Young earth creationists frequently speak of two kinds of science which they refer to as “origins” and “operational” science. These terms are possibly akin to what scientists may call “historical” and “experimental” science. What is this “origins” science and how does origins science play a role in the discussion of the Age of the Earth?
A few days ago I posted some thoughts on a Young Earth Creationst’ Approach to Scientific Apologetics. This grew from a response to several days of listening to representatives from Answers in Genesis lecture for a course entitled “Scientific Apologetics: The Age of the Earth” taught at Veritas Theological Seminary in Santa Ana California. In my follow-up lectures I had planned to address some of the issues I raised in my written response. However, more specifically I had planned to take up the question of what “origins” science is and explore how YECs use it to cast doubt on the conclusions of what is better known as the historical sciences which typically include geology, archaeology, astronomy and includes many fields of biology.
Upon returning from Veritas Theological Seminary I decided to go ahead and record some of what I had planned to present as part of that class. Below is the first of three lectures that I had prepared. This one I entitled: Scientific Apologetics: Origins vs Operational Science. This first lecture is an exploration of the reliability of the historical sciences.
I have written about the distinction – or lack thereof – between origins science and operational/experimental science several times. The first of the links below includes one of the same examples that I use in my lecture.
The take home message of my lecture, which I do not explicitly say in the video, is that YECs accept the vast majority of interpretations of the historical science as long as they don’t directly touch on the question of the age of the Earth. As soon as a result of historical science suggests something contrary to the YEC model of origins, that conclusion is branded as being the result of “origins” science and thus unreliable. But can they really separate “origins” science from the methods and conclusions of “historical” science? I don’t think so.
The AiG speakers relentlessly painted all other perspectives on the age of the Earth as being the product of “origins” science, and hence untestable and untrustworthy, while at the same time reiterating their faith in “operational” science but their definitions of these two terms were very nebulous. I have searched the YEC literature on the nature of how science is done and have found that there is a little academic rigor with respect to defining these terms. There is a deep literature in philosophy of science on how science works and many article written about the validity of historical science and the distinctions in methodology of historical and experimental science. The YEC literature does not interact with that literature at all completely ignoring prominent philosophers of science from the last 50 years on this issue. As a result their definitions lack rigor and are simply created to serve as rhetorical devices.