One of the things that Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum, often points out is the different starting points used by creationists vs. evolutionists when studying “observational science.” Of course, the most obvious first question is, “”What the heck does that mean!?”
Lucky you. An attempt to explain this idea is precisely the purpose of this post and hopefully will successfully make this less of a confusing mystery. Not being Ken Ham, myself, what I will be explaining is basically how I understand this concept. Therefore, Ken, if you happen to read this, please feel free to leave a comment and correct any false assumptions or misleading information herein.
As I understand it, the idea of “observational science” differs from other forms of science in that it cannot really be tested or experimented upon in the traditional sense. When we use observational science, we essentially are looking at something that “is” and trying to figure out how it got to be that way. Certainly, other areas of science that can be tested and experimented on lend us a good deal of the information we would need in order to help determine how a given thing got to be where/what it is. So, please don’t start putting comments claiming that I’m trying to say that traditional or experimental scientific methods are useless here.
To keep things simple, I’ll use the example that Ken himself uses…the Grand Canyon. If two geologists are standing side-by-side at the edge of the canyon, one can look at what he sees and conclude that a little bit of water over a long period of time created this breathtaking scenery. The other geologist can look at the same canyon and conclude that a lot of water over a relatively short period of time created this breathtaking scenery.
We typically use this observation science to figure these things out for one simple reason…we weren’t there! If we had been there, we wouldn’t have to try to come to a conclusion based on how things ended up. We’d just know what happened because we saw it. In the case of a good deal of geology, archaeology, paleontology and other “ologies” that study things from the distant past, we didn’t have the benefit of being there to see what actually happened. So, we have to hypothesize and then, based on things we can test in order to determine how things like…the laws of physics…work, we can determine if our hypothesis is more or less probable.
The hard part is, we rarely can prove our theories beyond all doubt. This is where the problems arise. Because, once again, we can look at something and base our conclusions on how it came to be on the idea that “In the beginning, God…” While others may start at a completely different starting point.
If you don’t want to go along with Genesis 1:1 as a starting point, you have to start asking other questions such as, “If there was no God to do this, how would it have come about?” That’s where you start to get into the idea that evolution must have taken place over billions of years in order to bring about this result. And even then, there are still many questions left unanswered.
If you start with Genesis 1:1, we know how it came about and don’t need to continually posit more and more billions of years to account for things, as the evolutionists do. After all, it seems as though just about every time we find something that turns out to be more complex than we originally realized, evolutionists start adding billions of years to their specuation of how old the earth really is. Creationists don’t seem to have this issue. Mainly because we don’t need billions more years for a combination of matter, motion, time and chance to result in varying levels of complexity if we understand that they were just designed that way rather than have to evolve into being that way.
Either side is difficult to prove, but the main purpose of this post is to help clarify this idea of observational science which then, hopefully, will help give an understanding to both sides of these types of debates as to why the other side just can’t seem to see things that seem perfectly obvious from our own perspectives. We each think that the others must be dim-witted or just flat out blind to not get it!
How can you apply this? Well, the next time you’re in a converstaion with someone on the other side, realize that you’re both starting with different starting points…one person with evolution, the other with Genesis 1:1. Until you can get to the point of starting at the same place, you can’t come to the same conclusions about these types of things.
If you’re confused about this, compare Acts 2 with Acts 11. One is Peter’s teaching at Pentecost and the other is Paul’s visit to the Areopogus. With Peter, he was talking to people coming from the same starting point…Jews who believed that “In the beginning, God…” Paul’s audience was not coming from the same place. So he had to go back to who God is and how everything came about and start there.
You’ll notice that Peter won over a much larger percentage to Christ than Paul in these two scenarios. But much of Peter’s “success” was due to the fact that his audience already largely believed in the same God. Paul’s audience was not coming from that same spot. They believed in divine beings, but not the One True God. While living amongst them, Paul learned of an “unknown god” to whom they had erected an altar in thanksgiving for delivering them from a terrible plague and Paul shared the Lord with them and identified Him as this “unknown god.”
Because they came from a position of thinking of the “gods” as being rather anthropomorphic, even to the extent that they were actually created beings, they were mostly unable to grasp what Paul was teaching because they simply could not alter their existing presuppositions. Those few who could ended up accepting Christ and it was with those people that Paul started churches in that region.
All this is basically little more than a very long-winded way of saying, before we can come to an agreement on anything, we’ve got to get on the same page. I suppose I could have just written that right up front and this whole post would have been one sentence.
Apart from that, hopefully, this has been helpful.
Grace, love and peace.