GOOD AND BAD SCIENCE
Dr. J. W. Milner, B.Sc., Ph.D.
In the last article I tried to show that it is impossible to reconcile the early chapters of the Bible and the theory of evolution by considering some of the attempts to do so that have been made. Since all of these attempts have proved futile and since it is clear that Genesis 1-11 must be taken as literal history then we are driven to the conclusion that, in advocating the theory of evolution, scientists have gone astray. In this article I want to show why I think scientists are in error in this respect and, in doing so, I hope to show what science is capable of doing and what are its limitations. In other words, I want to demonstrate that there is good science and bad science and that the theory of evolution comes in the category of bad science.
Science is, basically, a study of the creation which we see around us. The early scientists were men who began to notice and admire the world we live in and the vast universe of the heavens around us. Many of these men were genuine Christians and even those who were not had minds moulded by the Biblical doctrine of creation. Since they thought in a basically Christian way they had the right attitude in their studies and experiments and were, as a result, very fruitful in their work. Their belief in the Creator produced two effects which, to me, are fundamental to a true view and practice of science and without which science will inevitably go astray. The first of these was the realisation that God created the world and governed it according to His plan. They were convinced that this plan was discoverable, at least, in part, and that they were justified in searching for the laws by which God governed His creation. The second effect flows naturally from the first and it is that God Who is unchangeable, does not have one plan today and another tomorrow. They believed that if they made a discovery by performing an experiment today in England they would get the same results tomorrow in France or next year in Australia, for that matter. They believed in the constancy of what are called the laws of nature. They believed in what is known as the principle of uniformity.
The convictions that there are “laws of nature” and that these laws are universally operative are sound ideas and form a good basis for scientific study. However, these very ideas not only indicate the correct way to go scientifically but they also hedge the scientist in and tell him the limits of validity of his subject. For example, the term “laws of nature” is often used in a way which gives the impression that these laws are in some way over and above God Himself and that He must govern the world according to them. If these laws are veiwed in this way then it is easy to see how the average scientist’s opposition to miracles arises. Hand
in hand with the idea behind the use of “nature” in “laws of nature’ we usually find the deistical notion of God as One who has set the universe going and now lets it operate according to these laws. If miracles are believed in at all they are viewed as God interrupting the natural course of events. To think Biblically one must view the regularity of the operation of the universe as the way in which God normally rules His creation. It is perfectly correct for the scientist to plan his work in full confidence that the principle of uniformity will not disappoint him. However, since God is sovereign He may suspend, reverse or alter His usual mode of operation. In miracles this is just what God does. A miracle is a temporary suspension of the “laws of nature”. It is the very uniformity of these laws which makes the idea of a miracle possible. If anything can happen at any time then there can be nothing unusual! In miracles God has suspended His normal mode of controlling His creation to prove to men the divine nature of His works of redemption. The point I wish to make is that the idea of a regularly ordered natural world is scriptural but to use this very idea to express one’s antipathy to miracles is a false use of it. A scientist who does so has abused the very principles which form the basis of his subject. Science, as such, cannot “disprove” miraclesÂ— it is the scientist abusing his subject to express his opposition to the supernatural.
We can further illustrate what a scientist may and may not do by reconsidering some of the things I said in “Creation in Six Days”. It will be remembered that I contrasted some of the events of creation week with some of the processes by which God preserves His creation as follows:Â—
In creation week I noted that:Â—
1. On the first day we see light in existence apart from the sun.
2. On the third day God created the vegetation before the sun was created.
3. The sun, moon and stars were created on the fourth day, yet,
prior to this, there had been three 24-hour days without the
Then I observed that the present order of things with respect to the above matters is:Â—
1. All our light comes from the sun and stars.
2. Vegetation cannot exist without heat and light from the sun.
3. Our experience of day and night, of months etc. comes from the rotations of the sun, moon and earth. Our notion of a day is dependent on the existence of the sun but in Genesis 1 we have three days prior to the creation of the sun.
I repeat these contrasts in order to emphasize the impossibility of guessing how things came into existence by studying them as they are now. A further example is to be found in the creation of Adam and Eve. We all have to undergo the process of birth and growth from childhood to maturity yet our first parents were created fully grown. A biologist can tell us the wonderful way in which we are
born. He can describe how we assimilate food and use it to produce energy. He can tell us how our limbs work. For all of these things we can and ought to be grateful. However, when he tells us where our limbs came from and how we came to be the creatures we are we ought respectfully to bid him good-day! He has changed his ground and moved from factual matters to speculation and ceased to be a scientist.
