Re: Testing in historical science
Moorad Alexanian (alexanian@UNCWIL.EDU)
Fri, 14 Nov 1997 15:15:01 -0500 (EST)
At 09:32 PM 11/12/97 -0600, Keith B Miller wrote:
>There have been several recent posts that directly or indirectly argue that
>the historical sciences (called "origin science" by some) deal with
>questions that are beyond test or verification. By contrast, theories in
>the "hard" sciences (eg. physics) are assumed to be subject to experimental
>test and are in a different (more sure) category of scientific study. This
>dichotomy is a false one, as George Murphy has already indicated. Below is
>the abstract of an ASA presentation of mine from two years ago that
>addresses this issue.
>Frequent claims appear in the Christian science/faith literature that the
>historical sciences are fundamentally different than the "hard" sciences,
>and that their scientific conclusions are less rigorous and less testable.
>Scientific claims about Earth and biological history are then dismissed as
>untestable speculation. This represents a serious misunderstanding of both
>the nature of experiment and theory testing, and the character of
>Experiments may be constructed to test predictions of proposed models or
>theories, or to gather information on a system that is not well understood.
>In sciences such as chemistry or physics the events or processes being
>studied are rarely directly observable. The investigator examines selected
>records of experimental events to infer unobservable processes. In the
>geological sciences, the records of past events are also examined to infer
>causal processes. But in this case the preserved record is controlled not
>by the investigator but by nature. And rather than repeating an
>experiment, the geologist can return to the same record and look at it in
>new ways - utilizing new technologies or simply focussing on previously
>ignored or unrecognized aspects of the record. Historical sciences are
>also just as predictive as the "hard" sciences. Each new observation is a
>test of the predictions of existing models and theories.
>All theories are accepted based on their predictive and explanatory power.
>The validation of a scientific theory is not like a legal proof in which
>truth must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. No scientific theory
>will be without unresolved problems, inconsistent evidence, or unexplained
>phenomena. Both the "hard" and historical sciences are on equal ground
>here. Science pursues truth, but never claims to have it fully within its
The purpose of experiments in physics is to prove false the theories we hold
dear. Therefore, theories in physics can be falsified. I ask you, can you
ever find any data which would falsify evolutionary theory? When I look at
myself in the mirror I am inferring something which is based on past events,
the reflection of light from the mirror. Therefore, everything we deal with
is indeed inferred. But that is the nature of knowing for humans. Historical
sciences do make predictions owing to their purely deductive nature.
However, I can assure you that whatever data is discovered, the
evolutionists will find good verbal reasons why that new finding is
consistent with their "theories." You may say that the same if true in
physics, say with quantum mechanics, where we are not ready to discard the
theory at the sight of the first discrepancy between experiment and theory.
However, theories in physics make specific predictions. I ask you, does an
evolutionist have a theory which predicts why I have two eyes? Or else, how
many millions years will it take for us car drivers to develop an eye behind
our heads to make backing a car easier?