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Journal of Creation 31(2):6–7, August 2017

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The problem with science is that so much of it simply isn’t


Figure 1. BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole

In the opening sentence in an article titled “Scientific Regress”, the author William Wilson remarks:

“Scientific claims rest on the idea that experiments repeated under nearly identical conditions ought to yield approximately the same results, but until very recently, very few had bothered to check in a systematic way whether this was actually the case.”1

The article is about science and the repeatability of scientific results published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. (Indented paragraphs are quoted from this article, unless otherwise referenced.)

Claims not replicated

A group called Open Science Collaboration (OSC) tried to evaluate research claims by replicating results of certain science experiments. They replicated one hundred published psychology experiments and found 65% failed to show any statistical significance, and many of the remainder showed greatly reduced significance than originally reported. The OSC group even used original experimental materials and sometimes performed the experiments under the guidance of the original researchers.

They found, though, that the problem was not just in the area of psychology, which I don’t consider hard science anyway.

In 2011 a group of researchers at Bayer looked at 67 recent drug discovery projects based on preclinical cancer biology research. They found that in more than 75% of cases they could not replicate the published data. These data were published in reputable journals, including Science, Nature, and Cell.

The author suggested that the reason many new drugs were ineffective may be because the research on which they were based was invalid. This was considered the reason for the failure—the original findings were false.

Then there is the issue of fraud.

“In a survey of two thousand research psychologists conducted in 2011, over half of those surveyed admitted outright to selectively reporting those experiments which gave the result they were after.”

This involves experimenter bias. The success of a research program might be all that is required for success in the next funding round. So, what might start as just a character weakness in the experimenter ends up being outright fraud. The article states that many have no qualms in

“ … reporting that a result was statistically significant when it was not, or deciding between two different data analysis techniques after looking at the results of each and choosing the more favorable.”

One writer

“… theorized that the farther from physics one gets, the more freedom creeps into one’s experimental methodology, and the fewer constraints there are on a scientist’s conscious and unconscious biases. If all scientists were constantly attempting to influence the results of their analyses, but had more opportunities to do so the ‘softer’ the science, then we might expect that the social sciences have more papers that confirm a sought-after hypothesis than do the physical sciences, with medicine and biology somewhere in the middle. This is exactly what the study discovered: A paper in psychology or psychiatry is about five times as likely to report a positive result as one in astrophysics [emphasis added].”

Retracted claims in the hard sciences

I work in the field of physics (experimental and theoretical). I know first hand about the pressure to publish findings. I believe it is more difficult to commit fraud in physics but I also believe there exist opportunities to do so, particularly in areas that are difficult to check. An example is where there is a heavy content of theoretical physics, and/or where statistical analyses are critical to the finding. Detection problems arise in areas such as particle and astrophysics.

Two major claims have recently been retracted.

One was the announced discovery of both cosmic inflation and gravitational waves at the BICEP2 experiment in Antarctica, which I covered extensively in 2014/15.2 It was retracted only about one year after the initial announcement. In 2011 there was the reporting of an alleged discovery of superluminal neutrinos at the Swiss–Italian border,3 which, as is typical, was later retracted with far less fanfare than when first published. This situation involved an OPERA experiment in which neutrinos supposedly travelling faster than light were observed. A year after the OPERA claim, the co-located ICARUS experiment reported neutrino velocities consistent with the speed of light in the same short-pulse beam OPERA had measured.

In both cases, in which physics was central, independent measurements were able to check the validity of the initial claim. This, thankfully, occurs far more often in the hard sciences than other science fields. Sometimes a false hypothesis endures for a time, but eventually is overturned. Unfortunately, this is often not the case with the ‘softer sciences’, if they can be called that.

Evolutionary biology masquerades as hard science

So-called evolutionary biology, for example, masquerades as a hard science when, in fact, much of it is not operational science. Operational science is testable and repeatable, is open to criticism and subject to fraud detection. After all, science without debate is propaganda!

But evolutionary so-called science, is more like forensic science; it is weak because it is not subject to the same testable criteria.

As the famous evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr admitted:

“For example, Darwin introduced historicity into science. Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science—the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.”4

In such a science, experimentation is not applicable,5 but story-telling, which Stephen Gould called just-so-stories, is.

