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Creation science: is it really a science?

Science, the scientific method, & pseudo-science

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What is science and the scientific method?

It is difficult to comprehend science without first understanding the scientific method. This is a technique that has proven of immense value in wresting knowledge about the laws of nature from nature itself. The method consists of many steps. One description of the scientific method involves five activities:

bulletObserving nature.
bulletCreating one or more hypotheses that might explain the observations.
bulletDesigning a test that will give predictable results if the hypothesis is true.
bulletConducting the test; check the results.
bulletIf the hypothesis fails, go back and try a new hypothesis. Otherwise, publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal as a theory.

Hopefully, other scientists will then conduct similar experiments and verify the theory. Over time, if the experiments can be reliably replicated, then the theory will become generally accepted. If the theory results in many other advances in scientific knowledge, its acceptance will be further facilitated.

Other features of science:

Two important principles affecting scientific work are:

bulletOnly natural forces are at work in the universe: Scientists believe that the best way to learn about the mysteries of the universe is to work with the assumption that the universe operates only through natural forces and processes. Then, they seek to find these forces and processes.

Scientists proceed on the assumption that miracles, which necessarily involve suspension of the laws of nature, do not happen. They perform experiments and collect observations as if there are no supernatural forces intruding into the world causing unpredictable results at random intervals. If they proceeded otherwise, then they couldn't draw reliable conclusions about the nature of the universe. They would be unable to develop theories or laws that would consistently predict how the universe works. Nature would simply be too unpredictable.

This assumption extends only to their scientific work. In their spiritual and religious life, an individual scientist may well believe in a deity or deities who created the universe out of nothing, and who regularly interfere with the laws of the universe and create a miracle. But in their professional life, they work as if nature is predictable.

Science is not Atheistic. Scientists are not necessarily Atheists, although many are. But the scientific method assumes either that:
 
bulletNo deity or deities exist, or
 
bulletThat a deity or deities may exist, but they do not suspend the laws of nature.
 
bulletFalsification of theories and laws: Implicit in the scientific method is the belief that nothing is absolutely proven for all time. Scientists hold that all truly scientific theories are capable of being falsified. That is, researchers must always be prepared for some future experiment or investigation that will prove that an existing theory is invalid.

Without falsification, the scientific method would not be a self-correcting process. With falsification, any errors are eventually detected and corrected.

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What is pseudo-science:

Pseudo-scientists generally start with a foundation that is based on a certain religious or philosophical point of view. From this, they derive their beliefs about the universe. They don't necessarily conduct experiments to verify their beliefs. Often, a system of belief becomes accepted because of the stature of the person who created it.

One excellent example is the geocentric (earth-centered) view of the solar system:

bulletAn ancient Greek scientist, Heraclides (387 to 312 BCE), developed the first geocentric model of the solar system. He believed that the earth was fixed. The sun, planets and moon rotated around the earth. The paths of the sun, planets and moon were perfect circles. They had to be circular for philosophical reasons: all things in the heavens were believed to be perfect, and the circle was regarded as the only perfect shape.
 
bullet

Still later, Ptolemy (c. 85 to 150 CE) combined centuries of astronomical data with the geocentric model and produced a modified solar system model. He taught that the heavenly bodies were attached to crystalline spheres. All of the spheres revolved around the earth. Presumably, the spheres had to exist to prevent the planets, sun and moon from falling to earth.
 

bullet

The Catholic Church integrated much of Greek philosophy into Catholic philosophy and science. James Schombert said: "Alexandria burns, Roman culture collapses, Dark Ages... but the Roman Catholic Church absorbs Aristotle's scientific methods and Ptolemy's model into its own doctrine." 1

The geocentric view of the universe ultimately collapsed under its own weight during the late Middle Ages:

bullet

Copernicus (1473 to 1543 CE), and Tycho Brahe (1546 to 1601 CE), contributed to an earlier heliocentric (sun centered) theory of the solar system. Their theories were based on accurate measurements of planetary motions.
 

bullet

Kepler (1571 to 1630 CE) finally developed the Laws of Planetary Motion. He found that:

bullet

The sun (not the earth) is at the center of the solar system.

bullet

The planets revolve around the sun.

bullet

The moon's and planets' orbits were elliptical, not circular.

bullet

The moon, alone, revolves around the earth.
 

bullet

Galileo (1564 to 1642 CE) confirmed the heliocentric theory. He built a telescope and detected spots on the sun, craters on the moon, the phases of Venus, and the moons of Jupiter. These were considered impossible phenomena in a geocentric solar system. For this, he got into major trouble with the Church and was threatened with torture unless he recanted his heretical views.

The pseudo-science that produced the geocentric solar system was accepted for almost two millennia, until the 16th century CE.  It turned out to be a scientific wild-goose-chase because the beliefs which gave rise to the geocentric theory were ultimately based on religious and philosophical beliefs instead of reality.

In ancient times, experimentation and measurements played a minor role. The geocentric theory was composed of little more than guesses piled upon upon earlier hunches, with a foundation of speculation...and they were wrong. Science was stalled for almost 2,000 years. An accurate model of the solar system only emerged when the original religious and philosophical assumptions were abandoned, and true scientists began recording and analyzing observations of the universe with no preconceived philosophical and religious beliefs.

Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. James Schombert, "Order and Science," University of Oregon, at: http://zebu.uoregon.edu/

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Copyright 2001 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-OCT-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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