Whenever I raise the subject of evolution with friends, strong emotions are generated. Many of these emotions are the result of a misunderstanding about what constitutes good science. Perhaps there are even some scientists who possess an inaccurate vision of good science. The study of what science IS may not be as simple as one may think. But why is this so? Let’s give a few common defining phrases for science. Sometimes science is defined as discovery of “how the world works.” Science is also described as “an organized body of knowledge.” The term “truth” is also used as scientists describe their quest “to discover truth about the operation of natural laws.” Finally, science is frequently used “to describe useful models of reality.”
Which definition would I choose? All of the above! Why, then, would I claim divergent emotions concerning evolution result from efforts to define science? It is because most professional scientists attach a caveat to their definition. Science has changed significantly in the past two centuries. During the 19th century, the practice of science drifted toward methodological naturalism--the view that all science is to be conducted as if the supernatural did not exist (see 9/29/07 post). Operationally, this methodology still successfully identifies powerful principles of God-ordained laws of nature. However, it rules out discussion of even the possibility that theistic intervention was responsible for such events as life’s sudden appearance on earth, the explosive appearance of multiple complex life forms at the onset of the Cambrian period, and the transcendent recent creation of man in the Image of God. The caveat, therefore, is limiting science to natural explanations only. Scientific consideration of possible supernatural intervention, even when an apparent investigative “dead end” is reached, is off limits.
The tension generated when evolution is discussed results from a de facto exclusion of the supernatural. Evolutionary scientists’ opening rule for investigating the history of earth’s life forms is the following: “Any investigation must permit only natural causes and effects as reality.” Therefore, only a naturalistic conclusion is possible for any apparent changes which appear in the fossil record. Such a conclusion forces the establishment of an evolutionary conceptual framework, one into which every observation concerning living things must fit. It is no wonder the assertion “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” has acquired such power. No one is permitted to think or make sense of things in any other way.
Almost all scientists agree with the definitions of science outlined in the first paragraph. The problem may center on their interpretation of “truth” and “useful models of reality.” Exclusion of the “God option” is a serious barrier in man’s search for truth and reality. Inclusion of the “God option” is an exciting investigative possibility in our truth and reality search.