Natural History and Scientific Research are Different

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There are almost no disputes among Christians and non-Christians that Jesus Christ was a real person and lived about 2,000 years ago. Even though the last book of the Bible was written over 1,900 years ago, historical record-keeping since that time is sufficient enough for us to believe this date. To my knowledge, there are no active debates claiming that Jesus lived 500 years ago, or 6,000, or 10 million, etc. etc. It is a historical truth that Jesus lived about 2,000 years ago, and the written and physical evidence testifies to the veracity of this claim.

God thought it was important to keep genealogical records leading up to Christ’s birth, and He inspired men to record these in Scripture. Chapters 1-11 of Genesis record the genealogies from Adam to Abraham, and Chapter 1 of Matthew summarizes the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus. Adding up these dates, plus the time since Jesus lived, we can estimate that God created the Earth and everything else about 6,000 years ago.

What I find interesting is that some of the same people who believe Jesus Christ lived 2,000 years ago, have a huge problem believing the Earth is around 6,000 years old, even though both ages are based on written and physical evidence. Why is there so much confusion, especially among Christians, about the age of the earth? One of the main reasons is that we confuse natural history with science. Real science has to do with observing God’s creation, asking questions and developing hypotheses, then performing experiments and analyzing and discussing the results. But wait, there’s more! Real science must verify the results, and this is IMPOSSIBLE to do when studying past events. Whether you believe the Earth is younger or older (although 6,000 years sounds really old to me!) you can theorize all day long, but unless you have a time machine, you can never verify your ideas. Natural history is not real science because it cannot follow the scientific method.

Just as virtually all Christians (and even non-Christians) believe that Jesus Christ lived about 2,000 years ago, there is no reason not to believe the Bible’s historical account of the +/- 4,000 years leading up to Christ. In order to reclaim the authority of God’s word regarding Earth age, one thing that must change is that we have to stop equating natural history with science. This is an error that, according to PhD geologist John K. Reed, crept in around the 19th century with the help of Georges Cuvier (“prehistory” with no written record) and Charles Lyell (uniformitarianism).  Click here to access Reed’s excellent article.

Many people, such as geologists, biologists and paleontologists are called “scientists”, but in many cases, they are really just “researchers”. If a historian wants to study Theodore Roosevelt, he will “research” the man, and draw conclusions from his research. Others will disagree with his conclusions, and the disagreements come because the researcher did not know about or even deliberately excluded important historical evidences, both written and physical. These disagreements can be overcome by including the previously omitted written and physical evidence. Still other disgreements will come because the researcher makes claims that are impossible to verify. Those claims will always be disputable.

The same types of disagreements arise when “scientists”, who are really acting as natural historians, make claims about the age of the earth, or other past events. Some of the claims will fit the evidence better than others, but ultimately, the claims are unverifiable conclusions about Earth history, not Earth science.

Most of the justification by Christians for an old Earth comes because they treat the study of Earth history as a scientific, not historic endeavor. For example, in a recent article in Modern Reformation, 8 geologists discussed how “science” points to an old Earth. As is always the case (whether an old or young-Earth argument), they support their case with a few examples.  However, they fail to distinguish between science and natural history. The same is true of a critique in BioLogos of Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a speech he gave titled “Why does the Universe look so old?” The BioLogos article begins by stating their purpose is to help “the Church, especially the Evangelical Church, come to peace with the scientific [emphasis mine] data which shows unequivocally that the universe is very old and that all of life, including humankind, has been created through a gradual process that has been taking place over the past few billion years.”

Because groups like BioLogos and the 8 geologists in the Modern Reformation article fail to distinguish between science and natural history, they make one-sided, dogmatic “scientific” claims about the age of the Earth. They don’t realize that they are really making historical claims that are impossible to verify. The truth is, we all have the same set of evidence, the differences come in the interpretation of that evidence. As an example, see Reed’s rebuttal of the 8 geologists’ Modern Reformation article.

