Guest post by Amanda Fischer

It’s the beginning of another semester at my university, and this past week I sat in my required “history of life” science class listening to a description of what science is and isn’t. Or, said another way, what is and isn’t science.

“If you can’t falsify a hypothesis, that’s not science. And that’s okay—not everything is or should be science. But we can’t pretend that something that’s speculation is real science,” my professor said. She gave an example of someone claiming that an invisible alien stole their car keys. Could you point to any observable evidence that would disprove that statement? Go ahead, try it: “Someone would’ve seen the keys moving on their own through the air!” “No, they became invisible when touched by the invisible alien.” See? It can’t be falsified, so it can’t be tested by science.

Now, all this seems rather obvious, right? It’s a ridiculous example—no one in their right mind would insist on a story like this. The fact that my professor chose this example shows that she’s trying to avoid condemning real-life instances of this, instead leaving it open for people to think through and realize the implications. I think that’s clever of her, because not only was it subtle enough to avoid stepping on toes, she also left room for each student’s mind to automatically fill in the bank with an example personal to them. Here’s where my mind went:

Invisible aliens created the world.

Sounds just as ridiculous as the car keys, right? How would you test this? But what if you change the subject of the sentence?

An invisible God created the world.

Aha. Now we’re in a pickle. According to this definition of the scientific method (hypothesis testing and observations, with a hypothesis that can be falsified), this statement is outside the realm of what can be examined by science. This is a great example of how just one line can undermine whole foundations of thought.

So how do we deal with this? Is our whole case overturned? Should it be thrown away? Science would like to say so. However, this is only a problem if science is the only thing that gives us answers, or, that science is the only reliable way to truth. But science doesn’t have all the answers. Science can’t have all the answers, and that’s very easy to demonstrate.

Suppose someone says to you, “Science and reasoning are the only means we have of finding the truth.” Well, then you can respond with, “How do you know that is true? How do you know reason is correct, and not some delusion in your mind?” If you had this exchange, you would probably get an answer scoffing, “that’s ridiculous.” Of course it’s ridiculous. Everyone operates based on the assumption that our systems of logic are, in fact, trustworthy, and that reality isn’t an illusion. (Actually, some people do argue that reality is an illusion, but no one else takes them seriously.) So right here we have found something the scientific method can’t test, but is accepted as a foundation of functional life. This falls under the field of philosophy, as does, I believe, God’s existence.

Similarly, within the theory of evolution is an insistence that evolution doesn’t make any claims about how the first life began. The problem of how exactly life came into existence and started the evolution chain is still very much an area of—guess what—speculation! Scientists say it doesn’t matter, that we know how life developed since then, so who cares how it began? It’s fine if they want to leave that area of abiogenesis alone. But it’s important to note that these folks have chosen to ignore the gaps science hasn’t been able to explain. Everyone must make that choice at some point, to acknowledge the existence of a hole and decide how they’re going to respond to it. Are they going to shove it under a rug and ignore it, keep using the same methods to reach a conclusion, or seek another explanation?

My point is that “speculation”—or, things that cannot be directly tested by the scientific method—is a fact of life, because science is unable to explain everything on its own. That’s why we have other fields. You can’t communicate scientific ideas without language. Science is very limited without any math. You can’t be sure about the reliability of the scientific method without accepting certain philosophical assumptions.

Yes, we certainly need to be aware of when we’re making a claim that is outside the realm of directly observable, testable science. But that claim might still be critically important, and there are holes in our understanding of the world that cannot be filled by scientific hypotheses and theories alone. We need language, we need philosophy, we need art. We need every field and discipline in our arsenal to help us make sense of our world. Although this important field has allowed us to discover many answers, the fact remains that science alone isn’t enough.


For more excellent posts from Amanda Fischer, check out her blog: amandalfischer.com
Also, find her on Twitter and Instagram

3 COMMENTS

  1. Science is the ally of the creationist, all of the sciences, and should be embraced not feared.
    The criteria for something to be “science”; it must be observable, testable, repeatable, falsifiable; none of these can be applied to the origins of the universe and life.
    Origins happen only once in the past so cannot be observed, tested, or repeated; origins have however produced our surrounding reality of which we can note the current details and then speculate and ponder and discuss with our peers how they might have come to be this way. This is what we know as philosophy and philosophy is always delivered through a person’s world view and, in the case of origins, the world views are God or Materialism.

    For both of these world views the science is the same, the facts are the same, the data is the same, all evidence is the same to both parties; it is only the interpretation of these facts through the thinker’s world view that the difference comes in.

