googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Maybe Ken Ham is wrong but Bill Nye is more wrong!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Maybe Ken Ham is wrong but Bill Nye is more wrong!

Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis, holds that there are two types of science: observational science and historical science. His point is simply that there are things we can observe in the here and now and there are some things that happened in the past that can't be observed. It's not a hard concept to grasp, really, although I wouldn't necessarily use the terms myself.

Ham made this point very clearly in his debate with Bill Nye. Nye, indeed, most critics of creationism, utterly reject the idea of any distinction between studying something in the present and studying something that happened in the past. During the debate, Nye said, “So here tonight we are going to have two stories, and we can compare Mr. Ham's story to the story from the outside, what I call mainstream science. The question here tonight is, does Ken Ham's creation model hold up? Is it viable? So let me ask you, what would you be doing if you weren't here tonight? You'd be home watching CSI TV show, CSI-Petersburg. I think that's coming. And on CSI, there is no distinction made between historical science and observational science. These are constructs unique to Mr. Ham. We don't normally have these anywhere in the world except here.”

Like I've already said, I wouldn't use the terms “historical science” and “observational science.” The simple fact of the matter is that all science is conducted in the present. Even in the case of forensic science (as in the CSI crime show), we still examine the evidence in the present. For example, if I have a suspected murder weapon, I can fire a bullet from the gun and compare it to a bullet found at a crime scene. If they are similar enough, I might conclude the suspect weapon is the same weapon used at the crime scene. So even though I'd be making a conclusion about a past event, it's based on science being done in the present. We can draw conclusions – even correct conclusions – about something that happened in the past but we can't observe the past. We only ever conduct science in the present. Get it?

Now, while I may disagree with Ham on his use of the terms “observational” and “historical” science, I disagree even more with critics like Nye who would have us believe we can observe the age of the earth in a similar way that we can observe the earth is round. In their haste to dispel any distinction between “observational” and “historical” science, folks like Nye intentionally blur the distinction between facts observed in the present and conclusions made about the past!

In an appearance on Larry King Now, Bill Nye made this following comment:

My concern has always been you can't use tax dollars intended for science education to teach something akin to the earth is 10,000 years old. To... 'cause that's just wrong. It's very much analogous to saying the earth is flat. I mean, you can show the earth is not flat; you can show the earth is not 10,000 years old.

Perhaps what Nye means to say is that he can show us things like the decay rate of radioisotopes and explain how scientists use this to estimate the age of the earth. But that's not what he is saying. What's he's saying is that he can show us the age of the earth just like he can show us its shape and I'm saying no he can't. We can observe the shape of the earth from space. We can watch it rotate in real time. We can sail, fly, and for the most part even drive around the entire earth and see it has no edges anywhere. We can observe many features about the earth but we cannot observe its age. No way. No how. “Age” is simply not a substance you can hold against a ruler, put under a microscope, or weigh on a scale.

In their rush to condemn any distinction between historical and observational science, evolutionists happily conflate observations we make in the present with conclusions we draw about the past. They should be embarrassed that they seem completely unable to grasp a point that should be painfully obvious. Of course, I don't care that evolutionists embarrass themselves. I do care that people like Nye, and groups like the National Center for Science Education, seem bent on teaching kids that we can observe molecules-to-man evolution or billions of years.

How can we trust people like Nye to educate our kids when they seem less interested in teaching them to think critically and more interested in indoctrinating them into evolution? Does Bill Nye understand the difference between making observations and drawing conclusions? If he doesn't, then he's not the scientist people think he is. If he does, then he's just a liar. Either way, I don't want his influence in schools.  


Steven J. said...

The Earth was shown to be a sphere no later than the fourth century BC, in a culture that rarely sailed more than a few miles out of sight of land and lacked aircraft, to say nothing of spacecraft. We knew that the Earth was a sphere long before we could travel or communicate fast enough to worry about different time zones or observe the Earth's rotation. Up until, at most, a century ago, our "observation" that the Earth was a globe was as indirect as our observation of evolution. Should students in Grover Cleveland's day have been taught that the spherical Earth was "just a theory" and presented with "both sides" of the flat Earth debate?

