© 2017, Charles A. Clough
Thinking More Deeply About the Bible, Science, Reason, & Language
How Can Science Study History?
Beth Haven Church Creation Conference
Charles Clough Lesson 1
May 13, 2017
This is my first time here and it’s great. I’ve heard a lot about Beth Haven. I know some of your young people go to the camp that I am associated with and the good things happening in your group. Today we’re going to go through some of the issues related to creation and what I want to do is instead of dealing with a whole bunch of little pieces I want to concentrate on thinking through the method so that we all have the tools in thinking through these issues because the issues will change a little bit from year to year in the creation debate. But if you master the basic ways of thinking about it then you’re equipped to deal with the changing terrain.
Let’s look to the Lord and have a time when we can just look to Him in a word of prayer as we start. “Our Father we thank You that You are the Creator. You are also the Revealer and You have given us revelation down through the corridors of time and Your Holy Spirit has preserved that revelation in the collection of literature we call the Bible. We thank You for its internal consistency and we thank You for preserving the text against all the hostile principalities and powers that would do their best to eliminate this revelation from history and destroy the gospel. We thank You Father that You preserve the gospel and that each one of us can personally trust in Your Son as our Savior. We thank You today that You provide the indwelling Holy Spirit to everyone who has trusted in Jesus Christ and that You will help us think through these things for the controversies of our own time. We ask these things in Christ’s name, Amen.”
There’s a lot of sloganeering that goes on if you identify yourself as a Christian who believes in the Creation and you will hear controversy that you’re just “religious”, it’s “religion versus science”, or it’s “reason versus faith,” those sorts of things, and those are the issues that I think underlie the whole discussion.
If you’ll turn in your Bibles to Colossians 2, Paul wrote this epistle to address some pretty heavy issues that were encountered in that location. In Colossians 2 he deals with the larger view of the Lord Jesus Christ. Too often in society at large, we think of Jesus as just another religious leader, but we fail because of Christianity’s lack of influence progressively in our modern society that Jesus is God incarnate; He’s not just a religious leader.
In Colossians 2:3 Paul says in Him in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now if you look at Colossians 2:3 you’ll notice he’s not saying in whom are hid all the treasures of “religion and faith.” He’s not talking about in whom are hid all the treasures of religious wisdom and religious knowledge. There is no adjective there; there are two nouns, wisdom and knowledge, and he’s deliberately saying it’s all treasures.
So what this is saying is that when Jesus Christ walked the face of this earth in His humanity He was also deity. And when we think of Him we think of the fact that all truth comes from Him. Proverbs 1:7 says “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”, it doesn’t say the fear the Lord is the end of our process of reasoning.
So what we want to emphasize is that the topic for this particular hour is: can science study history? I want to deal with some of the underlying assumptions and axioms that have to be followed. One of the things we want to be very, very careful about in light of Colossians 2:3 is that the revelation that God has given us in history concerns all wisdom and all knowledge, not just a religious sub-compartment.
We have to be very careful of that because peer pressure, academic peer pressure, wants to keep the Bible off in a little ghetto where the Bible is fine for you “religious people” but after all we’re dealing with algebra, we’re dealing with science, we’re dealing with all these things and the Bible doesn’t deal with. Well yes, the Bible does deal with that, and so that’s what we want to work with right now.
On the handout I tried to put forward some of the key slides and one of the key slides is the limits of empirical knowledge. We’re gonna go through this again and again and again, but before we do that, I want to deal with the assumptions of the scientific method.
I went through four years of college and then an advanced degree in science and I can tell you that at no point in any course did any professor or any teacher stop the discussion for at least 30 to 45 minutes and tell me what the assumptions involved in science are. Why don’t we talk about that? Is there anyone here that can remember any time in your educational career of a discussion in class about the assumptions of the scientific method or did we just plow ahead talking about science but never once dealing with the assumptions of science? So I want to deal with at least three. There are many other assumptions but I want to deal with three of them.
One is inductive reasoning and by inductive reasoning we mean that if I study something Saturday then next week on Tuesday those truths still remain. In other words it is based on a uniformity of nature. There is a stability in nature and science has to presume that. We’re not going to go back and redo the experiments over and over every hundred years.