The article goes on to criticize the inane processes of scientific paper publication, peer-review, and the difficulties in getting false notions overturned, as well of the development of the cult of ‘scientism’:

“Some of the Cult’s leaders like to play dress-up as scientists—Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson are two particularly prominent examples—but hardly any of them have contributed any research results of note. Rather, Cult leadership trends heavily in the direction of educators, popularizers, and journalists.”

These criticisms I mostly agree with, but the article was not explicit on the underlying Darwinian belief system prevalent today.


That belief system—materialism, that matter, energy, and the forces of nature are all that there is—is prevalent in the scientific community. It has led to a modern-day bias of atheism among the scientific establishment to the point that anyone holding to a Judeo-Christian belief system must be considered weak. Darwinian evolution and big bang atheism are the accepted beliefs on which all science is to be based. This is the worldview now held in most universities in the West. This fact has led to a moral vacuum and a situation where fraud has become more commonplace.

This has progressively established a trend as society, more and more, has abandoned the Creator. The author concludes his article with the following, which I must agree with:

“When cultural trends attempt to render science a sort of religion-less clericalism, scientists are apt to forget that they are made of the same crooked timber as the rest of humanity and will necessarily imperil the work that they do. The greatest friends of the Cult of Science are the worst enemies of science’s actual practice.”

References and notes

  1. Wilson, W.A., Scientific Regress, First Things, Institute of Religion and Public Life, firstthings.com/article/2016/05/scientific-regress, May 2016. Return to text.
  2. Hartnett, J.G., New study confirms BICEP2 detection of cosmic inflation wrong, February, 2015. Return to text.
  3. See Sarfati, J., Neutrinos faster than light?—will relativity need revising?, J. Creation 26(1):7–10, 2012. Return to text.
  4. Mayr, Ernst (1904–2005), Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought, based on a lecture that Mayr delivered in Stockholm on receiving the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, 23 September 1999; published on ScientificAmerican.com, 24 November 2009. Return to text.
  5. This will be denied. The evolutionist will claim experiments in the lab confirm evolution. But it is equivocation, where the definition of evolution is changed. In the lab it is natural selection operating on mutating genes, but for a microbe to evolve into a microbiologist over 3.8 billion years a lot of new information would have to have been added, and lab experiments have done nothing to confirm this. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Carmine C.
When I was attending university in the USA in the 80's-90's we were taught that there were about 100,000 genes producing about 100,000 proteins. When the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, scientists discovered only 22,300 protein-coding genes. It was then determined that each gene only produced a polypeptide, and then a combination of 2 or more polypeptides would produce a protein. It was also estimated that the human body has the ability to generate over 2 million different types of proteins. But here lies the problem: if this arrangement of polypeptides to produce functional proteins were totally a random process, there would be countless non-functional proteins dispersed throughout the body, but there is none! The deduction then: the impossibility of evolution, and the existence of an Intelligent Designer!
Gary M.
What else is new. My masters thesis had a Beta of 90% (the ability to trust your alpha). Most studies are too small and may have a Beta of 10%. All studies should be reproduced on the grounds that most use sampling statistics which is not dependable..
Freda B.
Hilarious to blame some scientists for fraud when you apparently believe that polar bears and lions to say nothing presumably of penguins all lived on the ark. And that dinosaurs roamed with homo sapiens. And that fossils were created almost instantaneously when The Flood fractured mountains. Which is most likely to be true?
Shaun Doyle
Classic tu quoque fallacy: accusing us of the same problem as those we reported on. Of course, you have no basis for accusing us of fraud except your own incredulity at what we supposedly believe. But you can't even get that right. No, polar bears and lions were not on the Ark; more generalized representatives of the bear and cat families were. And there's a good chance penguins didn't need to be on the Ark. And since e.g. we still find soft tissue in dinosaur bones, why is it so outlandish to think that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time? Is it really 'most likely to be true' that dinosaur soft tissue can survive for over 65 million years? Frankly, that seems rather outlandish.

