Creationists and, as I pointed out during my debate with Bill Nye, TV’s “The Science Guy” last year, even some secular textbooks have highlighted the distinction between the two different kinds of science. One kind of science is observational science, which deals directly with the present. It’s directly testable, observable, and repeatable. It’s the kind of science that builds airplanes and cell phones, and put a rover on Mars. The other kind of science is historical science. Historical science deals with the past and is therefore not directly testable, observable, or repeatable. In historical science, the evidence must be interpreted on the basis of one’s worldview—the facts don’t “speak for themselves” (e.g., fossils don’t speak and don’t come with labels)—so what you believe about the past directly determines how you interpret the evidence.
What Are the Two Kinds of Science?
This distinction between the two types of science shows that it’s not ultimately a battle over the evidence (as we all have the same evidence), and it’s not a battle between science and faith. Rather, it’s a battle over two different views about the past that are used to interpret the evidence of the present. Biblical creationists start with God’s Word and interpret historical science through the lens of the history recorded in the Bible. Evolutionists start with man’s ideas about the past and interpret the evidence through that lens. It’s the same evidence, but we come to radically different conclusions because we have completely different starting points.
One branch of historical science is forensic science. It involves collecting clues and trying to piece together what happened in the past to solve a crime (or determine if indeed a crime even happened). This kind of science is often the subject of many popular detective and crime TV shows. Now, evolutionists will often say that evolution is just like forensic science. They say that we can examine the evidence at a crime scene and piece together what happened, often with reasonable assurance, so therefore can we look at the evidence around the world and see that evolution happened.
Forensic Science Must Be Interpreted
Now, there are many similarities between historical and forensic science. After all, forensic science is a branch of historical science. Just like in historical science, the facts don’t speak for themselves. They must be interpreted by the investigator. Sometimes the interpretation is pretty straightforward, but other times it’s not. The investigator must painstakingly collect all the data, find eyewitnesses, and compare the data with the eyewitnesses’ accounts of what happened. All of this is in an effort to reconstruct what happened in the past to produce the evidence left behind. But at times in this world, forensic scientists have come to the wrong conclusion and so the wrong person was charged with a crime.
Collecting the data is part of observational science. The forensic scientist looks around and finds things like fingerprints, DNA evidence, shell casings, eyewitness testimony, or other pieces of observational evidence. Of course, it should be noted that even data collection involves some historical science because the investigator was not there when the crime happened. The investigator does not know if the evidence was tampered with, planted to frame someone, or was contaminated, or perhaps the investigator purposely falsified the evidence. And sometimes evidence that would be very relevant is missed because the investigator did not know of its relevance! Now, after all of the observational evidence has been collected, the data must be interpreted. Reconstructing what happened is historical science.
When evolutionists say that the science that gives us forensics works the same as evolution and “proves” that evolution happened, they are neglecting to understand that forensics is a methodology, not a conclusion. We use forensic science to help us understand what happened, but the conclusion doesn’t come from the forensics—it comes from the interpretation of the evidence collected by the forensic scientists. This is obvious in the courtroom. Eventually, the evidence is brought before a jury or a judge. Both the prosecuting attorney and the defending attorney use the same evidence, but completely different interpretations of it, to try to convince the judge or jury of the defendant’s innocence or guilt. Perhaps the prosecuting attorney brings forth a gun, some fingerprints, and some shell casings as observational evidence. He interprets it to mean that the accused was there and he was the one who shot the victim. The defense attorney, however, will look at the same observational evidence and will perhaps argue that the fingerprints were from a previous visit and that the gun was stolen so the accused is innocent. He will argue that the prosecuting attorney is misinterpreting the evidence. It’s the same evidence, but different conclusions.
There are plenty of examples of where the evidence was interpreted wrongly and, later, new evidence shed light on what really happened. For example, in 2002 a woman was convicted of robbing and murdering her neighbor because her fingerprint was supposedly found on a pill container. Later it was found out that the fingerprint wasn’t actually hers—she had been wrongly imprisoned because of an incorrect interpretation of the observational evidence.
Evidence from Historical Science Must Be Interpreted
This is the same as evolution. The evidence from historical science must be interpreted. The assumptions of the researcher or scientist determine how the evidence is interpreted. An evolutionist interprets the evidence through the lens of man’s ideas about the past—millions of years and evolution. But a biblical creationist looks at exactly the same evidence and comes to a completely different conclusion because we have a completely different starting point.
Now, a big part of forensic science is reliable eyewitness testimony. In historical science, Christians have an eyewitness testimony from the Creator of the universe recorded for us in His Word. This testimony is the most reliable because it comes from the God who never lies (Titus 1:2). But evolutionists totally ignore this eyewitness testimony—something a forensic scientist would hopefully never do! They reach the wrong conclusions because they have the wrong starting point.
Evolutionists also ignore other interpretations of the data. Unlike a forensic scientist who tries to look at all different angles for how the crime may have been committed and by whom, evolutionists are committed to their interpretation of the evidence. Few stop to question the assumptions of millions of years or evolution. Biblical creation—even if it provides a far more consistent and better explanation of the evidence—is automatically rejected because it doesn’t match with the starting assumptions of secular scientists.
Forensics doesn’t prove evolution. Forensics merely provides a good illustration of a historical science system that uses observational science methodology. The evidence must be interpreted, and what you believe about the past determines how you interpret the evidence. We need to start with God’s unchanging, infallible Word and reach our conclusions from that firm foundation.
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This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.