Originally posted in Rabyd Theologian 2.0 on January 19th, 2011
This one goes out to all the people who think evolution is a scientific fact. Here it comes: It is impossible to prove ANY theory of origin using the scientific method. It simply cannot be done because the scientific method is not designed to look at the past.
There are four basic stages to the scientific method:
1. Hypothesis: Thinking up a question
2. Experimentation: Testing the question with procedures
3. Observation and Data Collection: Getting a clear picture of the results or your experiment.
4. Conclusions: Coming up findings that in turn lead back to more hypothesis.
Now I am more of a philosopher and theologian but that also means I test ideas to see exactly what use they have. Philosophy has been coupled with many fields now to test the validity of ideas and that is what I am going to do.
Hypothesis: Philosophically there is no problem with asking questions: Where did the universe come from? How did man come to be? How old is the earth anyway? Nothing wrong here with any of these questions, the question is are they ultimately answerable using the scientific method.
Experimentation: This is where the real problem comes in for the scientific method – how do you conduct a present experiment or come up with one that will give data you can use to answer these questions? The fact remains, even if you do conduct an experiment, it is done on something in the present day with present assumptions. Examples:
The Big Bang theorist is left looking at stars and extrapolating backwards with the assumption that there has been no external factors that have changed the course of those stars in the eons of their existence, not to mention that the whole universe would have to be mapped out before you could get a real picture of what is going on even now. So far, we haven’t found an edge in any direction to the universe.
The anthropologist looks at old bones and put them together based on assumptions that were created by looking at present day skeletons of humans. How does one know that things decay or result in the same manner? In fact we know a lot of factors can change the decomposition and chemical structure of bones and flesh, but somehow when we look a back far into the past.
My favorite is the dating methods, all of which are based on theoretical half-life stuff, but no one will ever live long enough to verify the half-life of any atom. There is also the assumption of steady rate of decay of these atoms, which has not been proven and I am not sure it can. It is assumed that nothing acts as either a catalyst or inhibitor to this decay – we do not know this for sure.
Observation: This too is problematic – even if you get a decent experiment the results you get are in the present day not in the past. You are not observing the past but the present.
We also have to prove that the experimenters are not prejudiced in reading the results and to be blunt the moment you assume that your particular theory of the universe is true and look at your data through that lens, your results are compromised. Examples:
Anthropologists often speak of the need for ‘Imagination’ to interpret the results you are trying to find. Imagination? Really? Additionally, if modern-day coroners cannot fix a time of death to the exact second, why do we think fixing the date of some fossilized record would also not be prone to major variance especially the farther we go back in time
In the case of the Big Bang, there is simply no way to collect all the data that would be needed to draw a conclusion. We were not there and thus we are not able to observe what happened.
The real problem is that to know what actually happened we would have to have been there to see it and that is impossible. “How do you know. were you there?” is a valid rebuttal for anyone who proposes ANY origin theory. No matter what we do there is either simply no way to gather the data needed or there is simply the fact we have no hope of getting accurate data.
Conclusions: Well if the experiments are questionable and the data questionable, guess what happens to the conclusions? Questionable at best.
Now this does not stop everyone from trying, but the truth is any statement that says things for certain in the field of origins of both the universe and life should be met with a large amount of skepticism. In the end: “Evolution is a fact” or “God created the heavens and the earth” are both statements of faith.
The scientific method has its limits, it really cannot work on things that do not currently exist and the origin of the universe is in the past and no longer exists. We can hypothesize all we want but we cannot experiment or observe the origin of the universe and so we are left to theory and guesswork in our conclusions.
Ultimately, the scientific method is invaluable in current work on present day issues, but the more you go backward in time it fails to have any power to really help us. This is true regardless of origin theory: Big Bang, Creationism or Odin made the a earth out of a block of ice.
It is impossible to prove ANY theory of origin using the scientific method.