Secularists with an agenda often misrepresent and accuse Answers in Genesis of being anti-science. Are we?
Science is defined as “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”1 But if by science one is talking about unobserved and non-repeatable assertions from extrapolated data based on secular humanistic presuppositions—that have biblical alternatives that explain the data—then we are anti-that when it demands to be the only acceptable explanation.
It has often fallen on deaf ears, but we’ve repeatedly explained the difference between historical and operational science. The sort of misguided science based on evolutionary ideas sadly isn’t limited to historical science, but we will start there.
Evolutionary geologists often assert that the Grand Canyon was formed by a slow, steady process of erosion by the Colorado River over millions of years. Bear in mind that this is neither observable nor repeatable. And further, many times this slow-and-gradual formation of the Grand Canyon is asserted as the only possibility. If you believe this, forget for a moment that this explanation exists. Entertain the notion that instead of a little water for a long time, it was created by a lot of water over a short time. That’s entirely possible if you’re honest with yourself.
Now, let’s look for evidence to confirm one or the other, since ultimately those are the only two possibilities (even a slow process allowing for an occasional catastrophic process has to allow for the catastrophe to accomplish a great portion—if not the majority—of the erosion). If it were a slow process, would there not be literally tons of debris from all that erosion at the foot of the cliffs and at the delta of the Colorado River? There’s not much there at all. In fact, there is much less debris in the Colorado River delta than the volume of debris eroded from the Grand Canyon.
Another example of evidence is for quick formation of the layers making up the plateau into which the canyon has been eroded. There is a lack of erosion at the boundaries between many of the layers. As Dr. Andrew Snelling, AiG’s research geologist, wrote,
The fossil-bearing portion of the geologic record consists of tens of thousands of feet of sedimentary layers, of which about 4,500 feet (1,372 m) are exposed in the walls of Grand Canyon. If this enormous thickness of sediments was deposited over 500 or more million years, as conventionally believed, then some boundaries between layers should show evidence of millions of years of slow erosion, when deposition was not occurring, just as erosion is occurring on some land surfaces today.
On the other hand, if this enormous thickness of sediments was all deposited in just over a year during the Genesis Flood, then the boundaries between the layers should show evidence of continuous rapid deposition, with only occasional rapid erosion or no erosion at all. And that’s exactly what we find, as illustrated by strata boundaries in the Grand Canyon.2
But more and more, evolutionary assumptions are involved even in observational science, often seemingly tacked on. It can make for some interesting research.
Answers in Genesis doesn’t say that all evolutionists do bad science; many times we often agree on the conclusions! We are often intrigued by the innovative methodology and data that evolutionists produce. After all, we should give credit where credit is due.
A recent example is discussed in the article “Rewinding Evolution from Bird Beak to Dinosaur Snout” by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell, demonstrating how the incorrect assumption of dino-bird evolution led to some interesting and well-done research that, to them, proved an evolutionary link between dinosaur snouts and bird beaks. Dr. Mitchell writes, “To achieve a targeted embryonic defect [stopping the development of a beak in a bird embryo] like this, even one that so loosely and imperfectly resembles the bone structure of another sort of animal, required an enormous amount of research and experimentation. Insertion of the correct inhibitors at the correct spot in the embryo at precisely the right time in its development to inhibit specific genetic expression and achieve the desired effect was not accomplished through random processes.” The study was very well thought out and well done, but they still missed the point, as Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson, AiG’s research biologist, pointed out:
[T]hey don’t realize how much their results underscore the biblical position that kinds don’t naturally transform into other kinds, and they fail to recognize how much the results also demonstrate that only a Super-Intelligence could have created the creatures in the first place.3
Honest evolutionists can’t really say that research is worthless just because it’s based on biblical presuppositions.
