by Terry Novich
When you think about science you may think of the discoveries scientists make, the kind of science that gives us all that lovely new technology, the science that looks for cures to illness, and discovers new things, such as the DNA genome. This is experimental science which, in a nutshell, is observing happenings and checking to see if the observed is repeatable. Experimental science is also known as operational science.
There is another kind of science, known as historical, origins or forensic science. This science deals with the origin of things and events in the past. Now, because these things and events are from the past, they are - obviously - not repeatable. And, because we are yet to build a time-travel machine (sorry Dr. Who fans), these events in the past are also - obviously - not observable. The scientific study of fossils would fall into the area of origins science, as does the study of the origin of life, and the study of the Universe.
So, operational (experimental) science may tell you the DNA genome sequence but to find out where DNA originated you need to use origins (historical/forensic) science: That much, once explained, is pretty clear to most people.
However, amazingly, most tertiary institutions (college, university) don’t teach the philosophy of science, and therefore make no distinction between these two sciences. This is to the students detriment.
Organometallic chemist Dr Stephen Grocott, having been through at least seven years of university training and ten years working as a scientist remarked, “Some of the things people call “science” are really outside the realms of science; they’re not observable, testable, repeatable. The areas of conflict are beliefs about the past, not open to experimental testing.”1
is little understood by the average person is that origins science
relies heavily on a person’s worldview. Scientists are people too - yes,
really - and any facts/evidences from history are interpreted through
each scientist's assumptions about the world we live in.
To explain a little further about origins science and worldview, let’s suppose a fossil has been found. The origins scientist interprets whatever evidence is available to him in the present, then decides - from his assumptions and an already formed worldview - what 'story' goes along with the fossil; what type of animal the fossil came from, where in history it fits, etc.
An example of this 'story' telling happened back in 1917, when a small well-worn tooth was found and, in due course, was submitted for identification to Henry Osborn, the then President of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Henry declared that the tooth looked 100% anthropoid,2 and duly announced to the greater American public that this was an American anthropoid ape, giving it the impressive name Hesperopithecus haroldcookii (Nebraska Man).
Unfortunately for Henry, by 1927 it was concluded that the tooth was that of a species of Prosthennops, an extinct genus related to the modern peccary or wild pig. And then, to add insult to injury, in 1972 Ralph Wetzel discovered a herd of these very animals alive and well in Paraguay’s Chaco.
So, don't ever believe that facts and only the facts tell the 'story'. Facts do not speak for themselves; facts are always interpreted according to a personal worldview...in the case of the pig tooth, the worldview behind the interpretation was evolutionary naturalism.
1. Don Batten and Jonathan Sarfati, The Creation Couple. http://creation.com/the-creation-couple-creation-magazine-stephen-and-dianne-grocott-interview
2. Fairfield, O.H., Hesperopithecus, the first anthropoid primate found in America, American Museum Novitates 37:1–5, 1922.
Image from wikipedia.org : Artistic impression of Hesperopithecus