I thought that our daughter Wendy was the master of negative body language. When Wendy did not like something, even as a small child, she would stand with her hand on her hip, look at us, and roll her eyes in a way that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. Now that daughter has three boys, and the oldest of her boys, Griffin, has exceeded her abilities in body language and facial expressions. The cover pictures show two of our three grandsons, and I will let you guess which one is Griffin. As I look at the picture above, I see a good portrayal of a major problem that is going on in our world today. All three boys have been given the same evidence--they are all in a field of bluebonnets in Texas in late spring--but they are not interpreting the evidence in the same way. It has nothing to do with the evidence or the way in which the evidence is presented; it has to do with how the evidence fits the observer's preconceived notions. The two younger boys, Colby and the baby Tanner, are caught up in the joy and the beauty of what they observe. They are open books without preconceived notions, and are learning about the world in a completely open and joyous way. Griffin has an agenda. Whatever else was planned by him for this moment is not happening, and he is unwilling and perhaps unable to profit by what he sees and experiences. If you look at another picture taken a few moments after the first one (the picture to the right on the cover), you see another reaction to the situation. This too is typical of the world in which we live.

How do people react when you attempt to show them evidence that God does exist and that the Christian system is the one true path to God? How do people react to any notion of God or of the idea that we are here for a purpose and that there is a right and a wrong way to live? How do people react to any concept or mention of the Church? How do people react to evidence that they may misunderstand something in the Bible or that the Church they attend may have some things that need to be looked at more carefully in what they do and how they do it? Is it like Griffin in the pictures we have shown you or like the other two boys? The fact is that how we look at the evidence is as important as the evidence itself. We will never find Truth, nor will we achieve unity of any kind unless we have a common method of evaluating the evidence and applying it to our belief system. We would like to suggest some approaches to evidence that all of us need to look at and apply to our own understandings and beliefs. These approaches are the same regardless of what kind of evidence we are talking about--scientific, historical, biblical, psychological, etc.

Watch for Vested Interests in the Presentation of Evidence. We live in a time when it seems that everyone has an angle. Sometimes a person is trying to make money. Sometimes a person is striving for fame and identity and does something to get his name in front of the public. Sometimes people are trying to promote a cause that they believe in. In the gay rights controversy there has been a large amount of writing about the role of genetics in homosexuality. The problem in getting an understanding of this issue has been that the first five or six studies that were publicly reported on the connection between genes and homosexual preference were done by gay activists. These researchers had scientific degrees, but their research was done for the purpose of justifying their life styles, and a close examination of their data shows that their sample was; elected in such a way that it skewed their results. Studies done with twins, for example, did not evaluate whether the twins were raised together or not. If twins were raised by different parents, then the possibility of environmental factors being an issue are greatly increased. Our point here is that the researchers had a vested interest in what they were researching, and this prevented a valid collection of data.

Another example of this same kind of vested interest has been seen in studies on the benefits of prayer. There have been several studies reported in which cures and recoveries were higher among patients that had groups of people praying for them than was seen among people who did not have groups praying for them. The problem with these studies was that they were done by religiously oriented researchers who wanted to show the therapeutic value of prayer. The obvious problem with these studies is that it is assumed that group prayer is more effective than individual prayer and that the researchers knew what was going on in the prayer life of their control group. If such a study was done comparing atheist patients with religious patients some of the bias of sampling might be reduced; but as it was done the study was virtually meaningless.

The subject of evolution and creation is an area where vested interests frequently make it very difficult for the average reader to get a balanced picture of what the evidence is. Many people in the scientific community assume that if a particular theory of evolution is proven to be wrong, that all of biological science will collapse. Many creationists have a creed that they have accepted which finds itself at odds with certain aspects of evolutionary theory. In both cases there is a vested interest that is likely to make the consideration of evolutionary theory so biased that it is invalid.

 There are obvious financial interests involved in almost every study done on foods, diets, drugs, and commercial products. When the egg institute sponsors a study on the health benefit of eating eggs, one has to be concerned about how the data will be gathered and used. This is not to say there is automatically a bias in something like this, but it does have to be looked at very carefully.

