Anti-creationists, such as atheists by definition, commonly object that creation is religion and evolution is science. To defend this claim they will cite a list of criteria that define a ‘good scientific theory’. A common criterion is that the bulk of modern day practising scientists must accept it as valid science. Another criterion defining science is the ability of a theory to make predictions that can be tested.
This is also and especially true of scientists. Besides, reconstructing the past is not repeatable operational science but more like forensic science—historical science. It is weak because we have no access to the past. Instead it is a history question to ask what happened in the past, when at best we only have circumstantial evidence.
In many cases, these so-called definitions of science are blatantly self-serving and contradictory. A number of evolutionary propagandists have claimed that creation is not scientific because it is supposedly untestable. But in the same paragraph they claim, ‘scientists have carefully examined the claims of creation science, and found that ideas such as the young Earth and global Flood are incompatible with the evidence.’ But obviously creation cannot have been examined (tested) and found to be false if it’s ‘untestable’!
The definition of ‘science’ has haunted philosophers of science in the 20th century. The approach of Bacon, who is considered the founder of the scientific method, was pretty straightforward: observation → induction → hypothesis → test hypothesis by experiment → proof/disproof → knowledge.
Of course this, and the whole approach to modern science, depends on two major assumptions: causality (the principle that all effects or events are caused by something preceding it that is sufficient to explain the effect or event. This is a basic principle of rationality) and induction (that conclusions drawn from limited observations are applicable to the universe at large).
The distinction between origins and operational science is that the latter deals with things that are repeatable and observable. If I tell you that water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, that can be tested as many times as you want. All of operational science is like this in principle, even if it gets a lot more complex than that.
Origins science takes what we can find out through operational science and tries to apply that to the past to explain what we see in the present. Criminal forensic science (unrealistically popularized by many TV series), tries to use the evidence to reconstruct a crime to figure out what happened, and who committed the crime. To a much larger degree, origins science tries to take what we know about biology, chemistry, and geology today, and extrapolate back to try to find out things about the earth’s past.
Origins science is trying to answer historical questions: how did we get here, what happened in the past to give us what we have today? The difference between evolutionary origins science and creationist origins science is that creationists realize the historical nature of the questions, and therefore turn to a historical text—i.e. Scripture—to inform them about what sort of big historical events may have caused what we see today. There is still debate among creationist scientists, but for us, the Bible gives us a historical ‘scaffold’ on which to hang our ideas
It would be common for evolutionists to say that this dependence on the Bible to give us our historical framework for doing operational science biases us in a way that’s unacceptable for true scientists. But the evolutionary scientists have their own ‘scaffolding’ on which they hang their ideas. For instance, there are many different ideas about the relationships between various groups of animals and how they are related to each other, but all of them assume millions of years of evolution.
Therefore, in other words, operational science is the stuff that requires lab coats and goggles; when you run an experiment and collect data. Origins science is when you try to apply those results to explain what happened in the past to explain what we see in the world today.
Unlike atheists, I recognize that a philosophy of life does not come from the data, but rather the philosophy is brought to the data and used in interpreting it.
The important question is not, ‘Is it science?’ One can just define ‘science’ to exclude everything that one doesn’t like, as many evolutionists do today. Today, science is equated with naturalism: only materialistic notions can be entertained, no matter what the evidence. Our individual worldviews bias our perceptions. So the fundamentally important question is, ‘which worldview (bias) is correct?’, because this will likely determine what conclusions are permitted to be drawn from the data. For example, if looking at the origin of life, a materialist will tend to do everything possible to avoid the conclusion that life must have been supernaturally created.
Michael Ruse, the Canadian philosopher of science also made the strong point that the issue is not whether evolution is science and creation is religion, because such a distinction is not really valid. The issue is one of ‘coherency of truth’. In other words, there is no logically valid way that the materialist can define evolution as ‘science’ and creation as ‘religion’, so that he/she can ignore the issue of creation.
We can make a valid distinction between different types of science: the distinction between origins science and operational science. Operational science involves discovering how things operate in today’s world—repeatable and observable phenomena in the present. This is the science of Newton, Einstein and Planck.
Origins science deals with the origin of things in the past—unique, unrepeatable, unobservable events. This is why it could also be called ‘historical science’. There is a fundamental difference between how the two work, even though both are called ‘science’, and operational science does have implications for origins (or historical) science. Operational science involves repeatable experimentation in the here and now. Origins science deals with how something came into existence in the past and so is not open to experimental verification / observation.
Both evolution and creation fall into the category of origins science. Both are driven by philosophical considerations. The same data (observations in the present) are available to everyone, but different interpretations (stories) are devised to explain what happened in the past.
It also suits materialists to shift the definition of evolution to suit the argument. Let’s be clear that we are discussing the ‘General Theory of Evolution’ (GTE), which was defined by the evolutionist Kerkut as ‘the theory that all the living forms in the world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic form (Kerkut, G. Implications of Evolution, Pergamon, Oxford, UK, p. 157, 1960). Many, perhaps inadvertently, perform this switching definitions trick in alluding to mutations in bacteria, changes in the beaks of finches, etc. as corroborating ‘evolution’. This has nothing to do with demonstrating the validity of the belief that hydrogen changed into humans over billions of years. The key difference is that the GTE requires not just change, but change that substantially increases the information content of the biosphere. Equivocation must be exposed for what it is. Once ‘bait-and-switch’ tactics by evolutionists are exposed, most of their ‘scientific’ case for the GTE collapses.
Does God recognize this distinction between operations and origins science? In one sense, all truth is God’s truth, so there’s no distinction at the level of correspondence with reality between historical truth and scientific truth. Nevertheless, even God recognizes the difference between natural regularity (which operations science investigates) and history (which origins science investigates).
Neither can we know God apart from historical revelation—His acts in history (including his authorship of the Bible) accurately reflect His eternal and unchangeable nature sufficiently for us to know Him. Moreover, God can’t judge us without appealing to history—all our relevant acts will be past events from the perspective of Judgment Day. But neither can we act as we do apart from God sustaining the universe in a way amenable to operations science investigation (e.g. Genesis 8:22, Colossians 1:17). Both science and history are investigations in time—they are temporal activities that operate with respect to this creation. God genuinely interacts with us, and grounds us, in time (both immediately in miracles and witness, and mediately in ordinary providence), though He in himself is not subject to time. Therefore, He comprehends and validates the conceptual distinction between history and science even if He is not definable by them in himself.