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29+ Evidences for Macroevolution


Copyright © 1999-2003 by Douglas Theobald, Ph.D.

"The only people who use 'evidences' (plural) are creationists or people who have spent far too much time reading their literature! 'Evidences' is a term from Christian apologetics ..."

Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director for the National Center for Science Education.

"Now, this bill was of course drafted by a theologian or somebody versed in apologetics. There's an amusing bit of 'evidence' on that subject in the very language of the bill. The bill keeps using - the act keeps using the term 'evidences' in the plural. We lawyers never speak of 'evidences' in the plural; we speak of 'evidence' - the singular. I got nagged by it and I looked it up the other day. And of course the only dictionary reference to 'evidences' is to Christian apologetics - the 'evidences' for Christianity."

Jay Topkis, speaking of Louisiana's "Creationism Act" during Edwards v. Aguillard before the U. S. Supreme Court, Dec 10, 1986.

I've caught an enormous amount of flack for the title of this FAQ. Many a reader has reminded me that "evidences" is only used in ecclesiastical contexts. True, the majority of references using the term "evidences" are religious apologies, as evidenced by a simple Google search for "evidences". Others importune that "evidences" is not even a valid English term, as "evidence" is already a plural noun (formally known as a mass noun or a non-count noun). Originally, the title of this FAQ was diffidently christened "Proofs of Macroevolution" - something used just to be a tad provocative, since science really cannot prove anything in the mathematical or logical sense of "prove." I was strongly urged to remove the overstated "Proofs" (and I agreed it should be changed), so I decided to insert "evidences" as an inside joke for all who realize how common that bit of language is in creation/evolution debates. Personally, I thought it was pretty funny. It also lends a nice eccentric air to the title, giving it some name recognition. Who would remember "The Scientific Evidence for Common Descent" or some other insipid appellation? Recently, I've had some fun investigating the historical usage of the word "evidences," and I am surprised to report that it is not at all limited to Christian apologetics. It appears to be somewhat of an archaic usage, but was not and is not confined to theological discourse. In an effort to contribute even more verbiage to this logomachy, I have compiled a listing of authors, writers, politicians, documents, historians, scientists, etc. that have employed this particular etymon. My locution might be peculiar, but I have distinguished company.

The word "evidences," as a plural of the noun "evidence," is currently used secularly at least seven times in the latest edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia (Sixth Edition 2001), mostly in a legal context.

The infamous term is also sparingly used in modern scientific literature. For example, a search for "evidences" in the text of all online HighWire journals gets over 1000 hits. The title of an article, of course, is the part most closely inspected by journal editors. A more limited search of only the titles of scientific articles in the PubMed database returns over 250 documents. For example, the term "evidences," as a conspicuous member of a paper's title, has made it past the editors of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the Journal of Molecular Evolution, Cancer, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Physical Review Letters, Biochimica and Biophysica Acta, Nucleic Acids Research, Virology, Genetics, and the Federation of European Biochemical Societies Letters, some of the world's most prestigious scientific journals (note that a small minority of these articles use "evidences" as a transitive verb). For comparison, a title-word search at PubMed for the co-opted word "proofs" returns only 25 articles (many of which are used in a mathematical context, and don't really count).

Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895).
Evidences as to Man's Place in Nature. (1863)

"Palaeontology and the Doctrine of Evolution." (1870)

"When the fossil remains which are the evidences of these successive changes, as they have occurred in any two more or less distant parts of the surface of the earth, are compared, they exhibit a certain broad and general parallelism. "

Huxley, in fact, used the word evidences quite frequently in his scientific writings.

Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875).
The Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man. (1863)

George John Romanes, LL. D. (1848-1894).
The Scientific Evidences of Organic Evolution. (1883)

Robert Chambers (1802-1871).
Explanations: A Sequel to "Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation". (1845)
Instances of Transmutation

"Surely there are here ample evidences of species, or what are usually regarded as such, being variable under changed conditions. It will be said, these changes are all mere variations of specific forms, and the facts do nothing but show that that has been called species which is only variety. But where is this to have its limits? If the cabbage and sea-plant are to be now regarded as one species, it seems to me that we have to go very little further, to come to the lines of successive forms or stirpes, which my hypothesis suggests."

