Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Startling Claim

The latest BioLogos book project publication The Language of Science and Faith (2011) makes a startling claim. Authors Karl W. Giberson and Francis S. Collins assert, “There has been no scientific discovery--not one--which has suggested that evolution is not the best explanation for the origin of species.”

We may comprehend this declaration only if we understand that science, as defined by the contemporary professional science community, investigates only naturalistic phenomena. Consequently, scientists may only reach a naturalistic conclusion with respect to any subject under investigation. The claim by Giberson and Collins, therefore, has constricted truth value and applies to a limited scope of reality. Many people do not understand this self-imposed restriction under which scientists work: the possibility that supernatural creation events occurred along earth’s historical timeline cannot even be considered, notwithstanding the strong evidence in its favor and weaknesses in the case for evolution.

Craig Rusbult, Editor of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) website for Whole Person Science Education, has written on these issues with insight and passion. He writes, “If design was involved in the origin of a feature but we ignore this possibility (by refusing to consider the evidence for design), a false conclusion is unavoidable.” Rusbult has clearly stated his view that on rare occasions scientists using “open science” would be willing to consider an explanation which does not force them to a naturalistic conclusion. He further explains that in “closed science” the opening assumption in any investigation is that all phenomena in the natural world are and have been natural occurrences. By this standard the science profession practices “closed science.”

Evolutionists pronounce proposals of creation and design “unscientific” for the reasons given above. For many laypersons, this statement has traction. Who would not want to be riding the bandwagon of science in this modern culture? In reality, the creationist conclusion is supported by well established methods of science discovery. Arguably, evidence for evolution is sometimes poorly explained by the “plurality of processes and patterns” swirling through the evolutionary research literature like a winter blizzard.

Some confusion in the public mind relates to the sort of “scientific” evidence offered to support evolution. Much modern science is called “operations science,” which discovers and applies physical processes taking place today. The confidence exuded by evolutionists is not grounded in the findings of operations science. Studies of topics such as evolution, the age of the earth, and distant geologic processes which molded Planet Earth, are more generally included within historical science. The methods of discovery are not identical to operations science. Historical science attempts to determine ancient conditions, events, and causes, and endeavors to explain present conditions by citing past causes for conditions existing today.

Nineteenth century historians William Whewell (1794-1866) and Charles Peirce (1839-1914) also suggested that we may discover ancient events and conditions by using clues and facts from the present. We “calculate backwards” from “manifest effects” in the present, enabling us to describe and explain past events. Peirce was a pioneer in describing “abductive reasoning,” particularly useful in the study of historical sciences. Abductive reasoning is defined as “inference to the best explanation.” Abductive reasoning often enables us to explain the cause of the phenomenon under investigation. Further, scientists desire to explain the observed phenomenon in the best possible way, ideally narrowing down the explanation to a single cause from several competing hypotheses.

Does evidence from the historical sciences, such as the repeated, explosive diversification of life forms, prove creation? Or does the fossil record of change over time prove evolution? Even though I come down firmly on the side of special, divine creation events, we recognize this discussion is woefully inadequate considering the complexity of the evidence. Thousands of authors have weighed in. Most non-scientists know little about the issues. The volume of literature is overwhelming and potentially confusing. Some authors write from a secular perspective. Others write from a Christian perspective. Scripture encourages us to “Test everything. Hold onto the good.” (I Thes. NIV) Standing apart from these scientific proposals are creation narratives of the scripture text, beginning with Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”