Published in Creation 37(2):30–33, 2015
“Wow, cool!” Wesley stared up at a huge dinosaur fossil. “That guy could swallow Simon whole!”
Dad laughed as Simon nervously moved back a couple steps. “He probably wouldn’t, though—that’s a Camarasaurus; he ate plants, not little boys!”
Isabel read from the information brochure: “This Camarasaurus lived around 150 million years ago. The largest specimens grew up to 23 metres (75 feet) and weighed almost 50 tons!” She paused for a second. “But the Bible says that the earth is only thousands of years old. How do they know that the fossil is millions of years old?”
Mom grinned, sensing another family lesson, and right on cue, Dad responded: “That’s an excellent scientific question, Isabel! When we come across claims about the past, we should always ask, ‘How do they know that?’ Basically, they would say that the rock the dinosaur is buried in is millions of years old, so the dinosaur must also be millions of years old. But we believe the rock was formed in Noah’s Flood, and so this dinosaur was buried only around 4,500 years ago. We have different stories about the past, which means that we explain the facts we see today in different ways.”
“But every time we read about millions of years and evolution, they make it sound so scientific. So is science wrong?”
“Well, Isabel, what most people don’t realize is that there are two types of science. They are called operational science and historical science, and they deal with two very different things:”
Operational science is the type of science that one might do in a laboratory, about how the world works. It’s all based on what you actually see. You can perform tests and observe what happens. For example, at sea level, water will always boil at the same temperature (100° C or 212° F). In operational science, anyone can repeat an experiment and see if they get the same results. Testable and repeatable science is why we have smartphones, spaceships, and lots of other inventions.
Historical science deals with what happened in the past, but you cannot do experiments on events in the past. An example of this would be paleontology (the study of fossils). Scientists might unearth a dinosaur fossil and then tell a story of how long ago the dinosaur lived and died. But the scientists’ ideas about how old it is cannot be directly tested because it happened in the past without direct witnesses.
Is historical science real science? Can creationists use historical science?
Yes; creationists also use it to come up with ideas about what we think happened in the past, just like evolutionists. The difference is that creationists have eye witnesses for the big events of the past, and use historical science to explore the detail. For instance, creation geologists use what we know from small-scale disasters like the Mt St Helens volcanic eruption (to find out more about this, search for ‘Mt St Helens’ on creation.com) to explain what may have happened during the global Flood in Noah’s day. The Bible has a better history than evolution. The Bible is the history book of the universe, so it should be our authority when it comes to looking at the past.
Can historical science prove creation or evolution?
No, but it can give people ideas about what possibly happened in the past. Actually, creationists and evolutionists have the same set of facts—the same fossils, rocks, living things, and so on. Those facts are interpreted by creationists and evolutionists as evidence for one view or the other, but the facts themselves aren’t automatically ‘for’ one side or the other. So basically everyone has the same evidence, just different interpretations. A good example is what we think happened to the dinosaurs. An evolutionist might say it was an impact from an asteroid. And a creationist might say they became extinct due to changes in the weather after the Flood, or even possibly as a result of humans hunting them.
So why do people only hear the evolutionary view?
For many reasons, evolution has long been the popular view of most scientists, but it wasn’t always that way. Almost all fields of science were started by Bible-believing thinkers. But, since creation is linked with Christianity and not natural processes, people argue that teaching creation in schools and public museums is teaching ‘religion’, not science. What they don’t realize is that evolution is also linked with a religion—atheism, that denies God as the Creator.
How do I know when historical science is right or wrong?
We can’t know for sure what happened in the past unless there is an eyewitness—and the Bible has a trustworthy eyewitness—God Himself! So when historical science disagrees with the Bible, it is wrong. Creationists try to develop scientific ideas based upon the Bible’s history in areas such as astronomy (the study of stars), geology (the study of rocks and landforms), paleontology (fossils) and archaeology (ancient human artifacts). But even these ideas can change when we make some new discovery.
“So the dinosaur isn’t millions of years old, after all!” Isabel summed up. “The right scientific answer depends on first believing the right history. I’m so glad that the Bible gives us history we can trust.”