Seeking advice about a historically based nonprofit re science and faith: Geisler's enduring challenge to ECs

There is one thing Geisler apparently said that antievolutionists have latched onto, and it is consistently mentioned in the research I have done as a historian of the issue of science and faith.

It ties to the phrase “You were not there” that Ken Ham used in addressing Bill Nye at the debate at the Creation Museum.

Ham is stating that he believes there are two types of science–really one type and the other being pure speculation.

Origins science—the natural history of the world for which there were no human witnesses as to the beginnings so all of that is speculation and is not real science at all but human opinion shaped by worldview, which he sees as bifurcated into either theistic or naturalistic with no third option.

Observational science–repeatable lab science. For Ham and Geisler, this is true science.

Geisler’s idea has permeated both the creation science and ID movements.

I wonder how ECs respond to this challenge. How do you?

Also, I am thinking of considering starting an educational nonprofit that deals with proviving pastors and professors some historical context for the science and faith interaction.

Is there any such entity in America?


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Well, we humans are quite literally not at [or not directly observing] 99.999…% of all the stuff happening everywhere even now (even just limiting this to earth - not to mention anywhere else!). So saying that science only applies when we’re watching is like a child thinking that as long as his eyes are closed nothing exists or can see him. It’s the grown-up version of “object impermanence”. So to attempt to throw out the historical sciences in this way is really to throw out all science whole cloth (or nearly so - because apparently you would accept the little scattered bits you actually witnessed - but good luck finding patterns in that - because if something wasn’t witnessed constantly you would be forced to conclude it may have “ducked out” temporarily while you weren’t watching.) So it’s a rather silly attempt to try shield certain sciences from the fatal disrespect shown to other less favored sciences. But it fails, and that outlook ends up dumping virtually all of science despite protestations to the contrary.


Even though it was a while ago, I remember somewhat Bill Nye’s reply (during the debate) to Ham’s insistence on dividing science into “historical” and “observational” – it was something about how science involves the ability to make predictions. For some reason it reminds me of this version of a T-shirt I gave my husband a couple years ago:



Ham’s “were you there?” argument is just about the most easily deconstructed piffle that young-earthers have ever come up with. It is not just wrong, it is, in the words of Wolfgang Pauli, “not even wrong.”

You just have to look at this to see that it’s nonsense:


You don’t have to have “been there” to see that that fossil was once a fish. There’s little or no “interpretation” or “speculation” involved, and you don’t need any particular “worldview” either. Anyone who doesn’t see that that was once a fish quite frankly has rocks in their head.

From there you can make the point that not having been there may mean that we don’t know everything about the past, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t know anything about the past. You can also point out that having been there is not a prerequisite for repeatability. If different methods, whose underlying assumptions are different, give identical results within error bars, that is a very, very strong indication that those assumptions are reliable.

Of course, when you point out this fact, they generally just fall back to claiming that such cross-checks are themselves assumptions, and no matter how carefully you try pointing out to them that they aren’t, they just end up repeating the words “assumptions” or “interpretations” or “wereyouthere” over and over again as if they were some kind of magic shibboleth or other, peppered with blatant in-your-face quote mines from you that completely ignore the point that you’re trying to make. But that’s just being ridiculous and stubborn, and it convinces nobody. And for what it’s worth, it is intellectually dishonest.


Interesting that to the best of my knowledge, Geisler was not a YEC

I’ve heard the two types of science thing a lot. It’s a redefining of words. “We believe in science! We just define science as observational science. Old earth and evolution fall under pseudoscience.” That’s not how that works, and it’s really difficult to have a conversation with someone when they redefine commonly used words in the scientific community.

As shown in this

I have heard a variation of this, dividing science into “experimental”, where one does a controlled experiment to determine whether a hypothesis is supported or not, vs. “observational”, where one simply sees something and makes inferences. I believe the idea of historical would also include observational, in other words, seeing a fossil is both historical and observational, and no actual experiment was done.

Of course all of this is hogwash. The scientific method is sufficiently well worked out to allow for an equal standard of evidence for any of the above situations. Clearly observational or historical sciences (which include lots of geology, field biology, epidemiology, astronomy just to name a few) are as scientific and trustworthy as experimental science. There may be differences in protocols, or methods, but these have been tested and codified for several generations. My advice to those who say “were you there?” is to recommend a science education.

I like this part:

“Meanwhile, to make it a tacit test for orthodoxy will serve to undermine the faith of many who so closely tie it to orthodoxy that they will have to throw out the baby with the bathwater, should they ever become convinced the earth is Old. One should never tie his faith to how old the earth is.”

I’ve seen this so much, and it’s why I’m adamant that my kids not be taught that the Bible and evolution are mutually exclusive (I know Geisler is anti-evolution and is only talking about age of the earth here, but it applies to both of those topics). Accepting mainstream science doesn’t mean you need to throw out the Bible. You might have to look more carefully at what the Bible is trying to tell you, but you don’t have to throw it out.