Scientific Theory; Made of Bricks, Not Sand

Opposition to the Theory of Evolution is often proclaimed with the infamous statement, ‘it’s just a theory’; in other words, a guess, a shot in the dark, an idea perhaps not accurate, and thus we can safely ignore it in our reality, especially when church leaders preach that the idea must be rejected.

There likely is no other pet peeve pun that gets the blood boiling for a scientist more than that phrase (well, except maybe for biologists…. “if we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys” – but that’s for another day).  Making the above claim is offensive on many levels, as it seriously misrepresents science and undermines decades of discovery.

Technically, a theory is defined simply as an explanation about a collection of facts.  To theorize is to build that explanation.  Theoretical science is the process by which we create explanations about the facts as established using our worldly senses; which start out weak and are then tested for validation.

As more facts are gathered during the testing phase (scientific method), theories are either replaced with a better explanation or the initial theory garners additional strength.  If supported, a theory will continue to be accepted as the working concept, with modifications as we learn.  At some point, when the facts supporting a theory become so numerous, essentially the theory itself can be considered a ‘fact’ for the purposes of further study.  That defines a scientific theory – basically, fact building.

Let’s visualize using the notion of a sand castle versus a brick building.  A structure as an early explanation on a set of facts, or an emerging theory, is made of sand.  It isn’t very stable yet with respect to our confidence level.  Likely, it has been built on a minimal amount of known scientifically collected facts and is also influenced by human bias known as intuition (perception of truth), which we seek to minimize with the tool of science.

(A side note – assertions from religious beliefs or spiritual texts are not valid facts in science because they cannot be scientifically tested).

Winds of challenge will strike that sand structure, as scientific research strives to disprove the concept.  The sand might erode and completely dissipate.  Essentially, if the theory is false, the castle will fall.  We then look to build another sand castle as an explanation.  If instead the theory is true, with each gust of research wind, falsehood is blown away, leaving in its place a brick as a researched fact supporting the structure.  Over time, the correct theory (truth) morphs from an unsteady sand castle into a brick structure with a high level of confidence that is unwavering.

Competing theories only stand as two untested sand castles.  We determine which castle (concept) will be supported as facts are uncovered, thus the correct idea (truth) dismantles the competing idea (superseded theory).  Once a theory becomes a brick building, however, it is impossible for competing ideas as sand to overwrite a concept already recognized as a scientific theory.  Fundamentally, superseded theories, created from intuition and beliefs and outdated information, are replaced with well-tested theory.

For example, a flat earth will never overwrite our understanding of a spherical earth.  Galileo scientifically tested geocentrism, the prevailing thought of the day due to religion (bias), replacing it with his theory of heliocentrism.  The same is to be said for evolution as the explanation from nature for origins (which, by the way, makes no claims about God’s involvement).  While scientific debate continues to correct the details within the theory, the basic evolutionary construct is soundly established as fact.  Thus, calling evolution ‘just a theory’ is inaccurate, deceptively so when the process of science is thoroughly understood, properly acknowledged, and respected.

Here is another example to illustrate the procedure.  Let’s reflect on the recent election, considering the two inauguration photos shown on social media side-by-side of President Obama’s (2009) and President Trump’s (2017) ceremonies, reportedly taken at about the same time relative to the festivities and clearly from the same exact position.  It is an indisputable fact, based on visual information, that the crowd was larger in 2009.  This says nothing as to why.  No further explanation is given.

From that one piece of data, we could theorize to explain a larger crowd for Obama; 1) either Obama has more public support, or 2) Trump has more supporters but they did not attend.  Two competing sand castles likely constructed based on the personal bias (Obama or Trump fan) of whomever is building the theory.  To remove personal perception and bias, we use science to test these two ideas to find which one is true.

Did more people view the event from home?  Did rain play a factor in keeping attendance low?  Was there a problem with the metro?  Were both events during the week, or one on a weekend or holiday?   Questions are thus asked to generate more facts so we can support one or the other theory.  The more questions answered, the more confident we become in the supported theory.

What is not appropriate is to overreach an explanation without correctly establishing the facts through questioning.  The pictures were clearly posted to make a political statement, i.e. Obama has more support than Trump.  Far more analysis would be needed to definitively state this to be true.   Making that claim without doing so is misleading.