So the idea of inductive reasoning assumes uniformity of nature and everybody has to assume that. You can’t write an equation Saturday and expect to have the equation function on Tuesday if you don’t have uniformity of nature. That’s a universal assumption and believers and unbelievers have to assume that.
Secondly, there is deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning is the laws of logic. Those of you who have studied logic know that if P implies Q and P is true, then Q must be true, or if P implies Q and Q is false, then P must be false; that’s the basic function of deductive reasoning. Now the interesting thing about deductive reasoning is that it presumes there are immaterial truths. The laws of logic aren’t material, you don’t smell them, you don’t observe them, they are part and parcel of the way we think; they’re immaterial. Laws of logic exist immaterially.
For example, suppose we have an equation, 2+2=4, and imagine it’s on a blackboard and we erase the 2s, so all we have is just =4, the 2s disappear. Does that mean two-ness has disappeared? No, we still have 2; the idea of 2, the concept of 2 exists, so it’s an immaterial thing. So deductive reasoning assumes all kinds of things and we have to have the laws of logic or math doesn’t work.
Then the third assumption besides inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning, i.e., the uniformity of nature and the laws of logic, the third thing is that what goes on in my mind fits what’s out there in nature, and we were having a discussion with one of the gentleman earlier at breakfast and he was saying that when you take a big sample out there in the real world you get a distribution, like a normal bell-shaped distribution. The bell-shaped distribution is a mathematical creation yet why does that mathematical creation fit external reality in nature? So that’s the correspondence.
Let me show you some quotes from people who are very up in physics and math. They see this and they wonder about it. Here is Sir James Jeans (1877–1946), “Nature seems very conversant with the rules of pure mathematics. Nature and our minds work according to the same laws.” Now that’s a great observation. Here is Max Planck (1858–1947), “The laws of our thoughts coincide with the regularity of the flow of impressions which we receive from the external world.” These are the people who are seriously thinking about this and wondering about it; they don’t just take it for granted. They have to assume it but they’re wondering, why is it that immaterial ideas in our heads somehow correspond with the external reality?
Here’s Einstein (1879–1955), “The success of scientific procedure supposes in the objective world a high degree of order which we are in no way entitled to expect a priori. There lies the miracle. I think of the comprehensibility of the world as a miracle or an external mystery.”
Now notice internal to his statement … look at the middle part of the statement and what do you think the middle part of Einstein’s statement implies? It supposes, the procedure supposes in the objective world, a high degree of order. Now watch this clause that begins with “which”, “which we are in no way entitled to expect a priori”. Isn’t that a fascinating statement? Now Christians wouldn’t say that we are in no way entitled to expect. Of course we can expect. Why? Because our God is the Creator, but you see Einstein comes at it, and he doesn’t have the creation doctrine. And so to him it’s strange and that’s why he refers to it, “I think of the comprehensibility of the world as a miracle or an external mystery.”
Now you’re well taught here in the Scriptures, let’s just think, where would you go in the progress of revelation to find the first concrete picture of man able to understand and name nature? Where did God tell Adam to name? In Genesis 2, Adam was told we’re gonna bring a demonstration here from the biological realm and I want you to name it, and by naming it, it isn’t just tacking names onto things, naming in this sense means understanding the nature of these animal creations that I’m bringing by you.
So here Adam, the first person, with no professors to teach him, is able to observe nature and understand it. Why is that so? It is so because he was created to do it. God created man to be a namer as part of subduing nature. So for us, instead of Einstein here where he says that we are in no way entitled to expect the idea that our minds coincide, we say, of course we are because we were created to do that.
Before we get to the chart let me show you two more diagrams. Here is why we can name things. God creates man and nature in this triangle. I didn’t put that in the chart but the idea here is simple and then we’ll get back to the limitations. Here God is and He knows man comprehensively; God is omniscient, so He knows man. God also knows nature comprehensively. Why? It’s because He created man and nature.
So now we have a consistency established between man and nature. God knows nature, God knows man, because He created both of them. Now we, as creatures, we know partially as a creature, God, and we know partially, nature, as a creature, and therefore here arises the two axioms of the scientific method. One is consistency; man’s thoughts can be orderly because God’s plan is orderly; that’s the source of our order. Then we have correspondence; man’s ideas can correspond with factual reality outside his head because both are part of a unified creation; man and nature are part of God’s unified plan.
