Same Evidence: Different Interpretation

Creationists make the claim that the interpretation of evidence depends upon the 'framework'.  The following excellent tale illustrates the folly of this argument:


    Once upon a time there were two women, Mrs. Morris and Mrs. Field, who were next-door neighbors and best friends. Each had a teenage son, and these boys were also best friends. The boys always went to church, got good grades, were well-behaved towards others, and were obedient and helpful around the house (at least as much as one could reasonably hope for, when it comes to teenage boys). The two women were justifiably happy that their sons were such good

     One day when Mrs. Field was visiting Mrs. Morris, some policemen stopped by with bad news. Their boys had been arrested for shoplifting in the mall. A shop security guard had clearly seen the boys sneak several items into their pockets. "Oh no, I'm sure they didn't mean to steal," the women said. "Maybe it was a joke or a dare, but they would have given it back before leaving the store. They don't steal. They're good boys."

    The police explained that the security guard had called the police. When the police searched the boys, they found merchandise from several other stores hidden in their pockets. "There must be some mistake," said Mrs. Field. "Are you sure they didn't pay for that merchandise?" "My boy wouldn't steal," said Mrs. Morris. "He's a good boy."

    The police explained that they had already watched video surveillance tape from the other stores -- tapes made in the hours preceding the boys' arrests. Several of the tapes clearly showed one boy pocketing merchandise while the other boy created a distraction, and then both of them walking out of the stores without paying.

    "Oh dear," said Mrs. Field. "That does sound serious. I can't understand why my boy would steal. I need to talk to him to find out more."

    "No no no," said Mrs. Morris. "My son is a good boy. Good boys don't steal. There must be another way to explain all of this. Maybe it was part of a school project or something. Even if he did walk out of stores without paying for merchandise, which I'm not convinced that he did, he was surely planning to give it back before leaving the mall."

    The police explained that they had already questioned each boy separately. Each boy got scared and tried to shift blame onto the other boy in order to get some leniency. Each boy said that the other boy was the leader and had shop-lifted before. Each boy said that the other boy had bragged about having a stash of stolen merchandise hidden under a pile of spare lumber in his garage. The police asked for permission to search both garages.
 "Oh yes, we'd better search," said Mrs. Field. "I want to know if it's true that my son has shoplifted." She and one police officer went next door to search the Fields' garage. But Mrs. Morris refused to let the police into her garage, and continued to argue with them.

   A few minutes later Mrs. Field came back, with a police officer holding a bag of merchandise (price tags still on) from various local stores. "It's true," she cried to Mrs. Morris. "I've seen it with my own eyes. You should look in your garage, to find out for sure if your son has been stealing, too."

    "Of course he hasn't," said Mrs. Morris. "My son is a good boy, and good boys don't steal." But Mrs. Field was no-nonsense. She grabbed Mrs. Morris by the
wrist and dragged her to the Morris' garage. "This is for your own good and the good of your son," she said as she pushed the spare lumber aside and revealed another stash of merchandise. "There. You see with your own eyes the evidence that your son has been stealing."

    "This doesn't prove anything. It could have been planted by someone else," said Mrs. Morris. "Or he could have paid for it and was hiding it because he was going to give it to me as a gift. My son is a good boy, and good boys don't steal. Only bad boys steal.

    "I'm not saying that our boys are bad," said Mrs. Field. "A son can be basically good, but still do something wrong once in a while. I still think they're good boys, but it's obvious that they've been doing a little shoplifting, so we've got some serious work to do with them! You're only harming your son by denying the truth."

    "There are only two kinds of boys," said Mrs. Morris. "Bad boys, and good boys. Bad boys steal. Good boys don't. I know my son is a good boy. Ask his pastor. Ask his teachers. Ask all around the neighborhood. He's always been good around me and everyone else. You've said it yourself many times. I've got lots of evidence that my son is a good boy. Therefore, he didn't steal anything."

    "But look at the evidence," said Mrs. Field. "The security guard saw them. They had merchandise in their pockets. They were caught on video tape. Each has obviously hidden stolen merchandise in our garages. The evidence is clear."

    "You don't understand the nature of 'evidence,'" said Mrs. Morris. "All evidence is interpreted by presuppositions. There are two frameworks for interpreting this evidence: a 'bad boy' framework and a 'good boy' framework. The police assume a 'bad boy' framework. They first assume that my boy is bad, and interpret all the evidence within that framework, and so it's no surprise that they conclude that my son has stolen. But I know that the 'bad boy' framework is false. I've got lots of reasons to believe that my son is a good boy. All of this so-called evidence can be interpreted within a 'good boy' framework, just as well as in a 'bad boy'
framework. Since you've concluded that our boys have stolen, you've obviously adopted the police's 'bad boy' framework. But that framework is wrong. Instead, you should do what I do. I can explain all of the evidence with my 'good boy' framework just fine. My son is a good boy. So he didn't steal anything."

Loren Haarsma