A true scientist is a man who observes the world around us, performs experiments to help him in his observations and tells us what he has seen. Usually a scientist theorises to try to find the pattern of law which causes things to behave as he observes them. There is nothing wrong with this since he is trying to find the rules God uses as He controls the worlds. If the scientist’s theory is wrong then further experiments usually reveal this. Sometimes it happens that a false theory can give good results! However, whatever happens a scientist is always concerned with present processes in the creation around us. When the scientist starts to tell us how the world and how we came into existence he has transgressed and gone beyond himself. He would then be trying to tell us how, for example, Adam and Eve came into being by his study of how we are born, grow and die. This is clearly impossible since the creation of the world was a once and for all event. It is never to be repeated and therefore the scientist cannot study it and cannot say anything about it. A scientist is a man who observes. No one has ever observed the creation of the world except God, the Creator, and so the only way we can know about creation itself is for God to tell us.
Let me clarify this by an analogy. Imagine a watch ticking away, that it is the only watch in the world and that I have never seen its like before. By observing it working I could, presumably, find out how the balance wheel regulates it, how the gears make the hour, minute and seconds hands rotate at the correct rates, how the spring provides the energy and so on. In doing all this I would be acting as a scientist. I could even find out how far the spring had unwound and conjecture how long the watch had been running and how long it had left to run, though I would be on shaky ground here as I will show later. However suppose I then, being rather proud of my success at finding out how the watch worked, began to speculate as to how it had been made. I could imagine it being made by hand over many months, or being made by a machine in a few hours, I could even imagine it having existed eternally so that it had never been made at all. Now, the point isÂ— does my success in finding out how the watch works lend any weight at all to my speculations as to where it came from? None whatever! The only way I could know with certainty would be to ask the manufacturer. (In the case of the watch, my speculation about it never having been made would invite ridiculeÂ—it is amazing that scientists who say similar things about the world are not ridiculed also).
My principal contention here is that a scientist is a person concerned with things as they are. He can only study present processes and therefore these are all he is concerned with. All he can speak of with any authority are the things he has seen for himself. If he starts to speculate about the origin of the things he studies, he no longer speaks as a scientist and his ideas must be treated as his opinions. For example, the bodies of animals and men have definite similarities. There is sufficient similarity between the skeletons of a cat and of a man for an anatomist to be able to name the corresponding bones. There are also corresponding muscles etc. A lizard also has these corresponding parts but the similarity between us and a lizard is less than the similarity between us and the cat. An evolutionary biologist will conclude from this that we are related to both the lizard and the cat and that the lizard is the more distant ancestor. He assumes that similarity automatically implies kinship and then presents his interpretation of the similarities as evidence for evolution. On the other hand, I would look at the same similarities and come to a quite different conclusion. I believe, from the Bible, that God has created the world and its inhabitants according to His plan. From this I would argue that the similarities between the parts of different creature exist because God created according to a basic design and that differences between creatures arise because God modified His basic design to suit the purpose for which he made each particular creature. Who is more likely to be correct? I would say I was because I am interpreting what I see according to the teaching of Scripture which is infallible. Which of us is being scientific? Neither! Science ended with finding and classifying the similarities and differences between the creatures. The evolutionist then interprets the origin of what he sees in a way consistent with his anti- supernatural nature. The Christian interprets the same evidence according to his previously held belief in creation.
Evolution and creation cannot be scientific theories since neither has been observed to take place. Evolution is a theory or speculation designed to explain why we are here and ultimately it is accepted by faith (or, rather, credulity, since in many cases it is clearly absurd.) Creation is a fact of revelation and it is received by true faith.
Many reading what I have said will probably agree with me up to a point but will be puzzled about how the fossils, the rocks and geological ideas fit into my reasoning. I have stated my satisfaction with the principle of uniformity, yet this very principle is supposed to be basic to the science of geology and it is geology which is mainly responsible for a system of dating the earth which violently contradicts the chronology of the Bible. I would like to consider this particular problem before drawing this article to a close by a summary of the principles underlying all that I have said.
