Science in Christian Perspective



A Response to Davis Founi's Critique of Origin Science
Norman L. Geisler
Dallas Theological Seminary
Dallas, Texas 75204

From: JASA 37 (March 1985): 51-52.

1. In response to my article on origin science (JASA 9-84) Young argued that the "scientific community rigorously excludes from the definition of natural science all reference to supernatural causes." But this is an arbitrary definition of "scientific community." For this definition includes only those scientists who reject creation science. But this begs the quesiion, since there are hundreds of creation scientists who would not accept this definition, including many of the founders of modern science.

2. Young asks, "How can we predict when God will perform a miracle or create a universe"? By this he implies a supernatural creation is not subject to scientific analysis because it cannot be predicted. However, origin science as such does not involve predictions (forward) but only retrodictions (backward). Of course no predictions can be made from a singularity such as a miracle. For no pattern or trend can be properly extrapolated from a single instance. However, the inability to validly predict the future from one event does not mean that one cannot validly posit a proper cause for a past event based on uniform observations in the present. If it did then even evolution would not be science, since the great evolutionary transitions were unique and unrepeatable events.

3. Young argues that "natural science is said to be explanatory of the empirical world in terms of natural law only. . . ." However, this is true of operation science, but not of origin science. Operation science deals with recurring patterns of events in nature which are the basis for natural law. For no law is validly based on a single instance. But an event of origin is by nature a singularity. So there is no known recurring pattern of events associated with an event of origin against which one can test a theory about it. Hence, it is a mistake to extend the method of operation science, which describes natural regularities, into the realm of origin science which does not. To do so places origin science in an untenable position because it limits origins to natural (operational) causes which by its very nature it need not have.

4. Young argues that "All the science of geology [or any natural science] can do is enable us to explain the origin and history of a rock in terms of the laws of nature operating under certain natural conditions" (emphasis added). This statement also confuses origin science and operation science. Origins deal with past singularities, but the operational laws of the universe describe present regularities. So events of origin cannot be treated like an operational law of nature. Origin events are singularities, but it is not scientific to posit an unusual cause for an event. Scientific laws are not based on singularities. They are based on regularly observed conjunctions. This does not mean that scientific analysis cannot be made about singularities. The origin of the universe, the generation of first life, and the emergence of new life forms are all singular events about which science is concerned. But scientific conclusions about these events are based on the regular connections which uniform observations in the present offer. And these regularly observed connections establish intelligence as the cause of living things. This legitimizes creation as valid origin science.

5. Young claims that "natural science neither affirms nor denies that God could have miraculously created a rock or the Earth instantaneously." He would also apply this same logic to living things. But denying the relevance of supernatural intervention makes sense only when applied to operation science. For here it does not matter whether there was a Creator of the natural laws, but only whether the natural law(s) can account for the effect. In this sense there is really no difference between an evolutionist and a theistic evolutionist. Both believe that the origin of living things can be explained by natural laws apart from any supernatural intervention.

While the existence of a Creator is irrelevant to operation science as such, it is very much relevant to origin science because the origin of the universe and of life either had a natural cause or a non-natural (i.e., supernatural) cause. There are no other alternatives. But to rule out the possibility of a supernatural cause of origins (such as the Arkansas judge did) is arbitrary, unscientific, and even unconstitutional. In fact, in the case of the origin of the whole natural universe any cause would by definition be a supernatural cause. To call an intelligent power beyond the natural scientific world another kind of "Nature" would be question-begging semantics.

6. Young's rejection of "any hard-and-fast distinction between two such kinds of science" (as origin science and operation science) is inadequate. He affirms that "recurring patterns of events which natural science seeks to observe are condition-dependent." That is, science is limited to "events that are connected to (caused by) repeated material conditions." But this is not an argument; it is merely an affirmation of a method which insists oh only natural causes for origins. For Young insists that all events (origins included) must for the scientists have a "material" cause. But if this is so, then as a scientist Young would have to deny the Christian belief in ex nihilo creation.