Proof of Aboriginal Life in the present era not essential to the theory of Organic Creation by Law

"Thus closes my review of the objections which have been made to the evidences for an organic creation by law."

William Shakespeare (1564-1616).
The Winter's Tale. (c. 1611).
Act V. Scene II.

"The mantle of Queen Hermione, her jewel about the neck of it, the letters of Antigonus found with it, which they know to be his character; the majesty of the creature in resemblance of the mother, the affection of nobleness which nature shows above her breeding, and many other evidences proclaim her with all certainty to be the king's daughter."

Emily Post (1873-1960).
Etiquette. (1922).
Chapter XXXVIII. The Growth of Good Taste in America

"GOOD taste or bad is revealed in everything we are, do, have. Our speech, manners, dress, and household goods--and even our friends--are evidences of the propriety of our taste, and all these have been the subject of this book."

Chapter XXV. The Country House and Its Hospitality.

"Besides these actually destructive shortcomings, there are evidences of bad upbringing in many modern youths whose lack of consideration is scarcely less annoying."

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U. S. essayist, poet.
English Traits. (1856)
ch. 10.

"In America there is a touch of shame when a man exhibits the evidences of large property, as if after all it needed apology. "

"The Over-Soul" Essays,
First Series (1841, repr. 1847).

"The moment the doctrine of the immortality is separately taught, man is already fallen. In the flowing of love, in the adoration of humility, there is no question of continuance. No inspired man ever asks this question, or condescends to these evidences. For the soul is true to itself, and the man in whom it is shed abroad cannot wander from the present, which is infinite, to a future which would be finite."

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862).
Walden (1854)

"I had withdrawn so far within the great ocean of solitude, into which the rivers of society empty, that for the most part, so far as my needs were concerned, only the finest sediment was deposited around me. Beside, there were wafted to me evidences of unexplored and uncultivated continents on the other side." "It is a mistake to suppose that, in a country where the usual evidences of civilization exist, the condition of a very large body of inhabitants may not be as degraded as that of savages."

H. G. Wells (1866-1946).
The Time Machine. (1898)
Chapter IV.

"There were no hedges, no signs of proprietary rights, no evidences of agriculture; the whole earth had become a garden." Chapter XII. "SO I came back. For a long time I must have been insensible upon the machine. The blinking succession of the days and nights was resumed, the sun got golden again, the sky blue. I breathed with greater freedom. The fluctuating contours of the land ebbed and flowed. The hands spun backward upon the dials. At last I saw again the dim shadows of houses, the evidences of decadent humanity. These, too, changed and passed, and others came."

A Short History of the World. (1922)
XV. Sumeria, Early Egypt and Writing.

"It is in lower Mesopotamia however and in Egypt that there first appear cities, temples, systematic irrigation, and evidences of a social organization rising above the level of a mere barbaric village-town." LXIII. European Aggression in Asia, and the Rise of Japan "The quite temporary advantages that the mechanical revolution in the west had given the Europeans over the rest of the old world were regarded by people, blankly ignorant of such events as the great Mongol conquests, as evidences of a permanent and assured European leadership of mankind."

Abraham Lincoln. (1809-1865).
Speech of Hon. Abraham Lincoln, debate with Douglas. (At Springfield, June 17, 1858.)

"Let any one who doubts, carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination--piece of machinery, so to speak--compounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider, not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted, but also let him study the history of its construction, and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidences of design, and concert of action, among its chief architects, from the beginning."

Third Joint Debate with Douglas at Jonesboro.
Mr. Lincoln's Reply (September 15, 1858)

"I remember Judge Douglas once said that he saw the evidences on the statute books of Congress, of a policy in the origin of government to divide slavery and freedom by a geographical line."

