“This changes everything!”
The right perspective makes a big difference
Published: 20 July 2017 (GMT+10)
The three young men (late teenage years) are being homeschooled by their mother. They are the three eldest of a family of 10 children and their mother had asked me if I would talk to them a bit about science to supplement what she is doing—and at the same time provide some additional equipping to help them deal with the evolutionary propaganda that is so prevalent everywhere (as required by 1 Peter 3:15 and 2 Corinthians 10:4–5)
I decided to use one of my talks—“Does the Bible conflict with science?” (short answer: “No”)—as the backbone for guiding the discussion since it covers a lot of different scientific disciplines. At the beginning of this, I make the following general points about science.
Science involves doing repeatable experiments
The whole point of science is that anyone doing the same experiment under the same conditions should get the same result. (The pioneers of modern science believed this because they believed in a divine Lawmaker who upheld His creation in an orderly way.) So, if you can’t do repeatable experiments, it’s not science. This includes many ideas of origins. One example is cosmogony (‘birth of the universe’), quoting a co-founder of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey:
“Cosmology may look like a science, but it isn’t a science,” says James Gunn of Princeton University, co-founder of the Sloan survey. “A basic tenet of science is that you can do repeatable experiments, and you can’t do that in cosmology.”1
Dr Michael Turner, a theoretical cosmologist at the University of Chicago and the person who coined the term Dark Energy, tried to salvage cosmology by conceding that it’s different from experimental science and is instead historical science.
“The goal of physics is to understand the basic dynamics of the universe. Cosmology is a little different. The goal is to reconstruct the history of the universe.”1
So some science is about understanding the dynamics of the universe—what might be called ‘Operational Science’, because it studies how the universe operates. Things like cosmology—and evolution, paleontology and parts of geology—are about trying to reconstruct history—of the universe, of life on Earth and of the Earth itself, respectively. The first type of science is amenable to testing by repeatable experiments. The second type is not. It is thus, perhaps, legitimate to question whether these latter things should actually be referred to as science.
Scientific truth is not determined by majority opinion
If scientific truth were determined by majority vote, then astronomers would still be using the absolute-geocentric model of the solar system, chemists would still consider phlogiston to be the source of fire, medical doctors would still consider that illness was the result of an imbalance in the body’s ‘humours’, biologists would still consider that some 180 organs in the human body were non-functional, vestigial organs left over from our evolutionary ancestry and geneticists would still consider that over 95% of the human genome was ‘junk’ DNA, also left over from our evolutionary ancestry. Each of these was, in its day, considered to be ‘settled science’ by the vast majority of scientists, but all were wrong.
Science cannot prove that theories are true; only that they are false
Even many scientists must be reminded of the logical limitations of science. For example, Dr Charles Bennett, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at John Hopkins University and a Principal Investigator for NASA wrote the following letter to the editors of Science.
“The title of the 6 May News of the Week story ‘At long last, Gravity Probe B satellite proves Einstein right’ (p. 649) made me cringe. I find myself frequently repeating to students and the public that science doesn’t ‘prove’ theories. Scientific measurements can only disprove theories or be consistent with them. Any theory that is consistent with measurements could be disproved by a future measurement. I wouldn’t have expected Science magazine, of all places, to say a theory was ‘proved’.” 2
To which the editors responded: ““Bennett is completely correct. It’s an important conceptual point, and we blew it.”
So the best that science can do is to provide data that are consistent with a theory and, as a result, the only thing that can be concluded is that the theory is not wrong—at least not according to the data from this experiment. The logical fallacy of ‘proof by verified prediction’ (also known as ‘affirming the consequent’) is explained in Nobel Prize for alleged big bang proof. However, if there are empirical observations that are not consistent with the theory, then it is a pretty good indication that the theory is wrong.3
Data don’t speak for themselves
Data points are not science unless they are understood through some framework. Otherwise they might be compared to random stamp collecting.4 For example, Dr Stephen Gordon:
Data cannot speak for themselves; they have to be interpreted through a theoretical model. Some correlations are spurious and some are not: extracting inferences about causality requires an understanding of theory, statistics and how the data were collected.5
Although Dr Gordon is an economist rather than, say, a biologist or palaeontologist, his list of publications6 clearly indicates that he is well aware of this aspect of data, as, indeed, are economists in general.
The interpretation of data depends on presuppositions
The interpretation of data will depend, not only on the theoretical model being used, but on the presuppositions that the interpreter brings to the interpretation. An example of this would be the court room where there is one set of ‘data’—the collection of evidence presented by both the prosecution and defence—but two interpretations based on two different presuppositions, namely the guilt or innocence of the accused. The jury’s job is to carefully examine the evidence, attentively listen to the two explanations and decide which explanation best explains the data and, therefore, which underlying presupposition is most likely correct. This approach works very well in the question of creation vs evolution.
