The scientific method is an amazing tool scientists and even the common man can use to investigate a new question about how something works. When it comes to the creation/evolution debate, I believe many on the evolution side of the debate forget one of the crucial steps of the scientific method: analysis. Some label that step: interpretation. There is a difference between observations and interpretations.
An observation would be: the temperature directly above the candle was significantly hotter than on the side of the flame.
An interpretation would be: the heat rose upwards from the candle.
An observation is done through one or more of the five senses. An interpretation is our own personal analysis of the observation. So, how does this apply to the creation/evolution debate?
Let’s do another example…
An observation would be: we see multiple genetic similarities between specimen A and specimen B.
An interpretation would be: the two specimens share a common ancestor.
I’ve seen the difference between observation and interpretation come up many times when it comes to the creation/evolution debate. The interpretation or analysis step is crucial to the scientific method, but it is the one step where personal bias can come into play… especially when interpreting data that we can no longer directly observe or replicate. The interpretation will then be left up to how we understand the world to work. If you understand the world to have always worked the way it does today, then I’m sure you would interpret the data consistent with what you observe today. If you have reason to think that the world may have worked differently in the past than it does today, then you are likely to interpret that data differently.
Let’s give an example…
If you believe that “the present is the key to the past” (uniformitarianism), then you are likely to interpret most geologic activity as gradual and/or constant.
If you believe that in the past there were three events that would have accelerated normal processes (6-day creation, fall, worldwide flood: catastrophism), then you are likely to interpret geologic activity from the past differently and on a different timescale.
This is why creationists and evolutionists butt heads so hard. Evolutionists cannot understand how creationists “ignore” the evidence, but creationists see it the other way around. The truth is it has never been about ignoring any evidence. The evidence is in the observation step of the scientific method. Our debate is in the interpretation step. What bias or presuppositions do you use to interpret data from the ancient past?
So which set of biases are more valid? If we could answer this question, we could settle the whole debate! Unfortunately, this is an unanswerable question in this world. So, how do we proceed in the debate? Do we just call each other liars and accuse the others of being stupid for not seeing it our way? Will that work? Of course not. We need to be able to defend WHY we interpret the evidence the way we do. We need to ask open-ended questions of each other that cause the other party to think in a different way than they have before.
Another example for the evolution defenders…
Perhaps instead of “99.9% of scientists agree, anyone who disagrees with that is an idiot!”
Let’s try “It seems to me that the overwhelming percentage of scientists agree with evolution, what is your reasoning for disagreeing?”
Or for the creation defenders…
Instead of “there’s no evidence for evolution!”
Let’s try “what mechanism or process do you suggest can increase the genetics of a single-celled creature to evolve all the way up to a human being?”
The second question in both discussions makes the other person examine their beliefs, and hopefully learn how to defend their position more rationally. By profession I am a counselor, and I know that if I just tell my client where they went wrong and how to fix it – that doesn’t work. My job is to ask open-ended questions that make them examine themselves and come to their own conclusions about what they need to do differently.
In conclusion, young-earth creationists do not ignore evidence. We have the same evidence as you. The same rocks, the same trees, the same fossils. Those are the evidences left behind from the past. We interpret them differently than you because we believe we have reason to. If you can show us the error in our interpretations, then we might have a dialogue started. If you just want to accuse us of being “science deniers” or “liars”, you might as well move on because that will accomplish nothing but wasting both of our times. The point is that all human beings are biased and science is done by human beings. That doesn’t mean they are wrong just cause of that, that just means they are not perfect.
“Let God be true, and every human being a liar.” – Romans 3:4.