All science is done in the present, yes, but the present is fairly spread out: a research project finished today might fill in the gaps of one done decades ago, and depend heavily on findings from a century back. Equally to the point, the project was carried out on the assumption that its findings apply, not merely to the time and place it was done, but to a larger world indefinitely into the past and the future. A test of the tensile strength of a steel alloy today is assumed to apply to a suspension bridge that may not be started for a decade. Science is done in the present, but we assume -- if we do not assume this, we have no reason to do science at all -- that it applies to the future and past.

Evolutionists do, of course, if you pay attention, note the distinction between observations and what can be inferred from them. Is this dinosaur foot print from a theropod or an ornithopod? Was it following this other dinosaur, or just heading in the same general direction at a different time? The same problem, of course, attends forensic investigators reconstructing past events much closer in time. Does this burn pattern that looks as though an accelerant was used occur only in the presence of accelerants? Does this DNA match between descendants of Eston Heming and modern male-line relatives of Thomas Jefferson prove that Jefferson was the father of Sally Heming's children, or could it have been one of his nephews? But given the immense abundance and variety of evidence for common descent with modification, you're basically arguing that it is reasonable to interpret evidence on the assumption that it means nothing -- that, basically, God did myriad miracles not mentioned in Genesis to hide the evidence of the miracles that are mentioned there.

It would be a trivial matter for an omnipotent God to arrange for radiometric and other dating methods to show that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. Instead, multiple independent lines of evidence show that it is billions of years old. Unless you are prepared to abandon the notion that nature itself is a revelation from God -- that, in effect, the Biblical God is a trickster deity like Loki -- the very existence of radiometric dates showing that some rocks are millions of centuries old refutes young-earth creationism. Note that it does this even if the dates are really unreliable -- because young-earth creationism implies that they shouldn't be. God is supposed to be honest, not weaving lies and setting traps all through the fabric of creation.

The distinction between "observational" and "operational" science (or whatever you wish to call these categories) is erected purely as a desperate last-ditch attempt to preserve a particular reading of Genesis (it is not the only one; as far back as Augustine, there were suggestions that the days of creation were not chronological, and/or were not literal 24-hour days) from falsification. It is not an alternate explanation of the data; it is an effort to explain away the data. And Ken Ham was far more wrong than Bill Nye.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

I'll have to disagree with you and say, no; evolutionists in general – and Nye in particular – are not careful to note the distinction between things we can observe in the present and conclusions we must draw about past events. I gave 3 quotes in my post to support my argument. Nye said that if parents deny evolution, they deny everything we can OBSERVE in the universe. He said believing in a 10,000 year old earth is akin to believing in a flat earth; he can SHOW the earth is not flat and he can SHOW the earth is not 10,000 years old. And, during the debate, he was most succinct when he said that Ham's claim about making observations in the present (which he called “observational science”) and drawing conclusions about past events (which Ham called “historical science”) are constructs that do not exist in mainstream science.

And I do find it irksome that, while you say evolutionists “note the distinction” between observations and conclusions, you do your own part to blur that distinction by beginning your comments with the point that the shape of the earth was determined largely by indirect evidence and conclusions. Why bring that up unless you intentionally want to suggest that the same type of evidence that shows us the earth is round also shows us the earth is old?

Please stop pussy-footing around and say it: the age of the earth cannot ever be observed in the same sense we can observe the shape of the earth! Right?! Why won't Nye, or any mainstream evolution apologist, say that? They know that such an admission would weaken their position – that's why they won't say it. Instead, they conflate, equivocate, and obfuscate.

Ham was very clear about the distinction between observing something in the present and concluding things about the past. It's a valid point even if I don't agree with his terminology. You seem to see the distinction yourself even though you won't say it outright. Nye, on the other hand, went to great lengths to deny it. I suspect he's bright enough to see the distinction so to refuse to acknowledge it makes Nye a liar!