And as Dr Hartnett points out, we have a reasonable diagnosis for the fraud and lack of replicability currently plaguing science. The secular worldview driving academia, founded on deep time and evolution, can't give a proper moral foundation. Only God and the Bible can. You can find out more about God and the Bible on creation.com. I invite you to explore it more thoroughly than you have so far.
Hakan S.
See also: "More science than you think is retracted. Even more should be.", Washington Post, December 26, 2018. (Sorry, links can't be given in comments.)
The story includes links to other stories, notably: "The Prevalence of Inappropriate Image Duplication in Biomedical Research Publications", Elisabeth M. Bik, Arturo Casadevall, Ferric C. Fang, American Society for Microbiology, Vol 7, Issue 3, 2016.
The authors reviewed more than 20,000 papers by hand and found that about 4 percent of them had evidence of inappropriately manipulated images. (This paper is written on a scholarly level.)
David B.
Mayr was wrong. As WR B's comment indicates, Darwin did not introduce historicity into science. Darwin didn't come up with much of anything that was truly original. Trying to puzzle the course of events that happened thousands of years before scientific investigations began, and without the aid of ordinary historical observational records, began mainly in the field of geology, especially with the works of Hutton, Playfair, and Lyell. Darwin was greatly influenced by Lyell's work, which made an extreme form of uniformitarianism the established dogma of geology for over a century. Darwin as much as says in his _Origin_ that anyone who doubts Lyell's work may as well ignore his, too.
Gabriel S.
this is a great article!
use of the term 'Judeo-Christian belief system' though does not make sense as both 'Judeo' and 'Christian' are mutually exclusive. the Judaic belief 'system' is open ended and thus not a system at all whereas the Christian belief system is a closed and total system, having beginning and end. i would venture further to include the fallacious use of evolution as a 'theory', which it is not; not according to the correct use of the word 'theory'. evolution is a set of hypothesis at best.
in Christ
Neil M.
Well said John. With the evolution of life that is also capable of reproducing itself, from water and chemicals being a vital pillar of evolutionary belief, why has real science not been able to replicate it despite herculean efforts? Yet despite the glaring lack of this most critical evidence scientists say evolution is a fact. This arguably makes the foundational belief among scientists that life evolved by chance, the absolute real life classic example of "the Emperors Invisible Clothes"
Thomas D.
I want to thank Dr Hartnett for his efforts to encourage us and re-found our confidence on the Creator's accounting for His Own means and ends. I found special effect in the simple citation of Ernst Mayr's article in Scientific American, because it directed me to a significant criticism of the Darwinian mind by one from within its ranks and well regarded by the others who share that world-view. It is well worth the time to read for oneself and reflect upon! The witness of the conscience is a potent critic, as it rests entirely upon the Original Mind--a God-graven bedrock and sure foundation for all that builds upon it and an antidote to the sand-based efforts with which human philosophy and opinion abound!
Colin D. (.
Hi John, Well presented article. (Yet again.) Not only is your article of great help to us all, But even the comments below by others who have read your article are of help. The readers comments at the bottom also give excellent material that can be used in Church to update local congregations on how hard it is for their children to engage their friends about God and Creation at school. That is if they ever dare to bring up the falsity of evolution as they are being told is true. Then they will be ridiculed by the teachers as well as their friends/peers. I find even many Church Leaders/Pastors/Ministers are not prepared to include the topic of Creation Vs evolution these days. Still this is to be expected in this time of God's plan to redeem Gods Creation as well as His creatures, both corrupted/fallen man and all other corrupted life. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus Come, Shalom
Graham P.
Great article. Your books are a constant source of help in all things physics, John: well done.
Trena S.
Thanks, John! I've been "preaching" observation, measurement, and reproducibility for many years. I worked for 27 years in the lab services area of Occupational Health & Safety and I learned early on that among the simplest services we provided, like duplicating our clients' techniques to provide quality control assistance, using the same glassware, solutions, and instruments was the closest we could get to "proof". If it didn't turn out to be within about 90% of the same result each time, it wasn't close enough for a vote of confidence. Strict adherence to QC guidelines in product development is simply good business, but when it involves the health and well-being of our fellow humans, its importance increases exponentially! Thanks again for this focus on true scientific process. So many would remain woefully ignorant if not for CMI! God bless you all. - Trena S.
Jack S.
As a retired medical physicist I am in complete agreement with your presentation. Many people give "science" almost anthropomorphic qualities. Science is not a 'thing'. It is a method of observation with pertinent sustainable conclusions. Key word here is "observation'. If a phenomena cannot be observed to occur (in some way) it can be discussed but not scientifically. Thanks John for your faith and faithfulness.
Dan M.