In Genesis 1, we read that God created in 6 days. Some say these days were “periods of time” and possibly each longer than 1 day. Because the verses also mention morning and evening, I believe God was talking about 6, 24-hour days. This is verified in Exodus 20:11. If I practice “Sola Scriptura”, letting Scripture interpret Scripture, it seems obvious enough that God created in 6, 24-hour “periods of time”.  Treating Earth history as just that, history, I can find physical and written testimony that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. And just as most of us have no problem believing Jesus Christ was a real person who lived 2,000 years ago, we should have no problem believing there were about 4,000 years from the Beginning to Christ’s birth. Studying natural history can be an interesting, fun, and adventure-filled pursuit, but it is not real science, and shouldn’t be treated like it is. Be wary of the opinions of those who insist otherwise.

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22 Comments on “Natural History and Scientific Research are Different”

  1. Cary Hopkins Says:

    Wow! Thanks David. We just studied the age of the earth this week. We’re using the Creation unit study from The Heart of Wisdom. Grace has been reading Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation by Dennis Petersen. Great book!

  2. Ken K Says:

    This is an excellent.
    Thanks for the article Dr. Shormann

  3. Dave Says:

    Geologists are just researchers.
    Just like you’re just a Teacher.

    • gensci Says:

      Hi Dave,
      You misread the article. It says “In many cases” geologists are just researchers, like when they are studying natural history. In other cases they are scientists, like when they are classifying the composition of rocks in a sedimentary rock formation. And some of them are even teachers, too.

  4. Haruko Haruhara Says:

    “Dr.” David Shormann, I hope to God that you are not teaching any children this. Don’t get me confused with an Atheist, I love God and all his splendor. But I still believe in science. And Natural History is all in all science. There’s no use in competing religion and science. The two are not even in competition. You’re just making it out to be. Like this quote.

    ” Real science has to do with observing God’s creation, asking questions and developing hypotheses, then performing experiments and analyzing and discussing the results. But wait, there’s more! Real science must verify the results, and this is IMPOSSIBLE to do when studying past events.”-you

    But it is. It is possible, Doctor. It’s carbon dating. This quote proposes an idea in the reader that the science community contradicts itself in it’s own scientific method, and that you MUST be right since your source is ancient scripture.

    I realize that you might be speaking in the sense of religious science, in that, I have no complaint. But this page, your written word, spurs conflict and dispute in not just the science community or religious community, but in our communities in Texas as a whole. And that is something not very Christian of you sir.

    If you seek any position in The Board of Education, you can expect not to see my name tallied in the votes.

    • gensci Says:

      Hi Haruko,
      You are just a little confused, and that is probably my fault. My point is to show that religion and science are completely compatible and not in conflict. I am not trying to compete religion and science, that is what others seem to think is necessary. My post on Francis Bacon may help you better understand the connection between science and religion. As far as carbon dating (which is a type of radiometric dating), you cannot verify the results made by this method, and that is why it is not real science, but is natural history research. Did you know that researchers have found traces of radioactive carbon in fossils supposedly hundreds of millions of years old? The problem with this is that the radioactive carbon should be undetectable if the samples were really that old. Radiometric dating is an extrapolative guess at the past, and if you want to believe its results, you are certainly free to do so, just please be tolerant of others like myself with different beliefs about unverifiable historic events.

      • Danica Says:

        I am curious to know how you can be so sure that radioactive carbon is undetectable in old samples.

      • gensci Says:

        Hi Danica,
        In my reply to Haruko, I did not say that radioactive carbon “is” undetectable in old samples, I said it “should be” undetectable in old samples. Are you familiar with the different radioactive elements and their decay rates?

  5. Haruko Haruhara Says:

    No, you said, “you cannot verify the results made by this method” in relation to rediometric dating.

    • David Shormann Says:

      Yes, I did say that. And your point is? I think it would be helpful if you read the article again and explained to me what you think I mean by “verify”. That way, we will both know if you understand what I am trying to say. Here’s a hint about what I’m talking about: True or False, I can verify predictions made about tomorrow’s weather.

  6. Dean Says:

    Dr. Shormann,

    Great article. Science has unfortunately joined the media and academia as another pillar of lies. I have been a Christian all my life, but did not reject the old-Earth & Big-universe until I learned and applied real scientific inquiry to these “theories.”

    Respectfully,
    Dean

    • gensci Says:

      Yes, it is amazing how so many Christians have not yet made the same connection you did, that real science has nothing to do with studying the past. It is “historical science” at best, but is nothing like what real scientists do. Thanks for the great comment.