Conversely, honest evolutionists can’t really say that research is worthless just because it’s based on biblical presuppositions. (See, for example, “Can Bible-Based Predictions Lead to Scientific Discoveries?”) Nor can they say that creationists are ignorant of science, since many hold advanced degrees, some even from Ivy League schools4 and have published in notable journals.5 This website hosts a list of some of those who have indicated they believe in God’s Word “despite” their scientific training, instead seeing them as complementary mindsets, and some, such as Dr. Gary Parker, have even come to understand that there is a Creator through their in-depth study of the creation (Romans 1:20).
This is to be expected: AiG believes practically the same things about origins as many great scientists of the past like Gregor Mendel, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Michael Faraday, Robert Boyle, and even the founder of the scientific method, Francis Bacon!
One recent feedback exemplified the complaint against Answers in Genesis and gave the URL of our Statement of Faith in this email:
This statement precludes the possibility of scientific inquiry into issues of origins, and therefore is anti-science.
Many statements AIG makes regarding science are based on the notion that any inquiry can be dismissed for questioning the starting assumption. However, that precludes actual science, which begins with "what can be known, what can be discovered, what can be explained" - and proceeds through hypothesis, experiment, conclusion. Since no hypothesis about God or origins is allowed in the beginning, science is eliminated from even proposing hypotheses.
Say what you will about science, but science allows such questions, and therefore counters your starting point, which is anti-scientific.
This has nothing to do with so-called "historic" vs "observational" science. Science permits all questions, and allows any who can propose demonstrable answers to bring them forward. No scientific answer is final, because our understanding of our world is never final. It is always a work in progress, a Socratic dialogue that continues, ad infinitum.
To start with a conclusion is not science. It is not curious, it lacks imagination.
Often businesses have a “Mission Statement,” and most ministries also have a “Statement of Faith (SOF)” to guide the organization to not stray too far from their core focus. Much of it has to do with the behavior of the employees as representatives of the ministry and of Jesus Christ. That’s not what is in question here.
Since this submitter didn’t state the specifics of his objection to our Statement of Faith and mentioned that he arbitrarily had a problem with “many statements AIG makes regarding science,” it is difficult to answer his question only by looking at the SOF. But we’ll start there anyway. Rather than reprinting it all here, the reader may use the link above to see it in its entirety, but here is an excerpt of what is likely to raise the hackles of critics:
- Scripture teaches a recent origin for man and the whole creation, spanning approximately 4,000 years from creation to Christ.
- The days in Genesis do not correspond to geologic ages, but are six  consecutive twenty-four  hour days of creation.
- The Noachian Flood was a significant geological event and much (but not all) fossiliferous sediment originated at that time.
- The gap theory has no basis in Scripture.
- The view, commonly used to evade the implications or the authority of biblical teaching, that knowledge and/or truth may be divided into secular and religious, is rejected.
- By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.
So, we have a list of doctrinal points that are contrary to naturalist and Darwinian dogma (i.e., the religion of humanism), and a clear statement that we believe these things are foundational to understanding what we observe in nature and cannot be contradicted. But none of this indicates that we cannot do scientific inquiry and are anti-science. And we stand by this. As far as it being “unscientific,” I offer the following. Naturalists (who hold the humanistic belief that nature is all there is, hence denying that God exists) basically have an atheistic worldview and also have a “Statement of Belief” related to origins:
- The universe is 13.7 billion years old with primitive biological life on Earth evolving about 4 billion years ago, with man arriving only in the last few hundred-thousand years.
- The days in Genesis may correspond to geologic ages, but are not six  consecutive twenty-four  hour days of creation.
- The Noachian Flood was not a real event and much (but not all) fossiliferous sediment was laid down over long periods of time.
- The gap theory has no basis in science, though some find comfort in it.
- Knowledge and/or truth may be divided into secular and religious, where religious truth and knowledge is actually a fairy tale (outside of the various humanistic religions) and truth is to be enforced as relative.