Let’s look at the chart from the handouts. This chart represents the limits of empirical knowledge and I want to go through some areas on this … it’s in black-and-white but here it’s in color and so I’m going to refer to the colors and you’ll probably have to take some notes on which part is what color.
First, let’s look at the x and y axes of this chart; on the horizontal we have the domain of nature. Notice it’s the idea of time and it’s the logarithm in the sense that as you go from left to right we’re looking at increasing units of time. So here in the first part you have the very quick things, things that are happening very fast; and then as you go along this line we’re looking at slower and slower things, i.e., more and more time units.
When we look vertically we’re looking at nature; we’re looking at space. Coming down here we’re looking at very small units of space and then as you go up the y-axis the units of space get bigger and bigger.
Now within that we can map the area of knowledge, and one of the areas of knowledge is the light blue area and this is the area that you and I personally experience in our lifetime. We can see that our eyes are only equipped to see things down to this area of smallness; for largeness we have the limitations here. For the very high-speed things we can see certain things fast and then the slow things because we can only live up to the length of our lifetime.
So the light blue area is an area where we have observations during our lifetime that we assume are correct; that our experience is reporting through our eyes, through our senses; our experience is giving us information. Now if we go to the dark blue area over here, this is longer units of time beyond the time we’re going to live. So in areas that happen before we were born and in areas where we now live and the future we can’t know except by history.
So let’s look right here in this blue area … that is history that we can’t personally experience but other people have experienced it. Thinking in terms of the Bible, this light blue area would be where Moses could say, “I spoke to God and He spoke to me on Mount Sinai with the burning bush and so forth,” that was within Moses’ lifetime.
But if you go to the dark blue area on we come to David, who lived after Moses. How did he understand how God appeared at the burning bush? He didn’t experience the burning bush, only Moses experienced that, so what did David have to rely upon for him to understand about the burning bush? He had to understand and rely upon Moses. Moses had to write history and David learned from history like you and I learned about Jesus from history, in the Gospels. So the dark blue area is where we depend on other human beings who have recorded their observations.
Now we look at the yellow area and this is where we expand our senses by instruments. So we can look further out into space and see bigger and bigger portions of the universe with telescopes; we can look at faster things; things that we can’t see with our eyes with ultra-speed photography. For a while my father worked with filming and projectors and he always humorously said that when we pay to go to a movie we’re paying to see an empty screen most of the time because the film is just shown periodically but our eyes don’t sense it and our brain doesn’t process it.
We think it’s a continuous light on the screen well it isn’t. In the old-fashioned movies it’s a dark screen most of the time but our eyes are fooled into that. So ultra-speed photography … at Aberdeen Proving Ground we film high-speed bullets and can see how they penetrate armor but we need an instrument to do that or we need or a microscope in order to see smaller and smaller things.
With our eyes alone we can’t do that but we can when they are helped by an instrument. But here’s the problems with an instrument … in order to rely upon an instrument you’re reading a sensation; you’re reading a signal from this instrumentation.
Let’s use a simple illustration: a mercury thermometer. Now we can’t use mercury anymore because of safety reasons, but let’s pretend we have the old-fashioned mercury thermometer. When you look at the thermometer you’re looking at mercury expanding or contracting in a tube, you’re not looking at temperature are you? You’re looking at mercury expanding or contracting. How you deduce that that has something to do with temperature? It’s a relationship between the signal your eyes are seeing, the mercury expanding or contracting, and an instrumentation theory that says that that is related to temperature.
So when you add an instrument to perception you have to have some sort of instrumentation theory that interprets that signal in terms of what it is you’re trying to measure.
I’ll give you a tragic example of this: years and years ago there was a famous crash of a DC8 approaching the Atlanta airport. The pilot was looking at radar of a storm; there was a squall line that had come to the west side of the airport in Atlanta. He was using 3-cm radar at the time and 3-cm radar is very, very sensitive to clouds and it is attenuated. The radar sends out a burst of energy and then listens to the response it gets and 3-cm radar was specifically constructed to look at clouds and small water droplets.
