The Nature of Science and of Theories on Origins


The Nature of Science and of Scientific Theories

Science is our attempt to observe, understand, and explain the operation of the universe and of the living things it contains. Since a scientific theory, by definition, must be testable by repeatable observations and must be capable of being falsified if indeed it were false, a scientific theory can only attempt to explain processes and events that are presently occurring repeatedly within our observations. Theories about history, although interesting and often fruitful, are not scientific theories, even though they may be related to other theories which do fulfill the criteria of a scientific theory.

The Nature of Theories on Origins

On the other hand, the theory of creation and the theory of evolution are attempts to explain the origin of the universe and of its inhabitants. There were no human observers to the origin of the universe, the origin of life, or, as a matter of fact, to the origin of a single type of living organism. These events were unique historical events which have occurred only once. Thus, no one has ever seen anything created, nor has anyone ever seen a fish evolve into an amphibian nor an ape evolve into man. The changes we see occurring today are mere fluctuations in populations which result neither in an increase in complexity nor significant change. Therefore, neither creation nor evolution is a scientific theory. Creation and evolution are inferences based on circumstantial evidence.

Thus the notion that evolution is a scientific theory while creation is nothing more than religious mysticism is blatantly false. This is being recognized more and more today, even by evolutionists themselves. Karl Popper, one of the world's leading philosophers of science, has stated that evolution is not a scientific theory but is a metaphysical research program.[1] Birch and Ehrlich state that:

Our theory of evolution has become . . . one which cannot be refuted by any possible observation. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus "outside of empirical science" but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems have attained currency far beyond their validity. They have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training.[2]

Green and Goldberger, with reference to theories on the origin of life, have said that:

. . . the macromolecule-to-cell transition is a jump of fantastic dimensions, which lies beyond the range of testable hypothesis. In this area all is conjecture.[3]

It seems obvious that a theory that is outside of empirical science, or a theory that lies beyond the range of testable hypothesis cannot qualify as a scientific theory. Any suggestion that these challenges to the status of evolution as a scientific theory are exceptions can be refuted by a thorough search of the scientific literature. Although these quotes are fairly old, they are still true and relevant.

It is evident that the major challenge to the status of evolution as a scientific theory comes from within the evolutionary establishment itself, not from creation scientists.

Creation and evolution are thus theoretical inferences about history. Even though neither qualifies as a scientific theory, each possesses scientific character, since each attempts to correlate and explain scientific data. Creation and evolution are best characterized as explanatory scientific models which are employed to correlate and explain data related to origins. The terms "creation theory," "evolution theory," "creations science," and "evolution science" are appropriate as long as it is clear that the use of such terms denote certain inferences about the history of origins which employ scientific data rather than referring to testable scientific theories. Since neither is a scientific theory and each seeks to explain the same scientific data related to origins, it is not only incorrect but arrogant and self-serving for evolutionists to declare that evolution is science while creation is mere religion. Creation is in every sense as scientific as evolution.

The Relationship of Theories on Origins to Philosophy and Religion

No theory on origins can be devoid of philosophical and religious implications. Creation implies the existence of a Creator (a person or persons, a force, an intelligence, or whatever one may wish to impute). The creation scientist assumes that the natural universe is the product of the design, purpose, and direct volitional acts of a Creator. It is untrue to say that creation scientists are seeking to introduce Biblical creation into the public schools. Their desire is that the subject of origins be taught in a philosophically and religiously neutral manner, as required by the U.S. Constitution as applied in recent decades.

On the other hand, evolution is a non-theistic theory of origins which by definition excludes the intervention of an outside agency of any kind. Evolutionists believe that by employing natural laws and processes plus nothing, it is possible to explain the origin of the universe and of all that it contains. This involves the acceptance of a particular philosophical or metaphysical world view and is thus basically religious in nature. The fact that creation and evolution involve fundamentally different world views has been frankly admitted by some evolutionists. For example, Lewontin has said:

Yet, whatever our understanding of the social struggle that gives rise to creationism, whatever the desire to reconcile science and religion may be, there is no escape from the fundamental contradiction between evolution and creationism. They are irreconcilable world views.[4]

Thus, Lewontin characterizes creation and evolution as irreconcilable world views, and as such each involves commitment to irreconcilable philosophical and religious positions. This does not imply that all evolutionists are atheists or agnostics, nor does it imply that all creationists are Bible-believing fundamentalists.

While it is true that teaching creation science exclusively would encourage belief in a theistic world view, it is equally true that teaching evolution exclusively (as is essentially the case in the U.S. today) encourages belief in a non-theistic, and in fact, an essentially atheistic world view. Indoctrinating our young people in evolutionism tends to convince them that they are hardly more than a mechanistic product of a mindless universe, that there is no God, that there is no one to whom they are responsible.

