As a native English speaker, I am often asked by friends and colleagues to correct their manuscripts. One of the most common mistakes I find is the use of the noun evidences. Now, the dictionary definitions I have read state that evidence is a mass noun, that it is not countable. For example, this one:
noun [mass noun]
the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid:the study finds little evidence of overt discrimination
- Law information drawn from personal testimony, a document, or a material object, used to establish facts in a legal investigation or admissible as testimony in a law court:without evidence, they can’t bring a charge
- signs or indications of something:there was no obvious evidence of a break-in
However, I came across (don't ask me how) this article: 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe
I had firstly assumed that this was either an outright error or at best a usage that is specific to christian literature, but upon further analysis things get more complicated. On the one hand, most google hits for evidences seem to be from the christian fundamentalist and/or creationist literature, on the other hand this article has collected multiple examples of its use citing such luminaries of the English language as William Shakespeare, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Indeed, this google NGram shows that evidences used to be quite common (note that I am searching for "many evidences" which should filter out most uses of evidence as a transitive verb):
Finally, I also found a definition which includes the following line:
(technical) The cave contained evidences of prehistoric settlement.
While I have encountered this use in technical literature (my field is Biology), it was always used by non-native authors in whose language, as is very often the case, evidence is probably countable (e.g. ES: evidencias, FR: évidences).
So, my question is, is evidence countable? The two quoted definitions contradict themselves. Evidences as a plural noun sounds horrible to my native's ear. Apparently, it is indeed a valid archaic usage but is it grammatical today? I don't have access to an unabridged OED or any other dictionary of similar status and quality, what do they suggest?