The pilot was on his final approach to Atlanta airport and he sees this massive squall line across his flight path but he sees what he thinks is a gap, where the signal from the squall line looks very weak as a black area there, and so he aims his aircraft through what he thinks is a weak area of the line. Tragically it wasn’t a weak area of the line, the precipitation was so vigorous it was attenuating the radar return signal and the plane went in, flamed out, pancaked, and killed everybody aboard.
Now there was a case where the radar was perfectly fine, it was getting a perfectly good signal, but the signal was being misinterpreted because the idea of seeing it attenuated, a no-echo return, must mean that there are no clouds there; there is a weakness. So that was a misinterpretation of a signal of the instrumentation.
This just goes to show you when you get into this yellow area you have to be a little more sophisticated because your senses are not directly seeing this, you are sensing a signal.
Now we come to the controversial area that we have to talk about today and that is the white area. Up here there are deductions, all this area is stuff that maybe one day we’ll know, but you’ll notice there’s a line here; there is a lack of symmetry in this chart, there is nothing over here. Now that has to be conjectured because what this is is the domain of time where no one has observed it, there is nobody out there that has ever observed it. So when we try to reconstruct what went on in, say, ancient history before man, it has to be conjectured because man, who was created to have dominion, has to rely upon senses and instruments. But we can’t predict the future and we don’t know what the past was because it was never observed.
This is just fun and we’ll go over this and over this, and I give you some Bible references on page 1 because that just shows you some of the fact that when you read your Bible, the Bible assumes this same idea of knowledge; that we’re communicating this; that God has communicated through history and that people have observed.
We didn’t observe Jesus. The reason you and I know about Jesus is because the authors of the Gospels observed Him and we trust their reports. Now people who have thought about this; here I’m going to show you some quotes because what we’re trying to deal with here is the word “science” and we’re dealing with the question what happens when science tries to deal with history that is unobserved? That’s the issue.
Here is a quote from Scientific American’s Ernst Mayr (1904–2005) and look what he says … he’s absolutely right and I use this quote because I don’t use a creationist, I use one of the evolutionist guys, “Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science.”
Now let’s think about nouns and adjectives; what does an adjective do for a noun? It modifies a noun. Now the noun here is “science;” the adjective in front of that noun is “historical,” and I’m going to use two adjectives over and over and over in the conference. One is “historical” the other one is “operational,” and here’s the difference: science that is operational means it can be checked by observations. Observation is out there, you can do an experiment, you can check things, you can measure things; that is objective operational science.
Historical science is different and we’ve got to be careful. Adjectives modify nouns and we have to be careful we don’t take the tremendous accomplishments and credibility of operational science and move it over without discernment to historical science. These two things do not operate in the same way.
This is a fundamental thing we have to understand; historical science is not the same as operational science, it uses different methodologies, and tragically in our education, if you and your children have gone through kindergarten to grade 12, that’s 13 years of your most formative life intellectually, and you’ve never had somebody distinguish the two adjectives, in your mind you’ll be confused. When you see the word “science” without the adjective you’d better question what kind of science are we talking about, historical science or operational science?
The credibility of operational science cannot be moved over to historical science unless we ask questions, and when we ask questions we find that there are two different ballgames here operating with two different sets of rules. (Mayr quote), “Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science. Laws and experiments are inappropriate.” Are laws and experiments appropriate for chemistry and physics? Yes, they are inappropriate for historical science.
Why are they inappropriate for historical science? It’s because you can’t go back and do it. Instead one constructs a historical narrative consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain. Today the word “narrative” is used in political discussions and so I create a narrative and interpret everything, well in one sense Mayr is right, historical science is largely talking about a story; it’s creating a story; a story line but that’s not what physics and chemistry do.
Let’s go one step further … here is population biologist Dr. (Paul) Ehrlich (1932– ), “Our theory of evolution has become one which cannot be refuted by any possible observation,” Look at that, this is him talking, this is not a creationist talking, it’s just that he’s had the intellectual integrity to distinguish historical science from operational science; “it cannot be refuted by any possible observation. Ideas wither without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems, have attained currency far beyond their validity. They have become part of the evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training.”
That’s the storyline; historical science deals with story lines, it’s not that it’s bad; we’re just saying to be humble and acknowledge the limitations of the method, that’s all we’re asking. We’re not trying to say don’t do it. Of course you want to do it, you want to understand these things, but we do it with integrity that’s all.