Alternative ‘facts’ as skewed information, presented for a purpose other than a pursuit of truth (agenda driven – i.e. support religious beliefs), are also not valid.  For example, to refute the side-by-side comparison, another photo was released taken from behind President Trump but at an angle nearly horizontal to the crowd, not from above.  This made it difficult, with optical illusions, to determine visually exactly how far away the crowd spread from the podium.  Claiming this visual to be an equally reliable data point, or fact, compared to the aerial shot would be deceptive.

We also cannot falsely dispute the undeniable fact of a larger crowd, or even the subsequent facts uncovered during careful research.  Yet, that is a common practice with Creation Science, an effort by Christians to put forth an alternative theory to evolution; God created in six days.  A procedure as such is not science (i.e. no transitional forms, invalid dating methods, ‘same data, different conclusions’, etc.), but instead is an attempt to invalidate well established and truthful scientific information.

Science is strategically designed to reduce human bias and errors.  The process is self-correcting.  Knowledge builds on knowledge, thus falsehoods won’t last long as we build scientific theories with confidence. A rigorous peer review process among experts is used to minimize the likelihood of false ideas being advanced.  Science can be trusted to eventually root out and eliminated untruths, leaving truths for our reality.

As such, it is utterly disingenuous to label evolution as false.  This is a severe criticism of millions of scientists through the years who have contributed to the concept, dedicating their lives to a painstaking and very detailed process.  It also misrepresents the doctrine of science.  Scientists seek truth out of curiosity and do so not by guessing, but instead through significant effort and the use of science to correct man’s wrong perceptions (ie. flat earth, geocentrism, alchemy, transmutation, etc.) as we establish knowledge for humanity.

In the vernacular of the general public, theory has a connotation of being just a guess.  In science, however, theory can mean the idea has been thoroughly tested, in multiple disciplines, over much time, to the point that it has essentially reached truth, upon which other knowledge and theories can be built.  If the process results in a model that accurately predicts future discovery, this confirms the concept as an incontrovertible fact, as is the case with evolution.

Today, the Theory of Evolution is a cathedral constructed of very strong bricks.  It has been greatly challenge with the winds of research attempting to disprove it, for nearly two centuries and it remains standing.  No other explanation even comes close to explaining the complete collection of discovered facts from the multitude of disciplines that align with the idea.  With each decade as our understanding grows, the theory becomes better supported.  The structure will continue to change shape as we modify the theory to accommodate new information, but the basic concept is solid.  Purporting that evolution is made of sand or on shaky ground or ‘just a theory’ is simply not true.

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.”  (Proverbs 18:15)

What Science Is; What It Is Not

The least understood discipline in education is science.  Mechanics of reading are learned at a young age and practiced throughout a lifetime.   Everyone agrees that 2 + 2 = 4 regardless of who you are or your religious belief.  Science does not have this luxury.  Many do not perform science unless it becomes a field of study or career.  The process of doing so is commonly misunderstood.  Like mathematics, science has strict rules, and these rules are often not followed due to religious beliefs.

Religion can predispose students to challenge very basic, well-established, non-wavering science doctrines and conclusions.  Experts are no longer the authority, but instead peoples’ opinions, church leaders, and the internet loaded with very bad information.  Anyone with a video camera can disseminate their interpretation of science, even if completely wrong.  Celebrity status is commonly used, and been created, to expand the reach of false concepts.

No other discipline is under such scrutiny or fervent denial.  Just think of the havoc under a protest claiming 2 + 2 does not = 4 or that sentences must be read backwards.  Then, imagine that proclamation being made in the name of Jesus.  Essentially, that is what science, and Christianity, is challenged with today.  Religious ideas are being promoted under a banner of science, called Creation Science.  Yet, science, by virtue of its mechanics, must remain silent on issues of faith.

The attempt is to redefine science in a manner that benefits a religious agenda, rendering the tool useless.  Science ministries are, in fact, not scientific.  Their work is labelled as science, the language sounds ‘sciencey’, and some of the actors have Ph.D.s.  Consumers, however, are not well-versed in this discipline, so they fail to recognize the errors.  This movement is thus accepted as equally valid to that of mainstream science.