- By definition, no apparent, perceived, or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts these naturalistic principles or includes any supernatural event. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence of events past is assessed (since it can’t be observed directly) by qualified scientists who do not possess all information but surely only seek to find the truth, unless that truth implies anything supernatural since that’s not science, even if it is true (as many of us believe, perhaps ironically).
Why is one better than another? Both are dogmatic and jealously guarded with deeply held beliefs and presuppositions. But one has a logical foundation for scientific inquiry and one does not. Let’s delve into this subject more deeply.
The Christian has a good reason for scientific inquiry into creation in all fields—even origins—since we, of all people, have experienced God’s love toward us and His working (often miraculously) in our lives, and therefore want to know more about Him and to glorify Him. The naturalist really has only the desire of knowledge (that Christians also have) to spur himself into study—and even that is optional! And one might ask why the obtaining of knowledge is all that important if we’re just puny accidents in a random part of a huge universe who exist for a nanosecond in the grand scheme of its history, coming from and returning to nothing more than stardust at best.
For believers, however, God embodies knowledge (1 Samuel 2:3) and wisdom (Daniel 2:20; cf. Psalm 136:5). Since He owns it, He can give us knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, sometimes even a special measure to enable us to do His will (Exodus 31:1–6; Deuteronomy 4:6; 2 Chronicles 1:10–12; Proverbs 2:6; James 1:5), and He can even choose not to give it (Job 39:17). As for our part, asking for, obeying, and reverencing God will help us attain wisdom (Psalm 111:10).
Scientific inquiry, therefore, is a natural God-guided inclination for the Christian, and we have never said that the study of origins is precluded, but rather that it is inherently colored with presuppositions. Even the most seasoned of atheists will often admit that there is the possibility that God exists—and that He designed life and upholds it. If that’s a possibility, then if it were a reality, any presuppositions that preclude it would be faulty as would many scientific assumptions coming out of that paradigm.
Naturalism removes God from the process whether one believes in Him or doesn’t.
Naturalism removes God from the process whether one believes in Him or doesn’t. A Christian is not so limited and allows the God of the Bible in the process; however, some believe the plain reading of Genesis, while others insert foreign ideas. These presuppositions have all of us reaching different conclusions about the past that none can use to fully persuade the other. A naturalist has no ultimate basis, though, to emphatically tell young-earth creationists that they’re wrong. So what makes one wrong and the other right? Only the Bible-believing Christian has an answer for that. God said so in His Word and He is the standard of right and wrong. God has never been and cannot be proven incorrect.6 There’s evidence to confirm Scripture as well.
Regarding a naturalistic point of view, we wouldn’t say, “any inquiry can be dismissed for questioning the starting assumption” since we have starting assumptions as well! In fact, that is the focus of the first exhibit in the Creation Museum.
The email also says, “Since no hypothesis about God or origins is allowed in the beginning, science is eliminated from even proposing hypotheses.” Who’s not allowing God-including hypotheses to be proposed? Certainly not us. Perhaps this feedback submitter should ask this very question to naturalists. It was, in fact, the submitter that stated that our starting point—without even specifying anything in particular—is anti-scientific. He also suggests, “Science permits all questions, and allows any who can propose demonstrable answers to bring them forward.” Why, then, is there censorship of ideas that don’t toe the line with an evolutionary paradigm?7 Consider for example even the few evolution-believing ornithologists who don’t hold to the mainstream dino-to-bird evolutionary story, like Alan Feduccia; they are shunned or labeled as malcontents. And furthermore, of course “science” does not permit all questions, especially if those questions ask if God was involved in any of the processes.
As far as allowing questions, any scientist can look at an animal and ask, “How, and why does that animal have that trait?” That question (along with any other about observations here in the present) is the same for both creation scientists and those that only allow for naturalism. A naturalist assumes that the trait came about through mindless, purposeless selection—i.e., didn’t exist at one point. A creationist looks at that same trait and thinks, “That’s a great example of adaptation and intelligent design.” Rarely does one “start with a conclusion,” but we all start with assumptions that affect that conclusion.