Walt Whitman. (1819-1892).
I. Specimen Days 225.
A Week's Visit to Boston

"In my trip out West, last year, I thought the wand of future prosperity, future empire, must soon surely be wielded by St. Louis, Chicago, beautiful Denver, perhaps San Francisco; but I see the said wand stretch'd out just as decidedly in Boston, with just as much certainty of staying; evidences of copious capital-indeed no centre of the New World ahead of it, (half the big railroads in the West are built with Yankees' money, and they take the dividends.)"

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919).
Through the Brazilian Wilderness. (1914)
I. The Start

"One of the most interesting evidences of the modern advance in Brazil is the establishment near Sao Paulo of an institution especially for the study of these poisonous snakes, so as to secure antidotes to the poison and to develop enemies to the snakes themselves."

A Book-Lover's Holidays in the Open. (1916)

"Although they practise polygamy, and divorce is easy, their women are usually well treated; and we saw evidences of courtesy and consideration not too common even among civilized people."

An Autobiography. (1913)

"When I knew him he was already making his way up; one of the proofs and evidences of which was that he owned a first-class racing trotter-"Alice Lane"-behind which he gave me more than one spin."

Fugitive Slave Act (1850)

"And the said court, commissioner, judge, or other person authorized by this act to grant certificates to claimants or fugitives, shall, upon the production of the record and other evidences aforesaid, grant to such claimant a certificate of his right to take any such person identified and proved to be owing service or labor as aforesaid, which certificate shall authorized such claimant to seize or arrest and transport such person to the State or Territory from which he escaped: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed as requiring the production of a transcript of such record as evidence as aforesaid."

Charles Dickens. (1812-1870).
David Copperfield.
I. I Am Born

"These evidences of an incompatibility of temper induced Miss Betsey to pay him off, and effect a separation by mutual consent." XXXV. Depression "It was not that he had lost his good looks. or his old bearing of a gentleman-for that he had not-but the thing that struck me most was, that with the evidences of his native superiority still upon him, he should submit himself to that crawling impersonation of meanness. Uriah Heep."

XXVII. Tommy Traddles

"Various ingenious arrangements he had made, for the disguise of his chest of drawers, and the accommodation of his boots, his shaving-glass, and so forth, particularly impressed themselves upon me, as evidences of the same Traddles who used to make models of elephants' dens in writing-paper to put flies in; and to comfort himself, under ill-usage, with the memorable works of art I have so often mentioned."

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956).
The American Language. (1921)
Preface to the Revised Edition

"Since my first edition was published there have been various evidences of a renewed interest in the contemporary status and development of the language, both in the United States and in England."

2. The Academic Attitude

"But during the war he appears to have succumbed to the Propaganda for British-American unity launched by the eminent Anglo-Saxon idealist, Adolph S. Ochs, of the New York Times. I quote from one of his articles in the Times: 'We may rest assured that the superficial evidences of a tendency toward the differentiation of American-English and British-English are not so significant as they may appear to the unreflecting, and that the tendency itself will be powerless against the cohesive force of our common literature, the precious inheritance of both the English-speaking peoples...'"

Franklin Pierce (1804-1869).
Inaugural Address Friday, March 4, 1853

"The energy with which that great conflict was opened and, under the guidance of a manifest and beneficent Providence the uncomplaining endurance with which it was prosecuted to its consummation were only surpassed by the wisdom and patriotic spirit of concession which characterized all the counsels of the early fathers. One of the most impressive evidences of that wisdom is to be found in the fact that the actual working of our system has dispelled a degree of solicitude which at the outset disturbed bold hearts and far-reaching intellects."

Agatha Christie (1890-1976).
The Mysterious Affair at Styles. (1924)
10. The Arrest

"Oh!' What did he mean? In spite of myself, an agreeable warmth spread over me. I am not a vain man where women are concerned, but I remembered certain evidences, too lightly thought of at the time, perhaps, but which certainly seemed to indicate--"

12. The Last Link

"Throughout the case, there have been evidences that the tragedy was intended to take place on Monday evening."

Ulysses S. Grant (1822-85).
Personal Memoirs. (1885-86).

"In consequence of this law, when Memphis was occupied the provost-marshal had forcibly collected all the evidences he could obtain of such debts."

Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850-1894).
The Master of Ballantrae. (1889)
VI. Summary of Events During the Master's Second Absence.

