What determines how readily
you would be to believe each of the above persons when they tell you
something is true? Would you be more likely to believe one member rather
than another in each of the above pairs? How long you've known the person
might be one factor, and you would probably be more likely to believe
your best friend than you would a casual acquaintance. In my case, there
would be a problem because, when I was growing up, my best friend was
a compulsive liar. A really nice guy, mind you, but he had a problem
with the truth.
What about those two professors?
If a science professor told you something about science, and the philosophy
prof told you the opposite, you'd be more likely to believe the scientist,
wouldn't you? So here's another factor in our willingness to believe
what we're told: the expertise of the person making the statement.
Ah, but what if two equally
knowledgeable people tell you opposite things, what then? This is a
dilemma with which I often have to deal in questions about the creation/evolution
controversy. Sure, I'm a scientist, but I certainly don't know all of
science! My specialty is genetics, and I've never even had a course
in geology. How do I evaluate the competing claims of evolutionist geologists
and creationist geologists? Sometimes I have to choose on the basis
of philosophy rather than science: I choose to believe the Christian
rather than the atheist. This is not as nonrational as it may first
appear. We all live our lives based on some set of assumptions of what
is true, and that set of assumptions affects our decisions about many
things. A person with a false philosophy will be drawn infallibly into
false conclusions about important matters.
The pair of reporters in
our list brings us to the question of how does the fact of something
being printed affect our willingness to believe it? It seems that we're
more ready to believe something that's printed than something that is
just spoken, so the newspaper reporter might get more credibility than
the TV journalist. Of course, Peter Jennings does look awfully sincere!
Seriously now, does something
being printed mean that it is more likely to be true? Sometimes yes,
and sometimes no. Sometimes all it takes to get something published
is money. We need a healthy skepticism for both what we hear and what
SCIENCE - A WAY OF KNOWING
Science is a very important
way for coming to know things. Some of this scientific knowledge can
come from personal experience, but almost all of it will come from being
told by someone else. Even the science a scientist knows has come mostly
from being told: through periodicals, books, meetings, etc.
Even though the achievements
of science today seem very modern, the modern way of doing science actually
started in the 1600s. Although it's not mentioned much and maybe hard
to believe, most of the founders of modern science believed in a personal
God who had created the universe. Their belief that the Creation was
the result of intelligent design gave them confidence that they could
study it and discover truth about it.
Because science is such
an important path to knowledge and because science is so intimately
associated with origins, it's important to understand something about
it. Plainly stated, science proceeds by making and testing
hypotheses. Scientists observe things, and then they try to explain
their observations. Those explanations are called hypotheses. A hypothesis
is a tentative explanation for observations, an "educated guess."
Making hypotheses about
things is only the first step; much more difficult is the second step:
testing hypotheses. The scientist has to design an experiment that will
indicate whether the hypothesis is correct or not. Let's look at an
European eels reproduce
in the Sargasso Sea, a part of the Atlantic Ocean. They migrate to freshwater
streams where they spend most of their lives.. How do they find those
freshwater streams from the ocean? Some scientists hypothesized that
the eels are able to sense the chemical composition of freshwater. They
designed an experiment to test that hypothesis, using bottles of water
leading through tubing to a separate box for each bottle and then to
a common box. Each bottle held a different kind of water: tap, distilled,
salt, fresh (from a stream). Baby eels were placed in the common box
from which they could swim through the tubes to one of the boxes holding
a particular kind of water. The eels showed no preference for tap water
over salt, but most of them swam into the box that contain natural freshwater.
These results supported the hypothesis that the eels are able to detect
the chemical nature of freshwater.
IS THE STUDY OF ORIGINS
There are hundreds (thousands?)
of scientists studying origins: the origin of the universe, the origin
of the earth, the origin of life, and the origin of species. Surely,
the study of origins is scientific! Isn't it? Well, it depends on what
you mean by science. If you mean the kind of science done by those studying
the eels, the answer is no.
The late Dr. Richard Bliss,
a great educator, explained the distinction better than anyone else
when he coined the word "operation science" to contrast with
"origins science." Operation science is what is done when
scientists are trying to learn how something works, how it "operates."
They can gather observations, make hypotheses, and test those hypotheses
with experiments. Scientists who study origins can also gather observations,
such as studying the stars or collecting fossils. They also can make
educated guesses about what those observations mean in terms of origins.
But, with few exceptions, they cannot design experiments that will determine
what happened in the prehistoric past. This is the same problem faced
by the forensic scientist. He or she can gather clues: fingerprints,
bloodstains, fibers, etc. Using that evidence, it is possible to suggest
what took place, but there is no experiment that can be done to determine
whether or not that suggestion is correct.
So while scientists can
provide us with valuable information about events that happened a long
time ago, they cannot provide us with answers that are as final as those
about things taking place today. Because of that uncertainty, we can
expect the philosophy of a scientist (Conservative Christian, Liberal
Christian, Orthodox Jew, Reformed Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist) to affect
the conclusions they'll make. Whom will you believe?
Creation Research Society
Research Society, P.O. Box 969, Ashland, OH 44805-0969, $20 per year,
$15 for students. The Creation Research Society is the international
creation organization for scientists and those interested in science.
Articles range from general interest to highly scientific.
Acts and Facts,
Institute for Creation Research, Box 2667, El Cajon, CA 92021, donations
appreciated. News about ICR, a group of creation scientists. Includes
articles on Biblical and scientific topics.
His Creation, P.O. Box 785, Arvada, CO 80001, donations appreciated.
Fine little newsletter including excellent materials for children.
Apologetics Press, 230 Landmark Drive, Montgomery, AL 36117, $11 per
year. Brief but beautiful 7-page "monthly paper of Bible and science
for kids." Packed with good stuff.
What Is Creation Science?,
Henry M. Morris and Gary. E. Parker, Master Books. Good overview of
the creation-evolution controversy.