Young's reply that "science simply has nothing to say at this point" is inadequate. For we cannot insist that the scientific mind stops asking the causal question simply because it cannot find a material (natural) cause. Scientists do not stop thinking scientifically (causally) simply because they are speaking about origin events. Indeed, if they do not posit a supernatural case of origin, they will posit a natural one. Why then arbitrarily limit science to only natural causes of origin?

In contrast to Young's stipulative definition of origin science, there is a nature-based distinction between operation and origin science. Operation science always involves some recurring pattern of events in nature against which a theory can be tested. But Origin science involves no known recurring patterns of natural events against which the theory can be tested. Rather, origin science, like forensic science, is based on the principles of causality and uniformity. These principles posit a cause of an unobserved past singularity which is similar to causes observed in the present. Such a principle, as we have shown, calls for an intelligent cause (Creator) of the first living thing. This is creation (or origin) science.

7. Young further implies that the distinction between operation and origin science is invalid because even some operation events cannot be "observed directly." But origin science readily admits that not all operational events are observed directly. However, there is an important difference between indirect observation of operational laws and no direct observation of an origin event. Origin events are unobserved because there were no observers there to observe them and because they are not being repeated now for our observation. Like a forensic event, such as a murder, the origin event happened only once and it cannot be repeated now for observation by the scientific jury.

By contrast with origin events, operation events (like subatomic patterns of events) are "unobserved" directly in an entirely different sense. They are not unobserved because they are unrepeated. These patterns are in fact repeated. However, the origin events are unobserved directly because there is no known regular pattern of observed events associated with them. But there is a recurring pattern (phenomena) associated with subatomic events. In this sense subatomic events are totally unlike origin events. The difference is that, unlike origin science, operation science always has a known recurring pattern of observable phenomena associated with the unobserved events. Hence, the distinction between origin science and operation science is based on an objective difference in the real world of nature.

8. Young insists that "creation science has nothing to do with Jastrow." But this overlooks an important point. Robert Jastrow has presented a powerful scientific case that the whole material universe had a beginning. And this is very relevant to origin science. For scientific thinking is predicated on the principle that every event has an adequate cause. Hence, using Jastrow's evidence for a beginning, creationists have a right to conclude there was a cause (Creator) of the beginning of the universe.

9. Young also claims that the thought of a universe several billions of years old "is anathema to creation-science." But this is not so. Even proponents of the young earth view admit their basic arguments for creation stand apart from the age of the earth. Further, the two-model law in Arkansas demanded that the evidence for the old earth view be presented if any evidence was presented for a young earth view. What is wrong with presenting evidence for both sides of an issue?

10. Young provides a clue as to why he rejects origin science. He believes "the power of God displayed in the created order (Rom. 1:20) is clearly seen through the eyes of faith of the regenerated Christian and is not discoverable by scientific investigation." However, Romans I says that God's wrath is revealed, not against Christians, "against all [ungodly] ... men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (v. 18). And it goes on to say that these ungodly, unregenerate men have "clearly seen" and "understood" the truth about God "from the creation of the world" (v. 20). Indeed, it is "evident to them" (v. 19). Furthermore, these unbelievers to whom God has revealed Himself through creation are "without excuse" (v. 20), and therefore they are justly condemned for not responding correctly to what God has revealed to them (2:5, 12; 3:19). Certainly a just God did not condemn them for rejecting truth they did not know. The unregenerate do perceive the truth revealed in nature, they simply do not receive it. Instead, they repress it. But it is there nonetheless for the scientific mind to ponder.

In summation, Young does not reckon with the distinction between operation science, which always involves a recurring pattern of events in nature against which a theory can be tested, and origin science which does not. Failing to acknowledge this distinction, he (wrongly) assumes that all science should be defined the way operation science is defined, namely, naturalistically. Taking this naturalistic definition of science and applying it to origins, Young employs a form of methodological naturalism which would seem to be contrary to his Christian beliefs about the origin of the universe.