What looking at a recent post by Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, my attention was caught by this statement:
Observational evidence actually confirms God’s Word. Biblical creationists are making testable predictions about the history of humanity, and the data is confirming these predictions!
Ham inserts the term “observational evidence” with calculated intentionality. See, scientists already have a term like this: empirical evidence. Empirical evidence is information received through the senses, through observation and experimentation. Why doesn’t Ham use a term that already exists that means the same thing as the term he invented?Because he wants to erase the fact that all science is observational science, that’s why.
Ham argues that some science uses observation and experimentation (what he calls “experimental or observational science”) while other science (what he calls “origins or historical science”) does not. Throughout his publications, he insists that young earth creationists do real science, but even as he does so, he uses terms scientists simply don’t use. Ham uses the term “observational evidence” here because he wants to contrast what he argues is “real” science with what he claims is a separate, less reliably category of scientific research: “origins science” or “historical science.”
But this simply is not how anyone else categorizes the sciences.
The sciences are typically divided into the “formal sciences” (mathematics, logic), the “natural sciences” (physical and life sciences), the “social” sciences (the study of human behavior), and “applied sciences” (engineering, robotics). The natural sciences and social sciences are both considered “empirical sciences” because “any theories must be based on observable phenomena, reproducibility of results and peer review” or, as Wikipedia puts it, “knowledge must be based on observable phenomena and must be capable of being verified by other researchers working under the same conditions.” Contrary to Ham’s claims, all natural sciences are based on evidence and observation.
In his debate with Bill Nye, Ham said:
There is experimental or observational science, as we call it, that’s using the scientific method of observation, measurement, and experiment and testing.
Note that Ham is literally just describing the empirical sciences.
But then Ham added this:
This is simply not true. The study of “molecules-to-man evolution” is empirical science.
[W]hen we’re talking about origins, were talking about the past; we weren’t there; we can’t observe that, whether it’s molecules-to-man evolution or whether it’s the creation account. When you are talking about the past, we like to call it origins- or historical-science.
There is a long, long tradition of discussion within the scientific academy of what empirical science is and how it should be conducted. Ham coming along and inventing new words, ignoring all of the conversations that have already already been had and acting like existing terminology doesn’t already exist, is almost painful to watch. It’s what I would expect from a cocky college freshman who is pretty sure he already knows more than the professor, not someone running a major national organization. Ham wonders why he isn’t respected within the scientific community—this is why.
For example, in his debate with Bill Nye Ham said the following of “experimental or observational science”:
That’s what produces our technology: computers, spacecraft, jet planes, smoke detectors, etc. Looking at DNA, antibiotics, medicines and vaccines. You see, all scientists, whether evolutionists or creationists, actually have the same observational or experimental science.
You don’t have to know much about how scientific fields are categorized and how science works to know that this is absolute crock. Computers, spacecraft, jet planes, and smoke detectors are engineering, which is applied science. And vaccines and medicines actually rely quite a bit on evolution. The idea that these things should all be lumped together and called “observational or experimental science” in contrast with “historical or origins science” is balderdash.
One reason some people have raised concerns about our ability to create a vaccine for COVID-19 is the tendency coronaviruses have to mutate. In fact, it is because of mutations that scientists have been able to trace where the virus came from when it entered the U.S. Some strains entered from China, mostly on the West Coast; others entered from Europe, mostly in NYC, and spread from NYC to the rest of the country. The study of medicine and vaccines is not somehow separated from the study of molecules-to-man evolution—it is all empirical science.
The idea that you can separate the science of genes, mutation, and yes, virus evolution, into something completely different from, say, studying the changes in the human genome over time, is simply bizarre. It’s not just that Ken Ham isn’t a scientist. It’s that he doesn’t actually know how science works. He’d rather make up new words and play scientist than engage with existing literature and terminology. And then he gets upset when scientists don’t take him seriously.
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