Let’s turn in our Bibles now to Job 38. Poor Job; Job was flat on his back health wise, economic wise, family, psychologically, and then God comes to him and gives him an exam. It doesn’t sound very compassionate for God to give Job a multi-question quiz and the way God starts out is not a very loving way to come to Job, and what does He say? In Job 38:1–7, follow the text here, “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Remember what we said about Colossians 2, where do we find knowledge? We find it in revelation.
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now your loins like a man; for I will demand of you, and you answer me.” You wonder why God starts with a question, but if you notice the conversations God had historically with people always started with an interrogative. What did He first say to Adam and Eve after they fell? Where are you? Why are you there?
One person, a student of the gospel, said that if you look at Jesus in the four Gospels you realize that His conversation included 200 questions. So the question is why does God start with an interrogative sentence? What does an interrogative sentence do to you mentally? It gets you thinking because you’re trying to respond. It’s sort of like tennis; the ball comes over the net and you have to respond to the ball coming in your part of the net.
An interrogative is a very valuable tool because it precipitates thinking instead of emoting, and Job is emoting but God wants him to think. Look at the first question in verse four, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Now think about what He says … where were you? How many eyewitnesses exist for the act of creation? One ... God. Now is there eyewitness evidence? Yes, God saw what He was doing and presumably the angels did, but man didn’t. That’s why God is saying to Job, come on, the origin, you don’t have any eyewitness evidence here, where were you, and he reminds you of this.
We won’t have to turn there in the interest of time, but 2 Peter 1:16 says, “We did not follow cunningly devised fables,” or in modern parlance Peter might say, “We did not follow cunningly devised narratives when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ but we were,” and look at the noun that Peter uses here, “we were eyewitnesses (emphasis added) of his majesty.” When did that happen? It happened on the Mount of Transfiguration when all of a sudden Jesus’ whole countenance becomes like sunlight; you couldn’t even look at Jesus’ face and Peter saw that. “I was an eyewitness of His majesty,” Peter says. So the emphasis is on eyewitness; you have to have observations.
Okay we’re going to go with one more chart … here’s the structure of thinking that goes on in our minds and I think this is a useful tool to understand conversation; the kind of conversations we’re having on politics, the conversations we’re having on the media, and so forth. If we look at the levels of discourse, there is a logical sequence from bottom to top, but the pressures of life go from top to bottom.
Let’s start with the top layer: social order; politics; everyday conversations; we all know that, that’s ordinary daily discourse. The problem we are having in our culture at large, not just with creation but with almost every issue going on in our society at large, from jobs to the economy to anything else, is the conversations, including the court systems, the conversations are being limited to this level.
But the problem is you can’t deal with the issues up here if you don’t go down one level and deal with what is right and what is wrong. People don’t want to deepen the conversation to that next level because once you start dealing with whether something is right or wrong that gets into the spiritual territory and we do not want to get into the spiritual territory for the same reason Adam and Eve fled from the presence of God when He walked in the garden. What did they do? They hid.
So there’s inherent in fallen creatures, because we’re all fallen creatures, we’re all sinners, there’s an inherent reluctance to carry conversations down into this ethical level because we somehow intuitively sense that we’re getting too close to God when we do that; and there’s a reluctance to do that. But if we’re going to witness for Jesus Christ we’re going to have to do that; we’re going to have to raise the question, is this right or is this wrong, and there has to be a standard there for something.
Then we come down to the next level: if it’s right or wrong and how do we know it’s right and wrong? Last night Dr. Cone went into epistemology, which is the study of truth. How do you discern truth? And that takes the conversation to a deeper level. Then finally, what is reality? That’s metaphysics. Who am I?
That’s the crisis in the campus today. Young people can’t find their identity. You can’t answer identity questions if you’re not willing to take the conversation and thinking down into these deeper levels and we don’t want to go there. Well, if you don’t go there you’re not going to get answers to the questions. The questions are not going to be answered unless we dare to take the conversation down into those levels. It’s amazing that we have college faculty members with PhDs that have been teaching in the classroom for decades and are still reluctant to go down into this area.