This is exactly why I trust very little of the secular science presented these days. Secular historical science seems more like a religious cult to me these days than real science. It is mostly opinion and conjecture based on faith and deception which doesn't belong in the sciences. Things like dark matter and dark energy which is unobserved and undetectable but is essential to their beliefs (big bang) are claimed to be fact. So many, modern discoveries, (especially in biology) have rendered the Darwinian and naturalist hypotheses of how we came to be obsolete and erroneous but they (naturalists) still refuse to drop it. This indicates to me that many secularists really don't care what is true but want to force their beliefs down our throats which is exactly what they complain we Christian creationists are doing. We Judeo-Christians have historical writings (well preserved) that explain how we got here and what our creator expects from us. The observations match very well with that narrative compared to that of the naturalist's, so why the resistance?
God won't force you into heaven. He'll let YOU choose to be separate from him for eternity. The sort answer is: even though your child (mankind) may understand your point of view and know it is correct (God) they may choose to ignore your advice simply because they want to do what they want to do and disobey. What infuriates me is, then it's all Gods fault when things don't work out. WHAT A COWARDLY COP OUT! Grow up and take responsibility!
Sorry if I sound rude but I'm tired of people blaming my loving Father in heaven for our misdeeds.
Thomas C.
You have got to wonder how so much can be documented and propagated as science when it has never been observed. It seems it can only be done by making assumptions. And assumptions cannot build a foundation for truth or reality which is dependent on TRUTH.
David S.
How can a godless method that employs presuppositions antithetical to the God of scripture produce results that are pure and true? I ask this not only about the fields of natural science but also of the field of textual criticism where it seems we have handed over the sacred scriptures to a process that treats the Bible like it were any other book. How quickly we abandon sound presuppositions for the “science” of godless experts, often times for the purpose of not alienating those experts so that they might be reached for Christ. This is modern apologetics run amuck!
Chuck R.
In discussions with people who believe in evolution, I've found that after showing a reason why evolution doesn't work, the standard response always seems to be that "the majority of scientists believe in evolution" or "science has proven evolution", and then typically that's followed by "are you saying all those scientists are wrong?"
As a matter of fact - yes I am saying they are all wrong, and if talking to someone who professes salvation, I remind them that of all the people who lived before the flood, only 8 made it through the flood.
"Science without debate is propaganda." Anywhere a science has to construct a pathway of just-so-stories to explain how it happened, it is historical science and a "Soft Science." Historical geology is such a scientific field, including everything about how fossils and rock strata got here. "Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain." The "particular scenario" that one is trying to push, be it atheistic naturalism or creation, is not the science; the data is. The scientificness of the just-so-stories is predicated on the completeness of the included data. We Creationist need to be just as careful in our science. Do our just-so-stories include all of the pertinent data? A new field that is capable of providing much new data in historical geology is gravity readings of the rocks beneath us. Gravity patterns reflect the movement of energy waves through the historical record. If the fossil record is found in strata connected to those energy waves, and all of it is, the energy's history wins out over other pretty just-so-stories. If we aren't taking that energy history into account in our science, we are prone to error as great as naturalist just-so-stories. In Creationist literature there is a place for propaganda, but not in determining our science.
Philippus Johannes Cornelius S.
It has become science to tell the worldly to go to hell in such a way they look forward to it. It is a very sad thinking of the lost souls. Every time we publish the truth about Creation we should not side track the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth like this.
Gen 1:3  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 
Gen 1:4  And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 
Gen 1:5  And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. 
THE EVENING AND THE MORNING THE FIST DAY! And so it was every day there after; all seven of them. Not 12 midnight to 12 midnight, it picture darkness to darkness and is not what God brings. God brings darkness to light.
Ask yourself who changed Gods truth for the lie, it can only be Satan who denies God as the Great Architect Creator of everything deceiving man kind by letting out certain truths and lead by deception. Are we doing the same? Are we doing it the way Satan did it with Eve in the Garden of Eden?
John P.
How true! When scientists abandon belief in God they become myth-makers, story tellers and the like. We are all sinners in need of our Lord's forgiveness and in many areas of science as well as many church organisations across the west, the rot has already set in and needs to be cleansed—get rid of the rust as it were. It seems the greater the story the more likelihood of funding which is often wasted anyway if the data are fraudulent. The bible trumps this sort of thing every time!
Gina T.
This is an excellent article. Thank you John Hartnett! It brings to mind the truth of the statement in Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt." RSV

Where can humanity go to find out what really happened? I thank God that His word has been preserved through the ages despite the persecution and horror of the Dark Ages, and despite the mockery of our current times. The Bible is an anvil that has worn out many hammers. Praise God!

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