Accepting Creation account without question.

For nearly 1,900 years, most of the Christian world accepted without question the creation account in the book of Genesis.  Then, in a few decades, Charles Darwin and his colleagues changed all that.  For many people today, evolution is the only valid account for the origin of all living things.  Why did Darwin’s theory have such an impact?  Has it made the Christian’s belief in a Master-Designer untenable due to some factors inadvertently overlooked?

The history of science shows that even very successful theories sometimes need improvement or replacement.  Therefore, it is appropriate to continue examining the foundations of evolution theory and to ask hard questions.  Are all parts of the evolutionary theory equally well supported?  Have we overlooked or underestimated some important evidence?  Do aspects of our logic need to be cleaned up?  Such probing benefits both science and religion if appropriately conducted.

Scientists, in the process of discovery, formulate hypotheses or theories, collect data, conduct experiments to test theories, and develop generalizations called scientific laws. This scientific search process has two primary parts: (1) the collection of data and (2) the interpretation of data.

Science is quite freewheeling, and different people approach data collection and interpretation in different ways. Working in labs and field-research sites, people learn to do science from experienced scientists.  After posing questions, we try to determine what kinds of data are needed to answer them. It is often necessary to break a question down into more specific questions.  The research is incomplete until we can make sense of the data through interpretation.

Interpretation involves examining relationships among pieces of data. In this case, the relationships need to be expressed in terms of what an object was like and how it was used.  Interpretation is not an objective process. We must use creativity and imagination, but we cannot let them run wild.  The possibility of objectivity is reduced by a couple of other factors  In science how we describe data and even what data we collect are usually influenced by our theories.

As often happens in science, another scientist may look at our interpretation of the data and decide that it was not done correctly, so he or she develops another hypothesis.  Our theories influence our interpretations of data, and wrong theories can slow down the scientific process. In that case, an improved understanding of nature may depend on new, creative interpretations of existing data or may await the discovery of additional data that clarifies our thinking.

A good scientific theory or hypothesis has several specific characteristics.

  1. A theory organizes and explains previously isolated facts.
  2. A good theory also suggests new experiments and stimulates scientific progress.
  3. It should be testable.
  4. In experimental science— such as chemistry, physics, or physiology— experiments done to test a theory or hypothesis should be repeatable.
  5. In experimental science— such as chemistry, physics, or physiology— experiments done to test a theory or hypothesis should be repeatable.

When a new field of inquiry is just beginning, there may be a lot of facts. But it is hard to see how they relate to each other and people may have different ideas on how to put them together. A successful theory makes sense of these previously unrelated facts.  Experiments are not selected randomly. They are generally chosen because some theory suggests they will yield new insights. Experiments are done to test a theory.  We should be able to think of data that may potentially falsify the theory. If it is not possible to do that, then the theory may not be very useful.

Science often goes beyond ideal, testable phenomena. Theories about the distant universe or about events in earth history may not be genuinely testable because we were not there and cannot get there, but they still may constitute legitimate science. Science is not always as objective and straightforward as we might wish.  An experiment should be defined in precise, quantitative terms so that somebody else in another lab can do the same experiment and get the same result.

We hope our theory is true, but how would we know? That is what we are seeking to discover with our experiments. We don’t know ahead of time whether a theory is true. We must wait for the results to come in, and often that can take a long time. A theory can be wrong and still lead to significant scientific advancement before we find out it is wrong.

How do we get the ideas that we formulate as hypotheses?  Previous experience or known theories are also important in suggesting ideas.    dream or just occurred to them. This seems very unpredictable. How can science function that way? It can because ideas can come from all kinds of places in all kinds of ways. Where an idea comes from cannot be defined in objective terms, so what does that do to science? The characteristics of a scientifically useful theory are helpful here. Can the theory be tested? That is the answer.  Could productive research ideas even come from the Bible?

Data almost never directly suggest the interpretation, and data do not guarantee that our interpretation of the data will be correct. The scientist must relate the data to theories and “known facts,” working creatively to interpret them.  Of course, some of the theories and “known facts”— and thus the interpretation— might be wrong. Scientific explanations develop through time as we interpret data, evaluate our conclusions, and learn from our mistakes.

 

Next:  Data does not always lead scientist to the TRUTH.

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