Be Sure the Source of the Evidence Is Reliable and Free of Bias. There is an old saying that I have always enjoyed, and I first heard it from my major professor in graduate school (said in sarcasm) "Be sure that your data agrees with your conclusions." The problem is that many people of all persuasions set out to prove what they already believe as they consider evidence. This is true of atheists and religionists of all cuts and stripes. When the Jesus Seminar set out to find evidence of the things in the New Testament that were true, they started rejecting off the top anything they found difficult to believe--which meant any miracle. This is not searching for evidence; this is selecting data to support what you have already decided is true. I have had many discussions with atheists about things in the Bible they felt were false, and in virtually every case they had formed their opinion about what was possible to believe on the assumption that no such thing as God could possibly exist. Any evidence that suggested things could be studied that could not be touched, smelled, heard, felt or tasted was summarily rejected because it violated the person's atheistic assumptions. That kind of logic would eliminate quantum mechanics, nuclear physics, and much of chemistry.

American Atheist magazine ran an article in their Winter 1999-2000 issue (page 33) in which they compared the genealogies between Moses and Jesus in Matthew with those in Luke (there are 42 people listed in Matthew and 55 in Luke). Their purpose was to discredit the Bible, not to objectively determine whether the methods of listing genealogies were correct. Any scholar who is fair with evidence would know that in any document of that age you have to look at who wrote the document, to whom, and why. In this case we have a Jewish document that did not use genealogies for chronological purposes, so any use that assumes American techniques and modern chronology methods is invalid.

Religious people will sometimes cite things that they found somewhere without asking what the source was. For many years there was a story that went around claiming that engineers at NASA had found the missing day of Joshua 10. The source of the information was a book by Harold Hill titled How to Live Like a King's Kid. The problem was that this book was written to provide stories to support miracles in the 20th century. The book was not a research study, and the bias of the author made it obvious that the story had no factual basis. Another story which was similar to this was a story that Madalyn O'Hair was getting the FCC to take all religious programming off of TV. That story began as an emotional plea for funds by a television evangelist and had no factual basis.

The primary way to avoid problems in areas like this is to look at the credentials of the person doing the research or making the presentation. Does the person have academic training in the subject matter that he is dealing with? In questions related to the age of the earth a vast majority of creationists who promote a young age to the earth have no training in geology. The result is that claims are made that any basic first year college student in geology would know are not true. A favorite theme of young earth advocates has been the fact that a 1200 foot canyon has been carved on the flanks of Mount St. Helens since 1980. The argument is that if a canyon that large can be carved in such a short time, then surely the Grand Canyon could be carved in a few thousand years. The problem is that the rock types on Mount St. Helens are very soft and easily weathered and eroded. The rock types in the Grand Canyon are rocks that get harder with age and are extremely resistant to erosion. Any seventh grader knows you do not build buildings and highways out of volcanic ash; you use cement which is chemically similar to limestone. This is a classic example of an error made by people who just do not have the academic training in geology to make such a presentation.

Carl Sagan was a planetary astronomer. His training and his expertise was in astronomical studies of the conditions and processes on planets other than our own. Sagan had a lot of charisma and found himself sought after by television executives for producing popularized science specials. As he gained popularity, he started doing things in fields outside of the one in which he had training. Sagan even wrote a book (Broca's Brain) that dealt primarily with physical anthropology--a field in which he had no training or expertise. Those who were trained in that field of study had rather harsh words for Sagan's comments because being an expert in one field did not make him an expert in every field. It is important to make sure the person doing the reporting is trained in the field that he is dealing with. Creationists tend to make the same error, using leading creationists who have a Ph.D. in biology as experts on theology geology, or astronomy. Look at the degrees the person holds and what those degrees are in before you take their reports too seriously.