What if the evolutionist’s question was wrong because of his wrong assumption? Would that not be looking for something fruitlessly? I offer this example. The naturalist looks at the paucity of dinosaurs in what are considered tropical regions in Late Triassic layers and questions why dinosaurs wouldn’t want to go there at that time and place. A creation scientist instead asks what the layers show us about how these sedimentary rock layers and their contents were laid: a much more reasonable (despite the catastrophism of the Flood) explanation than their ironically catastrophic wildfire story. Perhaps if one were to suggest that God sent the wildfires, that explanation would be abandoned as well.
We’ve already talked about assumptions/presuppositions, and there’s a lot more on this website about that. University of California, Berkeley has this helpful statement for explaining expectations and hypotheses: "I expect to observe A because B." Once students have filled in this sentence you can explain that B is a hypothesis and A is the expectation generated by that hypothesis,” then, as the feedback submitter suggests “proceeds through hypothesis, experiment, conclusion.” The Christian has the presupposition that the God of the Bible is a God of Order (1 Corinthians 14:33), who has revealed to us certain truths about His creation in His Word and how He upholds it (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3). And we expect to observe order/universal laws in the Universe because His Word says He “appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25). From this we can run experiments and see that results are repeatable (an object always falls at the same rate of acceleration, assuming no interference/drag), and thus make conclusions (object 1 hits and will always hit the ground at the same time as object 2 when dropped from the same height at the same time), which can be repeated and observed over and over as proof, eventually leading to a scientific law. I give the burden of proof to the feedback submitter—or others—to demonstrate how a Bible-believing Christian has not been scientific in that simple exercise, despite their presuppositions and including God in the thought process. In a purely naturalistic worldview, why would this order and repeatability necessarily be the case?8
What if an evolutionist’s expectation was wrong? I offer this example: An assumption of the past about vestigial organs led to the expectation that there would be no ill effect from the removal of the pectoral fin on these salmon.
Thankfully, another scientist questioned the assumption of the vestigial, useless nature of the fin and observed the fish flinch when clipped, then asked the right questions and studied the innervation and swimming patterns, which led to the conclusion that these organs were not vestigial and should not be clipped since it impaired the fish. A creation scientist would never have assumed the pectoral fin was useless to begin with and hopefully suspected that clipping could be deleterious. If the practice of clipping was already in use, she could just as easily been the one to question the process upon observing the flinch.
What if the evolutionist’s conclusion was wrong because of his assumption or expectation? Inquiring minds apparently want to know how a T. rex walked. Nothing wrong with that, although its importance in light of other things we could be doing with scientific research I’ll leave the reader to ponder. But assuming birds evolved from dinosaurs led to a study where “properly weighted” tails were attached to the end of a chicken. The researchers had their “faith in evolution” strengthened by the outcome, saying, “With each waddle the experimental chickens offered clues to the form and function of theropods in dinosaur evolution,” despite the fact that not all naturalists agree that birds evolved from dinosaurs and literally flying in the face of inarguable differences in their anatomy (Bill Nye, for example, believes an impactor hit the Earth caused the dinosaurs to go extinct, and Dr. Alan Feduccia believed dinosaurs did not evolve into birds but something else was the ancestor of birds).
A creationist could ask if we could learn something about how a dinosaur walked by using an animal with similar anatomy and “adjusting” features (like adding weighted tails), but because of differing assumptions of a wise and orderly God rather than mindless, purposeless evolution, their methods and conclusions should be more reasonable. They would probably start with what we know about anatomy and possibly their gait from tail drags and foot placement/depth from the fossil record and compare this to what we know about the physics of the bony and muscular attachments, perhaps using animals of similar anatomical structure (not birds!) and size (if they exist) for clues. Is there anything fruitless/supernatural about the creation scientist’s method? But if inquiry is an end in itself, what is the rationale for that in an evolutionary paradigm since we’re just specks in the ocean of time and location.