It is well known that the geologists divide the history of our
planet into a series of ages spreading over many millions of years. Each age is characterised by certain kinds of rock strata and certain kinds of fossils. A “geological column’ ‘has been reconstructed with the supposedly older rocks containing very simple fossils at the bottom and the younger rocks with the fossils of much more complex animals towards the top. The remains of man himself are only found, it is said, right at the top of the column against the most recently deposited rocks. This is claimed to be proof positive that evolution has taken place. Whenever evolution is denied, the usual retort is to the effect that geology has proved evolution to be true. The geological evidence for evolution is generally regarded as the strongest of all. The first thing to be noticed is that the geological column is a reconstruction, the full range of rocks exists nowhere. Also it is often found that so-called “younger” rocks with complex (more evolved) fossils are found underneath the “older” rocks with simpler (less evolved) fossils. When this happens all sorts of reasons are invented to account for it. The geological column is built up by assuming the theory of evolution to begin with. A rock is old if it has simple fossils and young if more complex fossilsÂ—i.e. rocks are dated according to the fossils in them and the fossils are dated or arranged according to the theory of evolution. Then all this is presented as proof of the theory! A number of geologists are willing to admit the force of this argument but would still deny that we could take Genesis to be true because even with the theory of evolution out of harm’s way they would still maintain that they had proved that the earth was vastly older than the age which can be calculated from the Bible. Geologists were, in fact, thinking in terms of these great periods of time last century before the theory of evolution became popular. In many ways the age of the earth and of the rocks is a problem separate from the theory of evolution. Yet the two stand or fall together since the theory of evolution was the natural outcome of the attitude of mind which led to the postulation of vast ages for the rocks. It is at this point that the principle of uniformity comes in. If there are fixed laws which operate in the physical world, and these laws have never changed, then, presumably, it is possible to use them to reconstruct the way the rocks were deposited and how long ago. This is the reasoning of the geologist. He says that the laws discovered to be operating at present can tell us about the past. One of his slogans used to be “the present is the key to the past.” The following example illustrates how he applies his version of the principle of uniformity. At present, in lakes, etc., it is found that sand settles at the rate of a small fraction of an inch per year. Sandstone has been formed in the past by its settling in water and then being compacted after the water, somehow or other, drained away. If a bed of sandstone several tens of feet thick is discovered then the time it took for it to be formed can be estimated by using the present rate of deposition. Obviously the time is going to be very great. Once the fault in this reasoning is seen, one wonders how one was ever taken in
by it. The true principle of uniformity, when applied to this example, would say that sand is denser than water and therefore sinks through it. There is no reason to suppose that matters have been any different from this ever since the creation of the world. However, to say that sand has always been deposited at the same rate as at present is a violation of the principle. During floods we know that vast quantities of sediment can be deposited in a very short time. Since the whole earth was destroyed by a worldwide flood in the days of Noah then beds of sandstone could easily have been deposited in the space of the one year for which the flood lasted. I believe that sand always has sunk and always will sink through water. I do not believe it must always be deposited at the same rate. The true principle of uniformity tells me that it is the very nature of sand to be denser than water and so it must sink. However it is not in the nature of things for sand to be deposited at a particular rate. The only reason the geologist says that the “present is the key to the past” in this particular way is because he wants it to be like this. He is exhibiting the attitude of mind of those who say “Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” Peter adds that these people who say this know that it isn’t true for they are “willingly ignorant” of the fact that the earth was once destroyed by the flood. The geologist must know, unless he is brainwashed by his teachers, that the present is not the key to the past. Even without the revelation of the Bible he ought to realise that however the rocks were formed there is nothing happening at present which can account for them. For example, fossils are not being formed now, dead animals rot before they are buried. Only sudden burial can account for the existence of the fossils. Also, the earth must have been rent by huge fissures for there to be the amount of volcanic rock which can be seen in the earth’s crust. Nothing comparable is to be seen anywhere today. All the rocks point to a catastrophe in the history of the earth. This, however, savours too much of the unusual, not to say the supernatural and, therefore, men distort the evidence. In obtaining great ages for the earth the scientist abuses the principle of uniformity in every case in which he pretends to apply it. The kind of geology which has produced the geologic column etc. is called uniformitarian geology and it should be noted that this uniformitarianism is not related to the true principle of uniformity which, remember, stems from the Biblical doctrine that our unchanging, faithful God governs the world according to His plan. This last section shows why I said I was on shaky ground at one stage in my watch illustration.
There is very much more which could be said on this matter of good and bad science. I do not wish to be tedious or technical so I have kept to general principles (which are surprisingly un-technical). For this reason I have deliberately avoided the discussion of radioactive dating etc. However, if it is a trouble to anyone, let them look into the basic assumptions and avoid the mathe-
matics. They will discover another example of false conjecture and the false use of the scientific method.
I maintain then that true science is limited in its scope and that, provided scientists realise the limitations of what they can do, their work is valid and even useful. I summarise what I have said as follows:Â—
1. True science is concerned with present processes in order to find out “how things work” or, rather, how God controls His world.
2. The initial acts of creation are not matters for scientific study since they cannot be repeated. They can only be revealed to us by God Himself.
3. A scientist cannot probe into the past or the future and remain scientific. He enters the realm of conjecture and opinion.
4. Present processes, however apparently uniform and constant, cannot be used to date past or future events. The past was catastrophically non-uniform because of the Flood. The future will be non-uniform because time will end catastrophically at the judgment.
In my final article I hope to show how the outline of the earth’s early history given in the Bible is a much better key to help us understand why the earth is as it is than evolution and uniformitarian geology could ever be.