Misconceptions are solidified and promulgated with the belief that God sanctions this mission.  The faithful jump on the Creation Science ban wagon.  Pat answers are given that are presented as scientific when not so.  There is little desire or encouragement to dig deeper, to question either the science or theology.

This leads to seriously flawed science education and the dissemination of incorrect information.  Children brought up under a skewed science experience then become science educators themselves.  The lack of understanding spreads, as the religious feel emboldened to assert that the true experts, scientists, are wrong.  Even less religious educators shy away from teaching controversial topics.  The integrity of science education is faltering, as is illustrated by the low academic world rankings for the U.S. and the very strong anti-science sentiment that plagues our nation.

Creation Science is the antithesis of science.  It is the exact opposite of what defines science as science.  There is an illusion of science, such as mimicking the vocabulary but applying it incorrectly.  An appeal to authority is offered with degrees outside the topic area, or degrees earned with the intent to further the mission rather than for new discovery.

No scientific research is conducted.  Instead, the work of actual researchers is criticized or misquoted, using a marketing ploy of websites, articles, and books, effectively casting doubt on legitimate science.  Scientific debate in the public arena of popular opinion is not valid science.

The ideas put forth are not supported by the scientific process with rigorous peer review, yet supports a biblical view and thus is embraced.  Conclusions usually focus on a narrow concept; rejecting, distorting, and ignoring information that would clearly reveal reasoning to be in error or illogical.  One argument often will open holes in previous arguments.

The conclusions sound plausible, especially to a non-scientist who doesn’t have the knowledge base to critically assess.  This is intensified by a lack of humility when viewing one’s own ability to do so.  In other words, it is common for a layperson to truly believe they understand science and the concepts better than those who have spent decades as a science researcher.

Finally, and most telling, the mission statements of these science ministries explicitly state that no information counter to their view of Scripture will be considered.  That is not science!  It is religion.   Contrary to what is being taught, these two doctrines are not the same in objective or processes.  To garner support, these groups assert that their religion is scientific, and that mainstream science is a religion.  This misrepresents both institutions, science and Christianity.

If Creation Science methods were authentic, geocentrism would still be our understanding of the cosmos.  Planets circling the earth at the center of the universe was the prevailing concept due to the theology of its day.  Scientists, many of whom were Christian, used unbiased and systematic empirical exploration to correct this knowledge, just as is happening today with origins.  They did not cloud their exploration with their religion.

ALL information must be taken into account, and accurately done so without circular reasoning.  We cannot disregard inconvenient facts when conducting our science.  Creation Science routinely breaks this rule.

Essentially, leaders of this movement have changed the rules of the science game to accommodate their theology.  They then claim religious persecution when their work is not accepted by peers.  This has everything to do with their science philosophy and procedures, not their religion.  In fact, it is typically Christian scientists, because they care the most and recognize the damage to both doctrines, who are the vocal opponents of Creation Science.

For science to work, an idea must be falsifiable and produce predictable models.  Creation Science has yet to do so, even after decades of effort.  Science is only valid on questions rooted in the natural world.  Creation by a supernatural deity is not falsifiable.  God certainly is not testable or predictable.  While spiritual pursuits (religion) are blessedly valid, they are irrelevant in the science arena.  Thus, creation (supernatural) science (natural questions only) is a farce, and is misleading generations of faithful Christians.

Years of our churches demonizing legitimate science has paved the way for the popularity of these organizations.  Science is not at war with religion, as they would have us believe.  Many scientists are also Christian, who strive to accurately apply science in their laboratories while simultaneously holding their faith close to the heart.

It is not truthful to present Creation Science as a legitimate science endeavor.  It simply is not science.  I don’t question the sincerity of its proponents as honoring our Lord, as I believe motivations to be pure.  Yet they unknowingly, or with intent, undermine real science due to faithful dedication.  Many are a product of an institution willing to uphold biblical interpretations at the expense of true scientific discovery.   God always sanctions truth, not falsehoods, which does call into question the validity of Creation Science.

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”   (Psalm 25:5)