Two Kinds of Science?

Also available in Español

We could simply tell you there are two main types of scientific research—operational and historical—but we’d rather show you. And to do that, we want you to take part in a short experiment. (Don’t worry. You won’t even have to move from your seat.)

Imagine that a friend points to a building and asks you to tell them about it. Being the inquisitive individual that you are, you immediately set out to describe the building in as much detail as you can.

The first part of your investigation is pretty straightfoward. You climb to the top and drop down your measuring tape to find that the building is exactly 1,453 feet and 8 9/16 inches from the ground to the tip of the broadcast tower—that includes over 100 floors and an observatory. You put the building on your scales and find it to be 365,000 tons.

“That’s great,” says your friend. “But when was it built?”

Measurements alone can’t tell you that part. You could make an educated guess, of course, but there’s really no need. After all, you have an eyewitness account.

After a quick Internet search, you hand your friend the complete history of this amazing historical monument—otherwise known as the Empire State Building in New York City.

Two Kinds of Science

While our experiment above was fictional, the two methods used for uncovering data aren’t. Some bits of information can be gleaned simply by examining things with your senses—such as the height and weight. Other people can then check your results by making measurements of their own. We often call this operational science (also called observational science—for obvious reasons).

What exactly is science? This engaging and short video from the supersonic Check This Out! collection will get you up to speed. Share everywhere.

But some research requires either making educated assumptions about the past by examining evidence in the present (historical or “origins” science)—or finding a primary source of information. While our assumptions could be accurate, it’s always better to start with an eyewitness account. Otherwise, our assumptions could lead us in the wrong direction.

For example, some geologists take present-day rates of radiometric decay and rock formation and imagine that the rates have always been the same. That’s why they think the earth is so old (it’s not). But we can’t zip back in time to test this for accuracy.

What we can do, however, is check our historical research against a trustworthy eyewitness account. But what about for the history of the earth? Does something like that exist? You bet—and this amazing compendium of history isn’t hard to find. Just pull out your trusty Bible.

A Trustworthy Source

The Bible often gets attacked as being antiquated and anti-science. But that’s not the case. In fact, using the Bible as a framework allows us to understand why science is even possible and to make sense of the past from a solid foundation.

Starting from the Bible, given to us by the Creator of all things, we know when we’re on the right track (Hebrews 4:13; Colossians 2:2–3).


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