Modern science hasn’t been kind to the Babylonian view of things which was the general understanding of those who wrote the Old Testament. As a result, so-called creation scientists have developed an elaborate and thoroughly silly mythological “science” of their own. A typical ploy, as we described here: Creationism and Science, is explained by Ken Ham himself, who said:
Operation science uses the so-called “scientific method” to attempt to discover truth, performing observable, repeatable experiments in a controlled environment to find patterns of recurring behavior in the present physical universe.
Origin science attempts to discover truth by examining reliable eyewitness testimony (if available); and circumstantial evidence, such as pottery, fossils, and canyons. Because the past cannot be observed directly, assumptions greatly affect how these scientists interpret what they see.
What ol’ Hambo is getting at is the well-known fact that some sciences are known as “historical sciences.” That’s a description of their subject matter, because they study past events. There are many historical sciences, such as cosmology, geology, climatology, plate tectonics, anthropology, paleontology, and of course evolution. This is in contrast to the “experimental sciences” like chemistry, that can be mostly conducted with lab experiments. Although historical events can’t be re-created in the lab, historical sciences are indeed scientific, because they’re based on verifiable observations and they produce theories are testable.
But creationists need to make a sharp distinction between the two. With the findings of “origin science” alleged to be in doubt, creation scientists can indulge in a bizarre form of apologetics. Here are a few examples:
• Do radiometric dating methods show that the Earth is old? No problem, the laws of nature were different in the past and the behavior of atoms and the breakdown of isotopes was different, so rocks may not be as old as the scientists think they are.
• Do geologists’ studies of rock strata reveal that the earth is old? No problem. Things were different then, and the processes we see at work today weren’t operative in the past.
• Does other evidence show that the world is old? No problem. According to creation science, ice cores tell us nothing about the past, nor Tree Ring Chronology, nor anything else that we weren’t there to witness.
• Are there troublesome observations that clearly contradict the Flood (for example Banded Iron Stripes)? No problem — that’s how the Flood behaved.
• Do the distant stars indicate that the universe must be older than 6,000 years, because their light required billions of years to reach us? No problem — the speed of light was different then. What was the speed of light? As fast as necessary — even instantaneous — whatever was required to create the world according to Genesis.
It’s the same with all other laws of nature and physical processes we see today — in geology, physics, and biology — everything could have been different in the past. You don’t know, because you weren’t there. The past can’t be reproduced in the lab, so it’s unknowable by the tools of science. How different was everything back then? As different as necessary, whenever necessary, for as long as necessary, in order to have a universe in which Genesis is absolutely true in every detail.
Obviously, the purpose of creation science is to discredit all scientific knowledge of the past that may be inconsistent with scripture’s account of the six-day creation of the world about 6,000 years ago, the almost instantaneous creation of all living species, without evolution, and Noah’s flood.
There are other scriptural doctrines that are inconsistent with science, like flat Earth and the geocentric universe, but those aren’t historical issues. Nevertheless, they’re scriptural descriptions of reality that were prevalent at the time of the Babylonian Empire when the Old Testament was written in its present form. Strictly speaking, creation scientists should support those things too, but somehow most of them don’t. That’s an internal inconsistency we won’t dwell on here, but it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Creationists claim that their evidence — scripture — is God’s uncontrovertible eye-witness testimony, which is far more reliable than the natural scientists’ unprovable assumptions about how things were in the unseen and unreproducible past. But there’s one little problem with that — the creationists don’t have the actual testimony of their eyewitness. What they’ve got is hearsay — the ancient writings of mere men who claim to have recorded God’s testimony. Although God doesn’t lie, preachers sometimes do, and prophets have been known to be wrong — sometimes spectacularly so. The scribes who produced scripture were imperfect men, sometimes with motives of their own, and therefore their transcribed and translated accounts of God’s word can never be free of doubt. Until their witness comes forth to give his testimony in person, all that we have is the verifiable evidence of science.