  7. George Says:

    Where do you get that everyone agrees about Jesus?

    You only have a few examples, and barely any evidence, that he existed at all.

    Scientists at least are investigating, you think you know it all already. How arrogant!

    • gensci Says:

      Hello George,
      Thinking I “know it all already” is the last thing I think! What is arrogant though is people who say things like “we know the Earth is much older than what the Bible claims.” Nobody knows that, and it is impossible to verify, which means it is not real science. Either the Bible is historically accurate, or it’s not, and I accept its date of around 6,000 years not because I have some super-special scientific method for determining this, but because I have faith that God is not lying to me. Also, I never said “everyone agrees about Jesus.” Please read the article more carefully, a lot of what it says is probably the opposite of how you’ve trained your brain to think, so it will take some time for it to sink in.

  8. Quark Says:

    gensci –
    I dont know what you mean by ‘super-special scientific method’. There are many methods to determine the age of the earth – geology – nuclear and quantum physics – biology – geography – astrophysics. And the thing is that measurements from all of those fields agree with each other – not the bible they WORK. Your faith is irrelevent and inconsequential against the wealth of factual real observed evidence. The real world makes a fool of you not anyone here. I am 100% convinced that god is not lying to you – imaginary creatures cannot lie. And you all think that these lame-brained bronze age homilies are the future of the american education system?? No wonder the rest of the world is laughing at you.

    • gensci Says:

      What you don’t seem to understand is the difference between real science, which is testable and repeatable, and natural history research. Maybe distinguishing between the two takes more thought than you are willing to give it? I will assume that you are a rational person who wants to figure out the difference, and will give you an example. Do you know how many times the speculated age of our most recent common ancestor has changed in the last 20 years? When I was in college, it was 200-400,000 years ago, then it jumped to 100-200,000 years ago. Those ages were based on the use of something called a “molecular clock”. In the 21st century, scientists started questioning molecular clocks, some going so far as to say there was no such thing as a real molecular clock. Then, a few years ago, some researchers decided to use genealogy instead of genetics, and came up with a most recent common ancestor of several thousand years ago (Nature, Vol. 431, p. 562-565). And I haven’t even gotten out of the field of biology to address the other fields, and you think they all agree with each other? Obviously, they don’t, and they never will, because speculations about earth age are not real science. You cannot verify the claims made by the various age-dating extrapolations, unless you have a crystal ball or a time machine that I am not aware of. Separating earth age speculations from real science is kind of like separating astrology from astronomy, chemistry from alchemy. I believe the earth is younger than what you believe it to be, but neither of our beliefs are the result of overwhelming and agreeing science, they are based on faith in claims made about natural history.

      I am glad to see you believe in absolutes though, as you are 100% convinced God is not real. I’ll have faith that God is absolutely real, and you can have faith that non-God is absolutely real. Just don’t confuse your belief in non-God with how real science operates.

  9. fwmetro Says:

    Just as virtually all Christians (and even non-Christians) believe that Jesus Christ lived about 2,000 years ago, there is no reason not to believe the Bible’s historical account of the +/- 4,000 years leading up to Christ.

    WHOA! Most human beings on the face of the earth do NOT believe that statement of yours. First, you err in calling your Jesus “Jesus Christ,” his name in English is Jesus. Christ is a title, so it should read Jesus the Christ. But the REAL problem is that he was NOT the “Christ.” That word is a transliteration of the Greek word Chriistos which is a translation of the Hebrew/Aramaic Moshiach or Messiah.

    That Jesus was NOT the messiah is very clear in that he did not fulfill any of the predictions of what the messiah will do once he gets here. If Jesus was such a well known individual, why is there NO MENTION OF HIM IN ANY OTHER WRITINGS? The only place he is mentioned is in the “New” Testament. Since God made an ETERNAL covenant with the Israelites, there CANNOT BE A NEW COVENANT.

    I believe in God and I believe the factual parts of the bible, but the bible was never meant to be taken LITERALLY. It is impossible to read the books literally because they were never meant to be taken that way. Take the story of Adam and Eve. Impossible! The first human beings came from Africa, not the Middle East. Even today, vestiges of that fact are seen in white people who have gaps between their two front teeth. It is caused by a gene that the majority of Africans have BECAUSE it is easier to drink when that gap exists. I used to have that gap before a dentist messed up and yanked those teeth.

