‘Historical Science’ Validated Again

You’re probably familiar with the false distinction made by creationists between “Operational” (or “Observational”) science and “Historical” science. We’ve written about it several times, originally in Creationism and Science.

Creationists insist that bible history (six-day creation, Noah’s flood, etc.) is true, and to preserve their dogma, they claim that “historical” science which contradicts those bible tales is a belief system based on unproven assumptions, because there is no way to go back in time and use observational science to prove those assumptions are correct. We discussed this in Common Creationist Claims Confuted.

Our favorite rebuttal is described in The Lessons of Tiktaalik, where we said:

[H]ow can we explain (or try to explain) to a creationist that the scientific approach to learning about the past has actual scientific value — the results of which are far more “true” (i.e., objectively verifiable) than some account that rests upon mere assumptions? There’s probably little to be gained from a philosophical lecture about the relative merits of natural versus supernatural explanations, because creationists are programmed to reject the former and prefer the latter. However, there is yet another method of explaining the merit of a scientific explanation of the past — cross-confirmation by independent lines of evidence.

Today we have another example of cross-confirmation, described in PhysOrg. Their headline is Geology and biology agree on Pangaea supercontinent breakup dates. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) have found that independent estimates from geology and biology agree on the timing of the breakup of the Pangaea supercontinent into today’s continents. When continents break up, single species are divided into two and drift apart – physically and genetically. Lead researcher Sarah McIntyre said geologic dating of the continental drift and biological dating of the genetic drift provided independent estimates of the break-up dates over the past 180 million years.

Ol’ Hambo won’t like that, because he insists that the global Flood in Noah’s time — a mere 4,000 years ago — accounts for everything. He probably has his team of creation scientists working on a rebuttal. PhysOrg says:

“This is by far the most comprehensive comparison of genetic tree-based dates and the geological dates of the continental breakups,” said Ms McIntyre, a PhD scholar at the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. “After excluding species that could easily move between continents, a new comparison of these two independent dating methods, applied to the breakup of Pangaea over the past 180 million years, finds good agreement between the two methods. Geological dating provides important independent support for the relatively new field of using genetic trees to date biological divergences.”

Here’s the paper, published Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Global biogeography since Pangaea, but you can’t read it without a subscription. Back to PhysOrg:

“In collaboration with biologist Professor Colin Groves, we came up with a vetting procedure that excluded species that could easily migrate from one continent to another,” Ms McIntyre said.

That makes sense. Here’s one more excerpt, a quote from co-author Associate Professor Charley Lineweaver:

“Along the way, we had to verify if geological and biological dating methods agree. We found that they do. This concordance between biology and geology gives phylogenetic dating more street cred,” Dr Lineweaver said.

So there you are. Yet more evidence that what Hambo calls “historical science” is a wee bit more than a godless evolutionist contrivance. What will the creationists do about this? We don’t know, but it’s going to be fun to watch them struggle.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “‘Historical Science’ Validated Again

  1. Eric Lipps

    You know, the irony is that creationists themselves use–or, rather, abuse–“historical sciences” such as geology in their attempts to prove, for example, that the Grand Canyon was carved out all at once a few thousand years ago by Noah’s flood. They have to pretty much make up the evidence, but that doesn’t bother them; who needs evidence when you just know you’re right?

  2. I do believe you meant “observational” science vs….

  3. The creationists use both terms. I just added “observational” in the introductory paragraph.

  4. @Eric Lipps
    And the Bible doesn’t say anything about Noah’s Flood carving out canyons, obviously not mentioning the Grand Canyon, but not any changing of the geology, so Flood Geologists can’t be relying on the “eyewitness account” of the Bible, either.
    Among the things that don’t bother them it isn’t only the lack of evidence or lack of proof-texts, there is the lack of consistency.

  5. Creationists have to make the artificial distinction between “historical” sciences and “real” sciences because the former prove their religious beliefs wrong.

    And then they seem amazed that we consider them to be anti-science.

  6. You didn’t mention the bird fossilized in amber with TEETH that was revealed recently.

  7. Tom Bannister

    Isn’t the entire premise of biblically based arguments historically based. I presume none of them were there to witness the writing of the original text (of which we only have a highly modified, error ridden, sixth generation copy). Don’t their assertions that the Bible is the “word” assume the validity of historical science?
    Perhaps pointing out some of the myriad of changes, insertions, and deletions found by textual critics in the Bible would help soften the hypercritical stance of the zealots.

  8. Ross Cameron

    Just bring gospel autographs into the conversation and watch the dodgy apologists at work. They talk about ‘the providential preservation’ of the bible, but, somehow, the big guy forgot to preserve the autographs. So we can`t do ‘observational science’. Or ‘historical science’ either. Hmmmm.

  9. Once again, I point out that much of YEC-baramin-flood geology people have to say has no basis in the Bible. There is little in the Bible which says anything about there being any original manuscripts. (How much of the Bible was originally composed orally, or in stages? Can we have a debate between “original manuscripts”, “including vowel points” and “King James Version only”?)

  10. I just found this Christian opinion expressed on YEC. I do not necessarily agree with all that it says.

  11. Holding The Line In Florida

    Remember that according to Hambo that there was an actual eye witness (Observational Science) to it all. That would be the Yahweh, God of Abraham! You know, the guy who personally dictated every word that was written in The “I have this Book!” he speaks of. So there Godless Heathens! Na na na na na! Really it is so very funny if it weren’t so sad how many sheeple go for it.

  12. I wonder what kind of car HamBone drives?…..The breakup of Pangea created multiple basins along the west coast of Africa and the east coast of South America with restricted circulation, high subsidence rates and nearby sources of sediment to fill them. Continued trans-tension, as the Atlantic spread, along with the deposition of mobile salt and anhydrides, created numerous giant structural and stratigraphic traps in West African waters and
    coastal Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. Unravelling the history of these basins and identifying the massive new oil and gas fields over the past three decades that have been discovered and developed included zero creation science and lots of modern geology and geophysics. Denying these realities requires a particularly silly and dogmatic belief system as one cruises down the interstate burning the very fuel that came from subsurface geology study.
    I guess Hambo really IS the world’s smartest man.

  13. @Holding The Line in Florida:
    Yes, I know that he says that he has this book. But the Bible does not say that the Flood carved out the Grand Canyon, that there was a burst of natural micro-evolution after the Flood, that there is a barrier preventing macro-evolution, etc. And there are plenty of conservative, evangelical, Bible-reading Christians who differ from his claims about the Bible on even more points.

  14. “the false distinction”
    Creacrappers being incurable liars (because if they ceased to lie they would also abandon their creacrap) they don’t even apply this false distinction consistently. Radiometry is experimental, operational, observable, repeatable etc. etc. science and still they reject it. At the other hand they don’t apply their false distinction to the question “how where the ancestors of creatinists born 1000 years ago?” That’s historical science and there are not recorded witnesses, so they should conclude that these ancestors were found in cauliflowers and delivered by storks.

    @TomS: “Among the things that don’t bother them it isn’t only the lack of evidence or lack of proof-texts, there is the lack of consistency.”
    Plus lack of coherence, lack of honesty, lack of method, lack of credibility, lack of reliability etc. etc.

  15. “This concordance between biology and geology gives phylogenetic dating more street cred.”

    Seems to me that street cred is the only kind of credibility to which Creationists can legitimately lay claim — I question that it should be a goal of science.

    Or perhaps the street intended was Massachusetts Ave, Wellington Square or
    Rue Michel-Ange, rather than the Creationists’ Dead End.