Search to See if There Is Evidence WhichOpposes the Evidence You Have Been Given. It is always interesting to me to see how a new discovery is interpreted by people who are promoting a particular cause. Not long ago there was some new data on string theory in the scientific literature. When I received Hugh Ross' report on that data it presented a glowing report on how the discovery supported the concept of God. When I received Skeptic magazine's report on the data, it commented on how this would disprove claims of the existence of God. The difference in this case was not only the bias of the two reporters, but also the fact that not all of the evidence that has been gathered was reported by the atheist writer. String theory depends upon an understanding of higher dimensions than the three-dimensional world in which we live. There is compelling scientific evidence that there are such higher dimensions. The atheist writer did not know or at least did not mention the fact that data does support these higher dimensional ideas, and that exclusion made all the difference in the world as to how the string theory concept could be applied to questions about the existence of God.

Discussions about the age of the earth by young earth creationists almost always are guilty of ignoring data. Claims that the earth's magnetic field is decreasing (indicating that it has been in existence a short time) ignore evidence that the field flips back and forth. Claims that lunar dust would be miles deep if the moon was of great age ignore evidence that asteroids have struck the moon and altered its surface. Claims that human and dinosaur tracks exist in the same strata ignore evidence that the human tracks are filled in dinosaur tracks and variations in undulations in the rock. It is very important to read a wide assortment of reports so that one gets a complete picture of all the evidence on a particular subject.

Consider the Date of the Evidence and How Time May Affect It. We live in a world where new discoveries are being made in science and technology at a staggering rate. As an individual writer on science and faith, I subscribe to over 100 periodicals of all sorts and descriptions just trying to stay current. What is interesting is that both atheist and creationist writers tend to get stagnant in what they report. I have atheist writers send me arguments on the evidence that the creation had a beginning based on the oscillating universe theory. When I see atheist sources use cosmological material that is older than three years I know that I am dealing with a person who is out of date. The acceleration of the cosmos has pretty much put a nail in the coffin of the older understandings of the oscillating universe theory. By the same token, there is new research on multiuniverses and parallel universes which will revive the oscillating universe theory in a different context of understanding. So far the data has not supported this idea, but as a presenter in this area of concern it is important that I keep up to date on this area of study. It is incredible to me that on the web I continue to see wild emotional pleas by religionists about Madalyn O'Hair taking religious programming off TV when Madalyn has been dead for many years and the whole issue was laid to rest over 20 years ago. Any time a claim is seen on anything, it is important to look at the date of the research data and to ask if there has been new data which has changed the information about that subject.

Act Upon the Implications and Applications of the Evidence (Do not Ignore It). In the nearly forty years that we have been involved in showing people that science and faith are supportive-friendly disciplines, I have had many many discussions with both atheists and religionists who disagreed with me. In many cases on both sides I have found that there were research studies that the person who was arguing with me was unaware of. When I would present that new data to the person, he would have the same problem that all of us have when data is presented--what to do with the new information. In many cases when I would ask the person what he was going to do, he would say "ignore it." The implication was that he had already made up his mind, and no amount of new information was going to change it.

This journal started in 1970. When I look back at what was written in those early years, I see things that I wrote then that I now know are not true. When I have become aware of something new or a change in understanding that I have had, I have tried to make sure that others know what I have learned and why what I believed in the past was incorrect. I once had a minister tell me that he had not learned anything or changed his views on anything in the Bible since he was 15 years old. I view that as a slur on him (and a sure sign of a stagnant mind). It is important to mature and grow in our understandings and actions. If I had not been willing to change since I was 15, I would still be an atheist, because I did not become a believer in God until my early 20s. You can attribute that to my stubbornness or lack of intelligence if you wish, but the fact is that we as humans should be growing, changing dynamic beings--not sealed tombs of information. We need to be able and willing to change. The purpose of this journal is to assist people in that process. We do not have all the answers by any stretch, but we try to present readers with new information and new understandings that we hope will motivate people to become better informed, more enlightened people in their belief system and in how they live. Check out the sources, look at the data, consider the credentials of the data gatherers, and apply it to your life. Make your life a dynamic meaningful growing fountain of beneficial things to others. We are convinced that if you apply these techniques you will become a Christian and will get involved in the wonderful business of helping, serving, and loving others. Check that out using the methods and understandings that we have suggested in this article. "Choose you this day who ye will serve" but do it with valid information and with logical processes of investigation.

--John N. Clayton

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