Why is there this reluctance? What does Ecclesiastes 3:11 say? I’ll just read these verses again in the interest of time but take note here, Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has put eternity into the hearts of men. In fact that’s on page 3 of the handout. God has put eternity into their hearts, except no one can find out the work that God does from the beginning to the end because it’s dependent on revelation. Everyone is God-conscious, even atheists are God-conscious. Why do you think they get so mad when God comes up in the conversation? If we were just believing in Santa Claus they’d laugh at us, but when you get into a serious thing and you talk about trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord, all of a sudden it’s like this and it’s a betrayal. The atheist does know very well that God exists and that’s what agitates him so much and we’ll see evidence of this later as we go on.
In Genesis 3:7–8, what happened when man sinned? Again thinking of Genesis 3:7–8, the eyes of both Adam and Eve were opened and they knew they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. Now, did their theology change?
Think about this, what were they doing when God entered the garden right after the fall, where were they? They were hiding. Now that’s interesting. God is omnipresent; tell me how do you hide from an omnipresent Being? You see, at creation they understood intuitively that God is omnipresent but yet within minutes of the fall their theology changed. Now that is a warning sign to all of us that when we tolerate our sin, that can alter our truth; that can alter our belief system, because the belief system has to be consistent with what we want to do.
Okay, that’s the sin nature side of things. Now I want to show you just a few more quotes and then we’ll have some time for Q&A, but what I’m aiming for, what I’m trying to say, is that when you get into scientific methods, whether it’s historical science or whether it’s operational science, you have to dig; the conversation has to go down into deeper levels, and we’re not used to doing this; it’s not done in the public classroom and so this is strange to most of us. Although if you are a Christian and you know the Lord personally and you have your quiet times in your devotionals, you have thought in these areas because that’s part of your spiritual growth.
I want to show you two slides; two quotes of reputable scientists, and how their language betrays them. Thomas Nagel (1937– ) is a philosopher who dealt with scientific issues and he wrote a book ironically entitled, The Last Word. Now anybody that claims to have the last word is essentially claiming omniscience. But look what he says; this is an honest confession; it’s an amazing statement, “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
Now that is a confession and that confession betrays the attitude of the heart and we have to understand that this is our fallen nature at work and we can’t just get nasty and say that the guy is just an evil man because if it wasn’t by the grace of God we’d be the same way. So we have to have enough grace to understand that this man is in trouble, but at least he has the integrity to tell us what is on his heart.
It’s like some of you saw that movie God’s Not Dead 1 and you remember the scene at the end when the college student has done all the arguing with his professor and he’s alone in the empty lecture hall and the professor has this angry look on his face and the student looks at him and he says, “Professor, why are you so angry at God?” After all the argumentation and all the sophisticated stories about the origin of the universe and so on, what does the professor say? He says, “I’m angry at God because my mother died of cancer and I prayed and You never answered my prayer.” Okay, now the cards come out on the table. It wasn’t an intellectual problem at root; it was a spiritual problem and we have to acknowledge that. This is a spiritual battle on these issues and we’re very naïve if we think this is just an intellectual game we’re playing here.
Here’s another quote … here’s a famous Harvard biologist and he was doing a review of one of Carl Sagan’s books in his career and here’s what he says, “It is not that the methods of science somehow compel us to accept the material explanation of the phenomenal world, but on the contrary, that we are forced by the a priori adherence to material causes that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive. Moreover, that materialism is absolute for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.”
Now is this affecting science? It sure is. Why is it affecting science? It’s affecting science because it’s a spiritual battle that’s going on and I want to point out that what we face here is: can science study history? The answer is, not without changing its methods. We always want to remember that when you go from operational science to historical science you are altering the methods.
Keep in mind the simple grammar rule that we all learned, or should have learned in grammar school, about sentence structure: adjectives modify nouns, and when it comes to the spiritual undercurrent that goes on, we face one of two views. What I’ve tried to diagram here is belief and unbelief. There are only two basic views of life: we’re either going to submit to the revelation of God, or we’re not going to submit to the revelation of God; this is a binary thing.
There are two traditions in the history of man: one is people who believe in revelation. It goes to ancient monotheism. It goes to ancient history after the Flood. It goes to ancient Israel; to the Bible; to fundamentalism; and I don’t have time to deal with American history from 1915 to 1930 because right there is the fundamentalist modernist debate. No history course covers it and yet it’s one of the most fundamental features of American history and explains what’s going on today.
