Last time, I began to discuss the definition of religion. In many cases, I could sum up this discussion by stating that religion, in a technical sense, is similar to the modern phrase “worldview.” Today, I want to discuss the term “science,” and how it differs from religion.
Science is the study of natural law based on observing a phenomenon, forming a hypothesis to explain that phenomenon, and then testing that hypothesis (often on the basis of something that this hypothesis has predicted) to prove or disprove the hypothesis. Science is a rigorous study, but it is also a limited one. Science, for example, cannot directly comment on grammar, history, mathematics, or for that matter, issues of religion. Science can provide information that contributes to these studies. For example, astronomy provides a great deal of information that is useful to historians in aligning ancient calendars with modern ones. Yet, one cannot make a scientific case to prove that Julius Caesar existed.
As a result, in a strict and technical sense, one needs to make a distinction between science and its applications (or as some put it, “applied science”). Forensics, for example, is not, strictly speaking, a science. A murder is a matter of history because it is an event. Forensics takes scientific data and applies it to aid the criminologist gain information, which helps the detective discern between various historical theories as to what actually happened. (For example, science has proven certain chemicals react to gunpowder that is left on someone’s hand and clothing after they shoot a firearm. An application of that fact helps detectives determine that someone has discharged a firearm). Medicine similarly is an application of science (e.g. “Chemical A affects Organism B, resulting in Reaction C” is the science. If Reaction C is desirable, then Chemical A may be applied therapeutically).
With this, then, I would suggest that I disagree with some of Ken Ham’s (a man I admire greatly for his works’ sake) recent terminology describing evolution. He currently delineates “operational science” from “historical science” (the latter being a term that he found in a secular earth sciences textbook). I agree with his central point on this matter: he is attempting to communicate precisely the same points I am, but I dislike this terminology because it fails to distinguish between science (or in Ham’s term’s “operational science”) and the application of science (“historical science”). In his first edition of “The Lie” he described the debate as the science of one religion versus the science of another. This I believe is closer, but I would amend it this way, “Creationism versus evolution is the application of science to origins on the basis of one set of religious assumptions against the application of science to origins on the basis of another set of religious assumptions” – less catchy, succinct and pithy, but technically it is more accurate.
As I noted in our last conclusion: “…evolution requires one to begin with the assumption that the earth came into existence by natural process, or to put it another way: evolution requires us to assume religious naturalism.” As I also noted: naturalism begins with Hume’s arguments against miracles. This, then, is a religious distinction between creationists and evolutionists.