What is Science?

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When asked, "What is science?" some will respond by describing what they feel scientists deal with: "Spaceships, computers, fossils, cutting up frogs, and cloning dinosaurs in Jurassic Park." Others may describe what they feel scientists do not deal with: "evolution is science and creation is religion." For the most part people feel that science is a vague and mysterious category of knowledge which scientists alone can understand. Yet the category of knowledge we call science is defined in a very simple, though precise, way that can be understood by anyone, whether they are involved in the sciences or not. Here it must be acknowledged that there are many who attempt to define science so broadly that it encompasses all forms of knowledge; however, from the beginning of what is called "modern science," it was the Baconian Scientific Method that guided all successful scientific endeavors. The Baconian Scientific Method is given as follows and applies only to naturally recurring processes that occur in the present.

The Scientific Method:

1. Observation: Direct or indirect in the present.
2. Problem: Question posed about natural process that is relevant and testable in the present.
3. Hypothesis: An educated proposal for an explanation of naturally recurring processes in the present and for the future.
4. Experiment: Direct test of hypothesis in the present which is possible to repeat in the future.
5. Theory: Hypotheses about the present and future confirmed by experiments in the present. Scientific theories are judged by their predictive value for the future.

Since the scientific method deals only with naturally recurring processes that occur in the present., historical events are by definition outside of the scientific method. In other words; since history is not repeatable under observation, we simply can not apply the word "scientific," even as an adjective, to the study of historical events. Therefore such views of origins as Evolutionism and Creationism are intrinsically outside of the scientific method since they both require the study of ancient history in an effort to find evidence for or against their central claims. This is not to say that such views can not motivate or "inspire" the formulation of hypotheses in accord with their view of origins, however, in order to be classified as scientific theories it must be possible, at least in principle, to test the predictions made through repeatable observations in the present.

With this in mind we can now see that the word "science" is often used improperly. For example, though it is clear that historians can not be classified as scientists, when an archaeologist uses a scientifically developed technique (such as carbon 14 dating) some may forget that they are still studying historical events.   And further, when asked if paleontologists conduct scientific research, many would quickly respond, "Yes this is always scientific" even though the result of such research is often a historical theory.

There are many more examples of this confusion of the various categories of knowledge.  One relates to the use of the word "proof" in application to scientific evidence. First we must remember that the concept of a "proof" is only applicable to mathematical or logical formulations where certain things may be shown, by definition, to be equivalent. For this category of knowledge, when a single valid proof is found no other is required. Science on the other hand, deals only with "evidence" which can only increase or decrease the probability of a certain theory being true, but never prove it being so. Yet we often hear of "scientific proofs" of evolution even from those who should know better. A flagrant example is seen in the Scientific American cover story (July 92) about the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) where it was boldly asserted that such observations were "More Proof for the Big Bang." It appears that these claimants of "scientific proofs" for evolution have an underlying motivation when first including evolution (and most other categories of knowledge) within the domain of science while excluding any consideration of   creation.

Now, with the broad misunderstanding of what constitutes science, and further, with the perception of the general public that scientific knowledge is the most worthy of our confidence, the evolutionist is tempted to claim a strictly "scientific world view." But we must realize that the construction of a "scientific world view" is simply an attempt to side-step the whole requirement of scientific evidence for evolution, since it is defined as the only admissible answer. The standard evolutionary reasoning goes as follows: 1) natural processes are assumed to be the only ones that exist, and 2) evolution claims that natural processes are all that are required.   It should be clear that such an argument for the origin of the universe is nothing more than circular reasoning. But it should also be clear by now that it is simply impossible to formulate a world view based on science alone, since the vast majority of important questions can never be answered by conducting a scientific experiment.

When someone claims that "evolution is science and creation is religion," it must be pointed out that the notion that dead matter can self energize and organize into life is likewise a matter of faith, although an ill founded one, since all scientific observations are in contradiction with it.  The alternative faith position that God alone creates and destroys matter, energy, and brings order to life, is in complete agreement with the two most confirmed and fundamental laws of nature--the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. The first law simply stated is: nothing in nature is now being created or destroyed. And the second law is: on average, all things in nature go from a high energy to low energy, from order to disorder.  These two most fundamental laws completely contradict evolution which requires that the universe be self energized and organized. A far better explanation for the natural universe we actually observe is a supernatural origin, or, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Here it should be noted that Biblical Creationism has no conflict with the observations made through the scientific method, however it does sometimes conflict with the interpretations imposed on that data. Actually, all of the confusion about origins can be resolved by simply placing each type of knowledge in its proper category defined by the method by which it is received. In the following, those categories and definitions are each given and ranked relative to the nature of its source, its capacity to unify prior knowledge, and whether it gives meaning to the human condition. The Scientific Method, as defined above, is powerful, but most limited in scope. The Intuitional Method is defined as that knowledge received through reason (language, logic, mathematics) and the conscience (the sense of right and wrong). The Historical/Evidential Method is defined as historical evidence received through methods similar to those utilized for legal evidence. The Revelational Method is defined as knowledge given by God that could not otherwise be acquired, and is therefore, the most inclusive in scope. These categories and their priorities are given as follows:


Method of Reception  Scope Priority
1. Man   Scientific (natural) Narrow (impersonal) 4
2. Man Intrinsic (personal) Narrow (personal) 3
3. Man Historical/Evidential Inclusive 2
4. God Revelational Unifying 1

God alone observed the events associated with the origin of the universe, and therefore he alone can give us knowledge of our origins, unify prior knowledge, and give meaning to the human condition.

In conclusion the "evolution is science, creation is religion" line of reasoning is based on a misunderstanding of knowledge, its meaning, and its priority in our lives. We would do well to remember that the majority of the founders of the key disciplines of modern science were Christian Creationists, or at least working on the foundation of the Biblical view of creation (1). These Christian fathers of modern science would simply have been astonished at a world view so obsessed with asking the how of origins that it failed to ask the why, thereby rejecting revealed knowledge from God who alone knows both the how and the why.  The "scientific world view" now being advocated by many philosophers and scientists is diametrically opposed to the Biblical world view from which modern science arose. In so doing these scientists are, so to speak, cutting off the branch on which they have been sitting.


1. Some of the scientists who believed in the Biblical account of creation are as follows: Isaac Newton (Dynamics), Johann Kepler (Astronomy), Robert Boyle (Chemistry), Lord Kelvin (Thermo-dynamics), Louis Pasteur (Bacteriology), Matthew Maury (Oceanography), Michael Faraday (Electro-magnetics), Clerk Maxwell (Electro-dynamics), John Ray (Biology), and Carolus Linnaeus (Taxonomy).


Tim Nordgren 10-29-98