And there’s another problem with creation science — it describes a universe which is totally chaotic. Water for the Flood came from somewhere, and then it went away somehow, but those things are never satisfactorily explained. The massive energy content of the early universe when the speed of light was nearly infinite (you know, that “e” in e = mc2) creates insurmountable problems for everything, but it’s never reconciled with anything else. The huge and rapid terrestrial upheavals which allegedly occurred during the Flood are quite inconsistent with the survival of a flimsy wooden vessel. The problem is that if the laws of nature are fiddled with so casually by creation scientists, the universe makes no sense — but that’s not a problem for them, as long as their “science” is consistent with Genesis.
The great merit of the scientific explanation of the past is demonstrated by cross-confirmation from independent lines of evidence. There are many examples (continental drift, for example), but our favorite is described in The Lessons of Tiktaalik, an amazing discovery of a transitional fossil, the existence of which was predicted by the theory of evolution, and then found by following independent lines of evidence from the existing fossil record (suggesting, from the age of the transitional’s known descendants, when the transitional creature existed), and geology (describing the location of a rock stratum of the appropriate age when such a creature would have existed). If science were merely an ad hoc collection of convenient just-so stories made up arbitrarily to justify pre-conceived dogma, then such a convergence from different lines of evidence would be virtually impossible.
The inconvenient fact that physics, astronomy, geology, and biology all independently confirm the same picture of reality is ignored by creationists. According to them, the laws of nature — the speed of light, the rate of radioactive decay, the forces that shape the earth, and any other observed regularity in nature — can and do vary as needed, whenever needed, to provide whatever results are required to make Genesis true.
But the scientifically determined age of the earth is not a wild assumption plucked out of the air for the purpose of justifying the time required for evolution to occur. It is derived by several independent sciences, with different lines of evidence, all of which converge on the same conclusions.
First there is geology, developed by James Hutton, an important figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, who is regarded as the father of modern geology. He died in 1797, a dozen years before Charles Darwin was born, so it’s unlikely that he conjured up his work in order to support Darwin’s theory. Then there is radiometric dating, developed much later from nuclear physics. This evidence is augmented by ice-cores, ocean floor cores, and even tree-ring cores (which record the Earth’s history going back farther than the Flood). All the evidence is different, but it all yields a consistent picture of the past.
So how do the creation scientists deal with these difficulties? They claim that they’re working with the same facts as genuine scientists, but they have different assumptions. Indeed, their assumptions are different. Science begins with certain axioms — they’re so deeply imbedded in the scientific method that they’re rarely mentioned. One is logic. You don’t want to abandon that unless you have little regard for your sanity, but the creationists seem to have no problem doing so. They even embrace the fallacy of circular reasoning when it suits them (see AIG’s Logic: Prepare To Lose Your Mind), and they also claim that their peculiar worldview is the source of all logic (see Creationism and Logic).
Other fundamental axioms of science are the validity of sensory evidence (augmented by the evidence of our instruments), without which we have no verifiable information, and the existence of objective reality, which is the source of the information we obtain from our senses. Creation scientists scoff at this, insisting that sensory evidence must yield to the superior insights (preserved in scripture) that were obtained from a supernatural source beyond space and time. One can’t really argue with that, nor should one bother to try.
Creation scientists have other assumptions that differ from those of natural science: For them, miracles are possible, and what we perceive as objective reality is only an illusion. Reality is whatever God decides, and if he wants to change it (as he did after Eden) then reality will be whatever he wants it to be. If more such assumptions are needed, they’ll be concocted on the spot to do the job.
Genuine science seeks to observe and explain the world in terms of mutually consistent, comprehensible, and verifiable principles that lead to testable observations. Creation science, on the other hand, seeks to describe an impossible reality in which Genesis is an accurate account of the world. In other words, creation science isn’t science at all — it’s a mental disorder. There’s no other way to describe it.
See also: Further Thoughts on Creation Science.
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