The Nature of Science: Historical Science vs. Observational Science

Natural history museums create the impression that scientists from every field unanimously support the idea that evolution over millions of years explains all life on Earth. But think about some of the topics we’ve covered in this book. We’ve seen that even the core idea of evolution—natural selection and adaptation—doesn’t stand up to investigation. Modern research has shown that the leading example for this—Darwin’s finches—doesn’t even support this idea because changes are limited to within each “kind” of animal and they can happen quickly—even within one generation—as animals adapt to their environment, but only within their pre-engineered genetic code.

We’ve seen that mainstream myths—like humans and chimps sharing 98–99% of their DNA—turn out to be exaggerations that are not even close to what they claim, actually consisting of cherry-picked DNA strings that ignore 18% of the chimp genome and 25% of ours.

We’ve seen how human evolution icons like Ardi, Lucy, and Homo habilis don’t hold up to scrutiny—even within evolution circles. We’ve also revealed how the Neanderthals, who used to be regarded as the brutish gorilla-like ape-to-man connection, were just humans—living and surviving in their environments in genius ways.

Looking at dinosaur extinction has also been telling. While natural history museums widely promote the asteroid theory, we’ve seen how numerous scientists abroad depart from this explanation behind the dinosaur demise. We’ve also seen how the Genesis Flood better explains the geological layers that these dinosaurs are buried in—layers that spread across multiple states with untold millions of land and marine creatures all mixed together. The action of Catastrophic Plate Tectonics during the Biblical Flood provides a much better explanation about what happened to the dinosaurs by way of Pangea separating and the related catastrophic processes.

We’ve looked at how evolutionary scientists have rotated through four different mammal orders trying to find the creature that could be the first ancestor in the land mammal to whale story, but none seem to fit. Even over the last couple decades, the ideas of whale evolution have widely varied. The stories, inferences, and exaggerations made by those promoting whale evolution have fallen short, time and time again, with the actual fossil evidence not supporting the paddle feet, long tails, and blowholes they were supposed to have. We’ve also seen how the so-called “vestigial” hips and legs turned out to be just claspers that are required for mating.

We’ve seen how radiometric dating may work well for “relative” dating, but cannot establish “absolute” dates. In many cases, when scientists try to validate the radiometric dating methods with rocks of known age, the results miss by millions of years.

Those who side with Creation and those who believe evolution both rely on faith when it comes to the distant past. Human history runs out just thousands of years ago, and beyond that faith is the tool we use to understand the past. Ultimately, this is because we cannot apply real, observational science to the distant past. Creationists and evolutionists both have the same data, but this gets interpreted through different worldviews. To the Creationist, the God of the Bible has revealed to us in the Bible that He recently spoke the world into existence, including all animals after their own kinds. The world was later catastrophically destroyed by a worldwide Flood that left markers—obvious markers—on every continent. To the evolutionist, the mechanisms of random chance, mutations, and selection over billions of years brought everything we see to life. By faith they believe that everything comes from nothing.

So, while it takes faith to believe either account, don’t think that one is scientific and the other is not. You see, “science”—true science—requires observation, testing, and repetition. This “real” form of science is how we put people on the moon, develop new medicines, and make technological advancements. Evolution, on the other hand, relies on “historical science,” which requires making inferences and guesses about the distant past, a time that we cannot go back to observe, test, or repeat. Having an eyewitness account as a starting point allows us to compare our ideas against what actually happened, and that is only possible in a Biblical worldview.

The real “scientific method” that establishes and underlies the tools that we use today for bringing about knowledge that is trustworthy, dependable, and verifiable employs the seven steps outlined in Figure 100. Observational science is much different than historical science. We cannot run observable experiments on the past. Experiments conducted today give clues about what was once possible or likely, but that’s about all they can give. Often, vast inferences are made on unobservable, untestable, non-replicable, and therefore unprovable assumptions. True observational science typically involves six steps, and three of these are observation, repetition, and testing.

None of these can be done for evolution or for any event that occurred in the unrepeatable past. We can’t go back to test something that occurred 1 million supposed years ago. For example, in all recorded history (the last 4,000 to 5,000 years), no one has ever documented a case of true vertical evolution, for example where an almost-bird evolved a beak, or an almost-fish evolved fins. Yes, we see change and adaptability but always within the God-prescribed limits of the original animal “kinds.”

Figure 100. The Scientific Method as an Ongoing Process.[i]

When a fossil is recovered, the only thing we can know for certain is that the creature died. We can also sometimes infer how it died and learn more about it from where it’s buried, the material it’s buried in, and the other creatures that are found around it. But these all require making assumptions about the past—a past that we cannot observe, repeat, or test—which are three of the essential requirements for “real” observational science. But with the Bible as God’s eyewitness account of Creation and the Flood, we can compare what we see in the world today with those events. Evolutionists have no such account to confirm their explanations of the past.

Creationists see DNA as God’s programming code for creating all forms of life today, with each kind of animal reproducing after their own kinds—varying, of course—but staying within their God-prescribed boundaries as “kinds.” Genetic coding and reproduction are seen as so incredibly miraculous that they require a designer. We also hold that this designer is the God of the Bible who has made Creation obvious to every person, but many will choose to deny it. What we see around us in Creation supports a Creator. We have a specially tuned universe with planets in orbit, magnetic forces in play, and an atmosphere that is perfectly engineered for life. Romans 1 is clear that God has made his Creation known to us:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

[i] Image credit: Wikipedia (spelling errors corrected on original, side text and shaded boxes added).