The fundamental presupposition that has been imposed on the interpretation of scientific data is that of naturalism (nature is all that there is), also referred to as materialism (matter is all that there is). However, this presupposition is not required by science but has been arbitrarily imposed on science in order to achieve an objective that is actually outside the realm of science. This is clearly seen from this admission, written by Dr Richard Lewontin, evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.
Some presuppositions can preclude arriving at the correct explanations
Not only is naturalism not required for the interpretation of scientific data, but it can also be easily demonstrated that naturalism so constrains the allowable explanations of origins that it results in only incorrect explanations being possible. One such example is the 747 airplane. Requiring that its origin be explained only using natural process might result in something like a hurricane going through a junk yard and leaving a 747. However, we know that any such explanation would be wrong because the origin of the 747 requires processes, like design and manufacturing, that do not appear in nature.
Geology has an additional presupposition imposed on the interpretation of geological data, called uniformitarianism. This is generally attributed to James Hutton who lived about 100 years before Darwin. He was an amateur geologist who wrote a book on geology in which he stated:
The past history of our globe must be explained by what can be seen to be happening now. …No powers are to be employed that are not natural to the globe, no action to be admitted except those of which we know the principle.7 (emphasis added)
This is not something Hutton derived empirically from the data. It is a philosophical position that he chose to impose on the interpretation of the data. It uses only those processes that “can be seen to be happening now” and assumes that these and only these have operated in the past, and at the rate and with the intensity that “can be seen to be happening now.”
However, this, too, can easily be demonstrated to result in erroneous answers. If it is observed one morning that there is a metre of snow on the ground and that snow is currently falling at the rate of 1 mm/hr, then, according to uniformitarianism, it ‘must have taken’ 1000 hours (about 6 weeks) to accumulate the snow on the ground. However, if we also know that, the preceding night, there was no snow on the ground, then this conclusion is obviously wrong and things must have happened much more rapidly during the night. (See also How dating methods work.)
So it is quite possible that the current geological features could have been caused by geological process proceeding at much faster rates than we observe today. Indeed, that is what is described in the Bible with respect to the global flood.8
“This changes everything!”
When I got to this point, one of the lads said something like:
“This changes the whole nature of the argument. It’s not about proving that creation is true, since you can’t do that—but, then, you can’t prove evolution is true either. It’s about showing that the creation account provides a better framework for explaining the scientific evidence than does the evolutionary account and, perhaps, that at least some of the evidence actually contradicts the evolutionary account and thereby proves it to be false. That is, it’s about showing that all of the evidence is consistent with the creation account and, therefore, you cannot conclude that the creation account is wrong [see Bennett’s letter to the editor] but, on the other hand, all the evidence is not consistent with the evolutionary account and some of it actually contradicts the evolutionary account and, therefore, one can conclude that the evolutionary account is wrong [see Bennett’s letter again].”9
This perspective makes dealing with the evidence much easier. Evidence being consistent with a theory does not equal proof of correctness of the theory; but evidence that is inconsistent with a theory does equal proof of incorrectness—at least to the extent that serious revision to the theory may be necessary.
Changing the story to fit the facts is no answer
This revision, to make the theory fit the evidence is, typically, what evolutionists are continually having to do, essentially with each new discovery. For example, in 2009, in his book, The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins wrote:
Tiktaalik is the perfect missing link—perfect, because it almost exactly splits the difference between fish and amphibian, and perfect because it is missing no longer.10
However, just the very next year, the discovery of some seemingly innocuous, fossilized footprints resulted in this position being entirely repudiated. According to various experts,10
- “They force a radical reassessment of the timing, ecology and environmental setting of the fish-tetrapod transition, as well as the completeness of the body fossil record.”
- “[It] will cause a significant reappraisal of our understanding of tetrapod origins.”
- “[They] could lead to significant shifts in our knowledge of the timing and ecological setting of early tetrapod evolution.”
- “We thought we’d pinned down the origin of limbed tetrapods. We have to rethink the whole thing.”
- “That’s surprising, but this is what the fossil evidence tells us.”
- “These results force us to reconsider our whole picture of the transition from fish to land animals.”
Of course, evolutionists advertise this as ‘science’ being self-correcting, the ‘half-full’ rationalization for them always being wrong. They seem to have gotten so used to doing it that they now seldom feel compelled to offer even this feeble rationalization. However, if the inconsistency is, in fact, a blatant contradiction, it can be argued that this falsifies the theory beyond the point of recovery—especially when there is another explanation that is consistent with the evidence without any change required. In this case, it’s just one example of fossil trackways ‘dated’ millions of years before we find fossils of the body parts of the animals that made them. And how could tracks remain exposed for millions of years before being buried? (This was pointed out here by paleontologist Dr Marcus Ross in the documentary Is Genesis History?)