The fundamentalist modernist controversy, what it was all about, happened between 1915 and 1930 in this country. What is the fundamental idea? It’s the Creator-creature distinction. That is fundamental to every other concept and idea. The Creator-creature distinction means that God is utterly different than man and man is different than nature. We have categories of kinds; everlasting distinctions. The bottom line is that we have a personal Sovereign in history that makes me and you ultimately responsible to Him … bottom line.
On the right side we have, “No, we’re not going to bow to our Creator,” and so we have another tradition in history operating. The ancient myths are all distortions of the truth; think of Pandora’s Box; the lady that lets evil loose; if that isn’t a mythological distortion of Eve I don’t know what is. You have Achilles’ heel in Greek mythology; what does God say that Satan is going to do? He’s going to get the heel. See these myths are all biblical distortions; they’re not whole cloth creations.
The Eastern religions; C.S. Lewis said the only two religions in the world are Christianity and Hinduism. This came across in Western philosophy and modern theology. The big idea is the “continuity of being”; there is no Creator-creature distinction; nature is all there is, and if that’s the case then nature, gods, and man are all part of a spectrum of being, and that means that you can have transmutation in evolution because there are no everlasting distinctions.
Paganism has always been that way; everything can morph into other things. Tiamat was a goddess but her body became the universe—the smearing of God and nature together. Finally the bottom line, you always want to look at the bottom line … what does this do for you? Impersonal fate and chance means that I and you are the ultimate victims; we’re all passive; we’re not eternally responsible. See this is why these views have a spiritual root to them and we want to understand that. Ultimately there are only two choices: we either follow the Creator-creature distinction, or we deny it.
I want to conclude by showing that we have “naturalism”, which is the buzzword for all this unbelief in the science area. Naturalism is a religion; this is not religion versus science. Naturalism is a religion and I give you two evidences: if you look at an unabridged dictionary where you have a comprehension of the meanings of nouns and words, you will see that in Merriam Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary point A and point B. Point A is a cause-principle or system of tenets held with ardor and devotion or a quality condition customary thing in applying zealous devotion.
Besides the dictionary we have the courts. In 1961, the Supreme Court in Torcaso vs. Watkins (367 U.S. 488) said that secular humanism is a nontheistic religion. In 2014, the U.S. District Court in American Humanist Association vs. U.S., concerning the First Amendment’s prohibition against establishing a state religion said, “Secular humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes.”
So the conclusion is that science is a deeply and profoundly religious thing, it is not religiously neutral; religion is at the root of it all. In fact, only the Bible gives us the roots and foundations for methodology. Okay, we have some time for Q&A.
Q: Would you comment on a remark that I read recently about origin science and operational science? This person defined origin science, or historical science, as more like crime scene investigation, would you comment on that please?
A: Yes, there’s a certain analogy with the study of origins and think about it: how many people here have been on a jury? Have you been on a case where you and the jury had to deal with a criminal act that was not witnessed and the prosecutor in that kind of a case has to bring evidence in, and it’s called forensic investigations, where there wasn’t a camera; there wasn’t a person there, but it was a forensic type thing and so he was able to do that. Now he had an easier job than we do here with origin science in that usually the prosecutor can bring in credibility records, and so forth and so on, into the court and to the jury so you on the jury can have some idea whether it’s a credible case against this person when nobody was there to witness it.
An interesting case in American law is that we’ve had hostility in practically every state in the union against capital punishment, largely because we have such a sloppy judicial system and we can’t execute the sentences correctly. We have these people on death row for 30 or 40 years at $50,000 a year taxpayer funded, because we never can get to the bottom line.
Go back to the source of Law, which by the way I’ve asked this in every congregation that I’ve spoken to in the last two years, this question: can any of you think of any time in your experience growing up in education, was there ever a teacher in class or out of class that ever mentioned the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai? That’s the whole basis of Western law, folks; the whole fundamental basis of our law code and we never discussed it once from kindergarten to 12th grade; a wonderful system of education. In that case what was the evidence that was necessary to convict a murderer? You had to have two of whom? You had to have two eyewitnesses. That was a very strong rule of evidence and that’s why actually probably capital punishment was not often used in the Old Testament because you couldn’t satisfy the rules of evidence. But that’s forensics and forensics does have an application here.