ORA text

Science vs. Religion

#1. There’s no such thing as an atheist.
#2. Science vs. Religion
#3. How do you know what you know?
#4. The illogic of evolution
#5. Evidence: Handle with care!
#6. What do “Creation” and Evolution” really mean from a scientific perspective?

by David Prentice, M.Ed., M.A.S.T.

   What do you think of when you hear the words “creation” and “evolution”? If you’re like most people, evolution conjures up visions of scientists examining fossils and doing complicated lab experiments, while creation makes you think of Bible-thumping fundamentalist TV preachers. In other words, creation is religion and evolution is science.
   Most people take this for granted. But it’s not true! The problem is that few really understand what the word “science” means. We buy “scientifically formulated” detergent; we admire a person who develops a skill “down to a science” and in America, we even call the sport of boxing “the sweet science.”
   Lest there be any confusion, in this series of articles we will use the traditional meaning of science to refer to those areas of study to which we can apply the scientific method. We ask a question, gather information, propose a hypothesis, devise a way to test the hypothesis, perform the test, observe the results, and report what we observed.
   Here’s a greatly simplified illustration. Imagine a table with two rocks on it, Rock 1 and Rock 2. Now imagine you see me take a third rock out of my pocket and place it on the table. What happens when I put a rock on the table?
   “It stays there.”
   How do you know?
   “I saw it.”
   Right! Since you saw it, you know what happened. You could watch it again and again if I picked up and put back the rock; or you could pick it up and put it back yourself to see if it stayed on the table. You could even vary the process by trying different rocks, tables, and so forth. An event is occurring in the present; there are one or more eyewitnesses; and it can be repeated to see if the same results happen each time. While extremely simplified, this is how science works.
   Now let’s turn our attention to Rock 2. How did it get there?
   “I guess you put it there.”
   Sorry, I didn’t. But the janitor just spoke up and he says he saw President Kennedy put it there years ago. Suppose we know him well enough to decide that he’s trustworthy, so we accept what he says. Even so, things are different with Rock 2 than they were with Rock 3. This time we didn’t see the event occur; we can’t duplicate it because President Kennedy can’t come back to do it again; but we do have an eyewitness. Is this science? No. It’s history. It occurred in the past and can’t be repeated, but there was at least one eyewitness.
   Notice the contrast. Science occurs in the present, is repeatable, and is observableHistory occurred in the pastcannot be repeated, but was reported by eyewitnesses.
   Now let’s look at Rock 1. How did it get there?
   “I don’t know.”
   Neither do I. We ask if anybody saw what happened, but nobody speaks up. We can check the rock for fingerprints, measure air currents, look for footprints and so on, but the best we can do is use circumstantial evidence to make an educated guess. Rock 1 arrived on the table in the past; we can’t repeat what happened; we have no eyewitness accounts. Our statements of how it arrived are neither science nor history, but belief. We can call our belief a theory or whatever we want, but we can never be absolutely sure we’re right. We ought to admit that it’s just an educated guess.
   Let’s compare the three.
SCIENCE. Something happens to Rock 3 in the present; we can repeat it; we can observe. The principle applies to anything that is considered science. (1) Since we can’t bring back the past to experiment on it, science occurs in the present. (2) We can repeat a scientific process as often as necessary. (3) The process must be observable, either with our senses or with some sort of measuring device. If we can’t observe it, our so-called science is nothing but storytelling.
HISTORY. Rock 2 demonstrates how history works rather than science. (1) Something happened in the past. (2) We cannot repeat it. (3) We have an eyewitness whom we believe is trustworthy.
BELIEF. Rock 1 illustrates belief rather than science or history. (1) Something happened in the past. (2) We cannot repeat it. (3) We have no eyewitnesses. All we can do is examine circumstantial evidence and come up with a belief.
   Here’s the point. Suppose we believe in Creation. Is it present or past? Past. Have we been able to repeat it? No. Are there any eyewitness accounts? Other than Genesis, no. Then is it science? No. Is it history? That depends whether Genesis is reliable. If so, yes; if not, Creation is nothing more than a belief.
   Now suppose we believe in Evolution. Is it present or past? Past. Have we been able to repeat it? No. (We’ll talk about this in future articles.) Are there any eyewitness accounts? No. Then is it science? No. Is it history? No. Evolution is nothing more than a belief — an educated guess.
   The difference is crucial. Creation is a belief based on a book that claims to be a revelation from God, who was there and knows what happened. Evolution is a belief based on the speculation of men who were not there and are only guessing. Not only are there no eyewitness accounts, we can never hope to have any. If we really evolved from apelike ancestors, they wouldn’t have been intelligent enough to write down what they saw!
   From a scientific standpoint, then, Creation and Evolution are exactly parallel. Both refer to nonrepeatable, nonobservable past events. Each is a belief which claims to be supported by scientific evidence. Each must be accepted with a greater or lesser degree of faith. Neither can be truly proven. All we can hope to do is find which is more reasonable by looking at the circumstantial evidence available. Stay tuned!