There’s good news and really Good News
There is much evidence that is consistent with both accounts of origins. For example, speciation is equally consistent with both accounts. Thus using speciation as ‘proof’ for evolution against creation is committing what we call the fallacy of overlapping predictions (study this Venn diagram from the article How to think (not what to think). Also, the rate at which it has been observed to happen is problematic for the evolutionary account but not for the creation account.
Then there is evidence that is explicable in both accounts but, while it is a logical outcome of the Biblical account, it requires “unsubstantiated, just-so stories” to explain it within the evolutionary account. An example would be the evidence that indicates that all humans currently alive have descended from one man and one women, so-called ‘Y-chromosomal Adam’ and ‘Mitochondrial Eve’. While this is entirely predictable from the Biblical account, it is not predictable from the evolutionary account but requires a specially constructed ad hoc explanation.11
Then there is the evidence that is consistent with the Biblical account but contradicts the evolutionary account. An example would be what has been termed “genetic entropy”12,13, the observation that mutations are inexorably degrading genomes—including the human genome—not making them better, like rust degrades a car rather than turning it into next year’s model. This means that organisms cannot become more complex, as required by evolution, but, instead, will eventually become extinct, as demonstrated by the H1N1 virus.
The good news in this is that there is no evidence that is inconsistent with the Biblical account of origins. On the other hand, there is much evidence that is inconsistent with, and, in many cases, actually contradicts the evolutionary account.
However, the really Good News is that although “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men”, (Romans 5:12), and even though “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), nonetheless, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
And we see nothing from science that should cause us to doubt this.
References and notes
- As quoted in Cho, A., A singular conundrum: How odd is our universe?, Science 317:1848–1850, 28 Sept 2007. Return to text.
- Charles L. Bennett, “Science Title Misstep”, Science 332:1263, 2011. Return to text.
- However, care must be taken to ensure that the observations are repeatable. This is illustrated by the case of the neutrinos that were observed to be travelling faster than the speed of light. Such an observation contradicts Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and would, if repeatable, contradict it. However, subsequent analysis indicated that the observations was very likely in error, resulting from a poorly connected cable. In addition, it should be noted, as explained here, that what may be falsified is not necessarily the core theory but simply an auxiliary hypothesis. See Neutrinos faster than light? Return to text.
- Compare “All science is either physics or stamp collecting” Ernest Rutherford? John Desmond Bernal? Richard Feynman? Anonymous? quoteinvestigator.com/2015/05/08/stamp. Return to text.
- Stephen Gordon: Economists and their data (so, so much data); National Post, 6 March 2017, http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/stephen-gordon-economists-and-their-data-so-so-much-data (last accessed 2017/06/09) Return to text.
- http://www.ecn.ulaval.ca/sites/ecn.ulaval.ca/files/cv_gordon_fr.pdf (last accessed 2017/06/10) Return to text.
- Hutton, J., Theory of the Earth with Proof and Illustrations, 1795; cited in: Holmes, A., Principles of Physical Geology, 2nd edition, Thomas Nelson & Sons, London, p. 43, 1965 Return to text.
- Geologists now recognize the importance of catastrophes, e.g. floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, in forming the Earth’s geological features but only in a ‘catastrophic uniformitarianism’ sense. Within this neo-catastrophism (to distinguish from the ‘old’ catastrophism of the global flood) catastrophes are assumed to have happened with no more frequency of occurrence, no more sorts of intensities and no more spatial density “than can be seen to be happening now”. Return to text.
- This is not exactly what he said but pretty close and certainly conveys his meaning. Return to text.
- As quoted in Is the famous fish-fossil finished?, creation.com/tiktaalik-finished. Return to text.
- Carter, R., Adam, Eve, and Noah vs Modern Genetics, creation.com/noah-and-genetics, 11 May 2010. Return to text.
- Carter, R. Genetic entropy and simple organisms, creation.com/genetic-entropy-and-simple-organisms, 25 October 2012. Return to text.
- Sanford, J., Critic ignores reality of Genetic Entropy, creation.com/genetic-entropy, 7 March 2013. Return to text.
A wonderfully succinct summary of the clash between worldviews. I truly appreciate how you portray science accurately. As a science teacher in the public system here in Canada, I have spoken with MANY other people who claim to understand science after their years of training, but so not (or will not) realize that science does not prove anything, but does regularly disprove theories. Additionally, many people who ought to know better also will put theories forward and call them ‘facts’, completely misusing the word ‘fact’ from a proper scientific perspective. So, thanks! I can see this article being very helpful to bring people to a proper understanding of these terms if they would be willing to read it.