Monthly Archives: December 2020

The Journey of a Skeptic, Step 7, Science Outside the Scientific Consensus:

Science outside the scientific consensus began to be seriously considered at least since the 1920’s.  In the early years of the creation discussion, the positions of the scientific consensus were considered ridged and immovable.  Very few were comfortable in disagreeing with the scientific consensus.  Today, qualified scientists have the courage and boldness to take positions outside the scientific consensus.  The scientific consensus has also shown an openness to change when new evidence is considered.

What is termed “science” has two divisions – Experimental Science and Forensic Science.   Experimental Science (also termed Operational Science) begins as a theory that may be confirmed by experiment.  The results of successful experiments are then applied to all areas of human life.  This application is sometimes termed applied science or engineering.  When people say that they “love science” they are usually speaking of the beneficial outworking of experimental science.

On the other hand, forensic science (also termed Historical Science) is the development of a theory based on observation.  However, no experiments can be devised that prove the theory.  The observations of forensic science can be used the extrapolate something small into something much larger – even all encompassing.  Anyone can observe erosion and sediment move down a river in times of high water – this is a uniform process.

Observations of a uniform process were extrapolated into the doctrine of uniformitarianism.  Darwin observed bird beaks and different beaks for different types of food.  He extrapolated his observations and concluded that all life originated from inorganic materials in a warm pond. The observation of “Red Shifts”, “red shifts” were extrapolated into the theory of the “Big Bang.” 

Much of the scientific consensus is based of forensic science. The problems with extrapolating observations are many.  One problem is that alternative solutions are overlooked.  In the case of geology, catastrophic geologic events were not considered until the 1920’s.  In the case of Darwinism, variation within a kind was not considered.  In the case of the “Big Bang”, problems in making it a workable model developed after the theory had been widely accepted.

Changes in the Scientific Consensus in the last 100 years

Around 1900, the scientific consensus would have consisted of uniformitarian geology, Darwinian Evolution, and a steady state universe.  As scientific exploration continued, new evidence was considered, and the earlier scientific consensus was modified.

  • Submarine landslides off Nova Scotia: In the 1920’s submarine landslides off the coast of Nova Scotia cut underwater telephone cables.
  • Channeled Scablands controversy begins: In the 1920’s geologist J. Harland Bretz postulated that the Channeled Scablands in eastern Washington state were caused by a catastrophic flood.  He was initially ridiculed by other geologists.  However, by the 1970’s the geologic community recognized that the Channeled Scabland were the result of a catastrophic flood.  This flood was caused by the failure of an ice dam that impounded glacial Lake Missoula.
  • Neo-Darwinism: Darwinism theorized that new species (and by implication the formation of new genetic information) came into existence by the “survival of the fittest.”  Neo-Darwinism theorized that new species came into existence through ‘beneficial mutations.”
  • The “Big Bang”: The theory of the “Big Bang” originated in the 1950s.  The theory was based on observed “red shifts” in light waves.  The “Big Bang” quickly replaced the steady state universe model.
  • Mt. St. Helens geology: The eruption of Mt. St. Helens provided a single volcanic eruption can produce multiple layers of different sized volcanic rock from a single volcanic cloud.  The eruption also showed how great canyons could be formed in very short time.
  • Intelligent Design: In the 1980’s scientists began to recognize the complexity of life.  This recognition led them to the conclusion that an intelligent designer was required.
  • Plate Tectonics and Catastrophic plate Tectonics: Plate tectonics began to replace isostasy as a mechanism for shaping the earth’s crust.
  • Challenges to the “Big Bang”:  After the “Big Bang” became part of the scientific consensus.  Scientists began having problems with it.  The theory left many unanswered questions.
  • Challenges to Neo-Darwinism: The discovery of DNA led to the conclusion that life is based on more than chemicals. 

By 2020 the positions of the scientific consensus had changed.  Uniformitarian geology has been revised to include a more significant catastrophic component.  Isostasy has been replaced by plate tectonics.  Darwinian evolution (natural selection) has been replaced by Neo-Darwinism – evolution by beneficial mutations.  The steady state model of replaced by the “Big Bang.”  Even as the new positions are being established, they are being challenged.  The one thing that has not changed is that secular science maintains a presupposition of naturalism.  

Could a Single Flood Event Be Accepted by the Scientific Consensus?

  The positions of the scientific consensus do change; however, the change process is slow.  Changes are based of new evidence, advances in related fields, qualified people being willing to take unpopular positions.  The case of the Channeled Scablands is an example.  The Flood is a much larger issue with much more at stake.        

Conclusions

After my studies I began to develop some conclusions about the operations of the scientific consensus:

  • Common grace is operational in all humankind.  Disagreement with the positions of the scientific consensus comes from all persons not just creationists. 
  • The positions of the scientific consensus change very slowly.
  • The positions of the scientific consensus are less dogmatic today than they were 100 years ago.

###