The feedback submitter says, “This has nothing to do with so-called ‘historic’ vs. ‘observational’ science.” It’s not entirely clear what “This” refers to, but his and our points of contention do revolve around those classifications of science. Consider if the inquirer denies historical science; if so, then they deny that science is possible when looking at origins since the past cannot be repeated or observed!
If we do call historic study science, the only reason we can study it (do science on it) is observations and methods in the here and now. Fossil samples are collected today, taken to the lab today, and analyzed today in today’s environmental conditions using today’s methods on today’s equipment, perhaps with adjustments based on today’s assumptions about what the environmental conditions were at the time and location assumed of that specimen.
Then, today’s data is viewed in light of today’s assumptions. And that’s the best we can do, but to assume that today’s data and assumptions give us an accurate view of the past, especially when those assumptions are themselves more layered (and we would argue thus increasingly distorted) than the rocks and fossils being studied, is untenable.
The creation scientist assumes a different condition in the past—not arbitrarily, but with the basis and bounds of the eyewitness account of Scripture where applicable—attributing much of the fossil layers as evidence of a catastrophic Flood that has been promised to never occur again. So the best we can do is look at other large-scale Floods that occur today and compare. And there is a good fit!
And continued studies support it, though, as the feedback submitter rightly said (presumably in regards to studying the past with present methods as well as present phenomena), “No scientific answer is final, because our understanding of our world is never final. It is always a work in progress, a Socratic dialogue that continues, ad infinitum.” Perhaps ironically, there are spurts of non-uniformitarianism in evolutionary thought, such as an initial reducing atmosphere, meteorite bombardment, and punctuated equilibrium to varying degrees to adjust for descrepancies.
But it doesn’t stop there. If the data and situation don’t warrant an evolutionary explanation—or if it is even spurious—it’s still tacked on, perhaps unintentionally at times, to make evolution seem that much more entrenched to the unsuspecting public.9 Why the spin? Ultimately, it’s nothing more than the hopes of dismantling any opposition, as well as may other techniques to silence ideas and people that dissent.10
In conclusion, the feedback submitter says,
To start with a conclusion is not science. It is not curious, it lacks imagination.
I hope this exercise has demonstrated that we all start with presuppositions and expectations. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We’ve also demonstrated that creation scientists are curious, but just ask different questions, and can then do good science to advance or discredit their notions. As far as imagination is concerned, I think I will have to doff my hat to some evolutionary scientists who have donned masks while showing dead birds to crows, pinned a tail on a chicken, and painted a wry smile on an ape. Perhaps Dr. Kennedy, prominent anthropology professor at UCLA, said it best: “The problem with those who are unable to see evolution, I think, is they don’t have imaginations.” (Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/07/distrust-evolution-you-need-more-imagination/.)
Those who deny evolution are often painted with a broad brush implying we’re not normal people with educations, intelligence, or even social graces.11 It’s often easier to dismiss everything with the label creationist as trumped-up quackery than to examine what it really is, who we really are, or what we really say and believe. But we urge everyone to at least examine the claims of evolution and naturalism to see how they are intellectually unsatisfying12 as well as incompatible with what God says about our world. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.” And Romans 1:20 says,
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
We don’t have to look hard to see confirmation of our Creator God and what He said in His revealed Word. In ancient Athens, the Apostle Paul taught the people about the One they called “the Unknown God.” While He is unknown still to some today who have been misled by the stranglehold of naturalism, He has promised that if you seek Him, you will find Him:
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ (Acts 17:23–28)
Keep in mind that there is a neo-definition of science that is meant to be based on the religion of naturalism. Previous definitions of science were conducive to God even in the 1800s. See http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/science.
Their problem is that they changed the definition of science to be their religion. This is why you find the religion of naturalism (study of nature alone, leave God out) as one definition of science today. They bait-and-switch from the observable and repeatable to the religion of naturalism.