In their literature, humanists have proclaimed that humanism is a "non-theistic religion." They quote Sir Julian Huxley as stating:

I use the word "Humanist" to mean someone who believes that man is just as much a natural phenomenon as an animal or plant; that his body, mind, and soul were not supernaturally created but are products of evolution . . . . [5]

In his eulogy to Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of the world's leading evolutionists until his death, Ayala wrote that:

. . . Dobzhansky believed and propounded that the implications of biological evolution reach much beyond biology into philosophy, sociology, and even socio-political issues. The place of biological evolution in human thought was, according to Dobzhansky, best expressed in a passage he often quoted from Pierre Teihard de Chardin: "[Evolution] is a general postulate to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must henceforward bow and which they must satisfy in order to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow—this is what evolution is.[6]

The above statement is as saturated with religion as any assertion could be, and yet it is quoted approvingly by Ayala and Dobzhansky, two of the main architects of the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution.

It is no wonder that Margorie Grene, a leading historian of science, has stated that:

It is as a religion of science that Darwinism chiefly held, and holds, men's minds. The derivation of life, of man, of man's deepest hopes and highest achievements, from the external and indirect determination of small chance errors, appears as the very keystone of the naturalistic universe . . . . Today the tables are turned. The modified, but still characteristically Darwinian theory has itself become an orthodoxy preached by its adherents with religious fervor, and doubted, they feel, only by a few muddlers imperfect in scientific faith.[7]

Birch and Ehrlich have used the term "evolutionary dogma," Grene has referred to Darwinism as a "religion of science," an "orthodoxy preached by its adherents with religious fervor," and Dobzhansky and Teilhard de Chardin proclaim that all theories, hypotheses, and systems must bow before evolution in order to be thinkable and true. One could easily search the evolutionary literature to find many other examples that reveal the religious nature of the evolutionary world view. It can thus be stated unequivocally that evolution is as religious as creation, and conversely, that creation is as scientific as evolution.

Creation and Evolution Are the Only Valid Alternative Theories of Origins

Evolutionists often assert that creationists have constructed a false dichotomy between creation and evolution, that there are actually many theories of origins. However, all theories of origins can be fitted within these two general theories. Thus, Futuyma, an evolutionist, states:

Creation and evolution, between them, exhaust the possible explanations for the origin of living things. Organisms either appeared on the earth fully developed or they did not. If they did not, they must have developed from preexisting species by some process of modification. If they did appear in a fully developed state, they must indeed have been created by some omnipotent intelligence.[8]

No professionally trained teacher should thus hesitate to teach the scientific evidence that supports creation as an alternative to evolution. This is recognized by Alexander, who stated that:

No teacher should be dismayed at efforts to present creation as an alternative to evolution in biology courses; indeed at this moment creation is the only alternative to evolution. Not only is this worth mentioning, but a comparison of the two alternatives can be an excellent exercise in logic and reason. Our primary goal as educators should be to teach students to think. . . . Creation and evolution in some respects imply backgrounds about as different as one can imagine. In the sense that creation is an alternative to evolution for any specific question, a case against creation is a case for evolution, and vice versa.

Teaching Both Theories of Origins is an Educational Imperative

Thus, since creation is as scientific as evolution, and evolution is as religious as creation, and since creation and evolution between them exhaust the possible explanations for origins, therefore a comparison of the two alternatives can be excellent exercises in logic and reason. No theory in science should be allowed to freeze into dogma, immune from the challenge of alternative theories. Academic and religious freedoms are guaranteed by the United States Constitution, and public schools are supported by the taxes derived from all citizens. Therefore, in the public schools in the United States, the scientific evidences which support creation should be taught along with the scientific evidences which support evolution in a philosophically neutral manner devoid of references to any religious literature.

References

1. Karl Popper, in The Philosophy of Karl Popper, vol. 1, ed. P.A. Schilpp, (La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishers), pp. 143- 183.
2. L.C. Birch and P.R. Ehrlich, Nature, vol. 214 (1967), p. 349.
3. D.E. Green and R.F. Goldberger, Molecular Insights into the Living Process (New York: Academic Press, 1967), p. 407.
4. R. Lewontin, in the Introduction to Scientists Confront Creationism, ed. L.R. Godfrey, (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1983), p. xxvi.
5. "What is Humanism?" San Jose, CA 95106: Humanist Community of San Jose).
6. F.J. Ayala, J. Heredity.
7. M. Grene, Encounter, (Nov. 1959), pp. 48-50.
8. D.J. Futuyma, Science on Trial (New York: Pantheon Books, 1983), p. 197.
9. R.D. Alexander, in Evolution versus Creationism: The Public Education Controversy (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1983), p. 91.

* At time of publication, Dr. Gish was Senior Vice President at the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Gish, D. 1995. The Nature of Science and of Theories on Origins. Acts & Facts. 24 (4).