    When I go to the Grand Canyon and look out at the massive erosion into the earth that produced it and the exposed layering of the earth, I see evidence of earth layered down through turbidites, of liquefaction, of velocity particle sorting, all producing these layers. I see evidence of massive erosion due to incredible volumes of water receding from the land as it is lifted up in an upheaval of the continent; all taking place in a very short time through a cataclysmic event.
    The evolutionist looks out and attempts to explain it all as slow processes over millions and millions of years.
    It is the same canyon for the both of us but our world views of origins lead us to different conclusions.

    I say again, this is not a case of fact verses faith, it is faith verses faith.
    Science is our ally in this because as we go deeper into all of the sciences God continues to reveal more of Himself and the faithfulness of His Word.
    At the same time the stories of the evolutionist are ever changing to account for the newest scientific revelations that tear down their own story.

    Two quick examples for encouragement, google “soft dinosaur tissue” if you haven’t already been following that saga over the last 15+ years. The evolutionist have had to come up with some bizarre tales to account for how soft tissue, proteins, and even DNA fragments could have survived in dino fossils even 1 million years let alone the 100 million they claim; one speculation was that iron in the blood preserved it because we all know what a good preservative blood is.
    Another study the human genome project which been tremendous. This study reveals that God has not only given us His Written Word in Scripture but has also written our history it in our very genes. Facts from this study include, mankind underwent a genetic collapse sometime in the past, we all are related to one of three women and those three are related to a single woman, and one half of the men in Europe are related to the same man. (We know his name to be Japheth, one of Noah’s sons)

    For unbelievers their faith is in billions of years of random action somehow producing the reality around us, for believers, our faith rest in a Purposeful Creator bringing all into existence not so very long ago.
    Don’t be bullied into believing that the atheist have “science” behind them, they do not, the science, the data, the facts belong to everyone and will reveal the Truth.

    Your Brother in Christ,
    Michael

    • Hi Michael!

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. That encouraged me. 🙂

      First of all, you’re absolutely right that the interpretation is the key. Just as I said everyone has to admit a gap in what science can deal with, everyone has to admit that when talking about something we cannot directly see happening, interpretation is involved. That’s actually something I intend to bring up with my professor. Her explanation of how evolution is observable is that observation isn’t just us directly seeing something in action, it’s also observing the evidence. And the conclusion is repeatedly reached when different people look at the same thing. But that’s obviously very different than literally seeing something happen before your eyes, and I don’t think it’s a great cover.

      I would also point out that although “There is an invisible God who created the universe” cannot be falsified, per se, neither can “There is NOT an invisible God who created the universe.” So it does go both ways. I was just trying to point out that we need not get all worried when someone says “yeah, but how can you test that?” because not all truth can be tested through the scientific process, like I brought up in the “is reality actually real?” example. If we shrug and say okay to the “but you can’t test an invisible God’s existence!” protest, we can actually have an advantage because we recognize the importance of fields beyond science and their legitimate contributions to demonstrating truth.

      And of course, just because one claim cannot be tested directly by the scientific process, does not mean we are excluded from testing other things with science! The dinosaur bone ages are a fantastic example, and we should definitely point out that geology is formed by catastrophic events as well as the slow processes. I think it’s absolutely a mistake to let them say that science cannot support the idea of creationism like it does evolution, or that creationists cannot find scientific evidence that calls things like old dates or uniformitarianism into question. Because like you said, it’s about how you make the interpretation.

      So, thanks again for your comment! I was debating myself about this post as I wrote it and after I finished, wondering if I made it seem like I was saying “just give up, we can’t use science to talk about creationism.” I’m sorry if it sounded like that!

  2. @Michael
    “I say again, this is not a case of fact verses faith, it is faith verses faith.
    Science is our ally in this because as we go deeper into all of the sciences God continues to reveal more of Himself and the faithfulness of His Word.
    At the same time the stories of the evolutionist are ever changing to account for the newest scientific revelations that tear down their own story.”
    What a marvelous insight! You have reminded me of something my wife & I read some years ago. In one of the books by Dr F. Schaeffer is the following (paraphrased), Truth is like a 1000 foot steel pole. Hang it in space and every person who interacts with it will alter its position, trajectory & attitude often in unpredictable ways. Take the same pole and embed it deep into a solid foundation of say concrete and the result is exactly the opposite. Every person must alter their personal position, trajectory & attitude in order to interact with it.
    Thanks

Comments are closed.