"The same day, which was certainly prededicate to joy, we observed the first signal of recovery in Mr. Henry; and about three of the following afternoon he found his mind again, recognising me by name with the strongest evidences of affection."

Jacob A. Riis (1849-1914).
How the Other Half Lives. (1890) XVI. Waifs of the City's Slums

"If the structure shows signs of being top-heavy, evidences are not wanting-they are multiplying day by day-that patient toilers are at work among the underpinnings."

Edmund Burke (1729-1797).
Reflections on the French Revolution.
Paras. 50-74

"By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records, evidences, and titles. We procure reverence to our civil institutions on the principle upon which nature teaches us to revere individual men; on account of their age, and on account of those from whom they are descended."

David Hume (1711-76).
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. (1748)
Of Miracles, Part II

"In destroying a rival system, it likewise destroys the credit of those miracles, on which that system was established; so that all the prodigies of different religions are to be regarded as contrary facts, and the evidences of these prodigies, whether weak or strong, as opposite to each other."

Edward Sapir (1884-1939).
Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. (1921)
IX. How Languages Influence Each Other

"Such examples as these are hardly true evidences of a morphological influence exerted by one language on another."

Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953).
Three Plays. (1922)
II. Anna Christie Act I

"She is a tall, blond, fully-developed girl of twenty, handsome after a large, Viking-daughter fashion but now run down in health and plainly showing all the outward evidences of belonging to the world's oldest profession."

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915).
Up from Slavery: An Autobiography. (1901)
XIV. The Atlanta Exposition Address

"The improvement in the character and life of the Negro ministers is one of the most gratifying evidences of the progress of the race."

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944).
On the Art of Writing. (1916)
X. English Literature in Our Universities

"Pythagoras, for example, sacrificed an ox on solving the theorem numbered 47 in the first book of Euclid; and even to-day a Professor in his solitary lodge may be encouraged to believe now and then, from certain evidences in the sky, that the spirit of Pythagoras is not dead but translated."

Michael Faraday
The Forces of Matter, Delivered before a Juvenile Auditory at the Royal Institution of Great Britain during the Christmas Holidays of 1859-60
Lecture VI.-The Correlation of the Physical Forces

"See what power it must have to support not only these nails, but all those lumps of iron hanging on to the end. What, then, can surpass these evidences of the change of chemical force into electricity, and electricity into magnetism? I might show you many other experiments whereby I could obtain electricity and chemical action, heat and light from a magnet, but what more need I show you to prove the universal correlation of the physical forces of matter, and their mutual conversion one into another?"

Henry Gray (1821-1865).
Anatomy of the Human Body. (1918)
2i. The Liver

"In the lower vertebrates, e.g., frog, the cells are arranged in tubes with the bile duct forming the lumen and bloodvessels externally. According to Delépine, evidences of this arrangement can be found in the human liver."

Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850-1894).
The Master of Ballantrae. (1889)
V. Account of All That Passed on the Night on February 27th, 1757.

"We made the more speed, I believe, being surrounded by this bustle; visited the scene of the duel, where my lord looked upon the blood with stoicism; and passing farther on toward the landing-place, came at last upon some evidences of the truth. For, first of all, where there was a pool across the path, the ice had been trodden in, plainly by more than one man's weight; next, and but a little farther, a young tree was broken, and down by the landing-place, where the traders' boats were usually beached, another stain of blood marked where the body must have been infallibly set down to rest the bearers."

George Washington
Farewell Address (1796)

"How far in the discharge of my official duties, I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public Records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to You and to the world.-To myself the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them."

Willa Cather (1873-1947), U. S. novelist.
Tom Outland. (1925)
The Professor's House.
book II, ch. II.

"To people off alone, as we were, there is something stirring about finding evidences of human labour and care in the soil of an empty country. It comes to you as a sort of message, makes you feel differently about the ground you walk over every day."

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864).
The Scarlet Letter.
The Minister in a Maze.

"Before Mr. Dimmesdale reached home, his inner man gave him other evidences of a revolution in the sphere of thought and feeling."

Full references


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