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,
of the American Chemical Society, the Journal
of Molecular Evolution, Cancer,
of Biological Chemistry, Physical
Review Letters, Biochimica
and Biophysica Acta, Nucleic
Acids Research, Virology,
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).
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
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)
"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
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
Emily Post (1873 -- 1960).
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.
"In America there is a touch of shame when a man exhibits the evidences of large property, as if after all it needed
"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).
"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)
"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
"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
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.
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
Walt Whitman. (1819 - 1892).
I. Specimen Days 225.
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.
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)
II ACROSS THE
"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)
III PRACTICAL POLITICS
"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).
I. I Am
"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
Franklin Pierce (1804-1869).
Inaugural Address Friday, March 4,
"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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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
Booker T. Washington (1856 -- 1915).
Up from Slavery: An
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
Sir Arthur Quiller -- Couch (1863 -- 1944).
On the Art of Writing.
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."
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.
V. Account of All That Passed on the Night on February 27th,
"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."
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.
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