The Bible vs. Observational Science

The Bible vs. Observational Science March 6, 2014

A commenter suggested not long after the Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye debate that even Ken Ham’s attempt to retreat into so-called “observational science” does not do him any favors. The Bible’s statements are at odds not merely with reconstructed history of the unfolding of astronomical, geological, and biological processes, but with what we can observe. Even observational science is at odds with the existence of storehouses for the snow, and with the heart being the locus of human thought – things that ancient people took literally, but so-called literalists today insist are metaphors.

Of course, Ken Ham isn’t consistent when it comes to his statements about “observational” and “historical” science. And so not only is he wrong that he can salvage the literal factual truth of the Bible’s creation accounts this way.

He is also wrong in at least one of the two contradictory things he has to say about whether we can know about the past, and if so how.

While Ham continues to try to pretend that ancient knowledge of the natural world is better than modern science, and to fight battles against early pioneers of modern science, the state of our knowledge continues to evolve.

How many examples of discrepancies between the Bible, taken literally, and “observational science” can readers offer in the comments below?


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Craig Wright

    Jesus said he would go into the heart of the earth for three days and nights (Mt. 12: 40). Paul said that every knee under the earth would bow to the name of Jesus (Phil. 4: 10).

    • > Paul said

      The imposter?

      “Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Corypheus, and first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.” ~Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson’s Works, Vol. ii., p. 217)

      > every knee under the earth would bow

      Not mine. I’m not an “authoritarian submissive.” Jesus never wanted groveling sycophants anyway. Jesus was an egalitarian, opposite of a hierarch.

      • You are all brothers. ~Jesus
      • Call no man your patre/patron/pastor/boss on the Earth. ~Jesus
      • Rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. ~Jesus

      Liberté, égalité, fraternité, Monsieur.

  • TomS

    There are other reasons why science would be called “observational” other than it be about past times. There is science which is not “observational” because we can not reach to reach to it, such as what we can learn about what is in the center of the Earth (that the Earth is not hollow), even though “how do we know – we aren’t there”.

    • $41348855

      That’s a good example. We can use earthquakes to create a kind of ultrasound scan of the earth’s interior. So we are able to determine the structure of something that can never be directly observed. This clearly invalidates the distinction between observational and historical science. Observational science can be every bit as dependent on our interpretation of the evidence as historical science.

      • And another: no one has “observed” the core of the sun but is there any reasonable doubt that it is powered by fusion reactions caused by the great pressure and temperature there?

        And what about all the convictions of muderers that were not “observed” but were based on DNA, blood types and other circumstantial evidence? Is Ham agitating for the release of all the murderers who committed their crimes out of sight?

        • TomS

          Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in nearly 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.

          Innocence Project – Eyewitness Misidentification

        • $41348855

          I agree with you completely of course, but there is one group of people who have doubted that the sun is powered by fusion. You can guess who they are 🙂 There was a mystery because we weren’t detecting as many neutrinos as there should have been if the sun was generating energy through fusion. The creationists tried to exploit this. The mystery has now been solved and I think this argument has been put on their “not to use” list (they can contact me for a more complete list :-)).

          Instead of expressing their admiration for the scientists who are embarked on a noble enterprise, they try to exploit ignorance in a mean-spirited way.

          Great analogy with forensic investigation, by the way.

  • I know of the natural sciences. Anybody know of the supernatural sciences?

    Ken Ham is such a charlatan. But he’s a sharp charlatan, he’s trying to defend his supernatural dogmas about salvation that depend on a literal creation, and humanity descending from a literal breeding pair of Adam (and Eve.) Both sin and salvation depend on a literal Adam.

    “just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” ~Romans 5:19

    “as in [mythological/nuanced/metaphorical] Adam all die, so in [mythological/nuanced/metaphorical] Christ all will be made alive” ~1 Corinthians 15:22

    Luke’s Genealogy of Jesus Christ… “the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”

    Unless you’re cool with metaphorical/mythological interpretations of Adam and sin and salvation and Jesus, Ken’s onto something.

    • TomS

      It is Dispensationalism that makes people attach so much importance to the historic reality to a particular reading of these texts? If Noah’s Flood isn’t real, then the whole dispensational framework collapses?

      • Good observation. It is rather difficult to posit a real God making a “covenant” with mythological people.

  • arcseconds

    This distinction between ‘historical’ and ‘observational’ science is completely bogus. No-one has any use for this distinction except for creationists. Science can of course make no use of future data, and the only experimental data that you get ‘now’ is the experiment that’s right in front of you. So in a sense it’s all historical data, and virtually none of it have you experienced for yourself.

    (It’s also all thoroughly theory-mediated. Creationists seem to be working with a rather quaint notion of direct personal experience, which has never really been that plausible as a basis for science, but is much less so now than formerly)

    Anything you can say about science you can do with ‘current’ data, you can also say about science you can do about ‘historical’ data. You can even make predictions, as Nye pointed out.

    (we can fetishize predictions a bit much, they’re not the be-all and end-all of science, but it’s certainly a good sign if you’re able to make successful predictions on a better-than-chance basis)

    The CSI analogy is a great one, and more could be made of it.

    • TomS

      And what is said about distance in time can be said about distance in space. The only experimental data that you get “here” is the experiment that’s right experiment that’s right right in front of you. Just as there is no distinction for “historical”, so is no distinction for “far away” science.
      The “distinction” is really for science “that I don’t like”.