    Then there is the fairy tale about Noah and the flood. It should, like the story of Adam and Eve, start with “once upon a time.” The entire world was NOT flooded. Fossils of marine animals were not caused by the “flood” as it only lasted about 110 days.

    Getting back to tales, there are many, MANY people who were supposedly born of a virgin on December 25th (the winter solstice) performed “miracles,” died and became God. Jesus wasn’t even considered a god until the Nicene Counsel about 435 CE. Human beings do NOT become gods, nor does God become a human being. Do I mean that Christianity is a false religion? Yup. That is exactly what I mean. It is based primarily on the writings of the apostate Paul who wrote the bulk of the Christian books called the New Testament.

    So, please, don’t go around lying about “Just as virtually all Christians (and even non-Christians) believe that Jesus Christ lived about 2,000 years ago.”

    If someone wishes to believe the Christian doctrines, fine by me because in the end, Christians pray to THE Creator of the Universe and all that is in it as do I, but I do reject the theory that Jesus was the messiah simply because THERE IS NO ETERNAL PEACE ON THIS PLANET AND THERE IS NO UNIVERSAL RECOGNITION OF THE ONE TRUE GOD. Oh yeah, the baloney that he will do that the second time around. Absolute garbage as NOWHERE in scriptures does it ever say that the messiah will come again. For that matter, nowhere in scripture does it say anything about a virgin birth, etc. That is straight out of paganism.

    The messiah will be born of a natural mother and father and he will eventually die; in other words, he will be an extraordinary human being, but certainly not God. As you can tell, it really irks me when someone thinks that the majority of humankind believes that Jesus existed. Again, where is any mention outside of the Christian books made? We know that Cesar, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra were real people because of the plethora of evidence that they did exist. But NOWHERE is Jesus mentioned. Why?

    Jesus’ ministry lasted three years before being killed by the Romans because supposedly his followers told people that he was a king. The Romans had only one king and it sure wasn’t Jesus. BTW, if someone ever called him Jesus, he would have kept on walking because that was NOT his name. His name was Joshua in English and Yeshuah in Hebrew. Since he was a Jew, he had a Hebrew name, not an English name.

    I close with this: In several places in the Jewish scriptures, the Tenach, it clearly states that “no man can die for the sins of another.” What makes Christians believe that they’re “saved” by the blood of Jesus? THEY ARE NOT SAVED AT ALL BECAUSE THERE IS NO SUCH PLACE AS HELL; THAT IS A GREEK CONCEPT. God HATES human sacrifice…Jesus was a human being. It must be nice to be able to sin all you want because some poor guy supposedly died for your sins. You are so wrong it is pathetic.

    • gensci Says:

      I am not “so wrong it is pathetic”, I believe Jesus lived about 2,000 years ago because I have faith that God’s word is true. About all I can tell from your argument is that I am wrong because I called Him “Jesus Christ” instead of “Jesus the Christ”. Also, there are 27 books in the New Testament, Paul wrote 13 of them, possibly 14 (Hebrews), so around half the books, and if you look at the total amount of text, it is more like 33%. Jesus wasn’t usually mentioned outside the Christian books for the same reason the Christian books usually didn’t mention Euclid, whose geometry text is the world’s second-most popular book behind the Holy Bible. I would never argue that Euclid did not exist just because the Bible doesn’t talk about him. What a stupid argument!

      Buy hey, the point of this blog post is Natural History. What do you think, is natural history research a “mixed question” that requires inputs from areas outside science? I think so.

      • Beverly Kurtin, .Ph.D. Says:

        Okay, you say you believe God’s words. Fine. In Deut. 4:2 God said, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” Jesus said that he did not come to destroy the law…it would be in force until the end of time or words to that effect.

        Then over in Revelation it says not to add to…which was ripped right from Torah.

        Why is Jesus NEVER MENTIONED any place but the Christian books?

        God is not a man that he should like, neither the son of man that he should lie. God further said that he made an ETERNAL COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM. ETERNAL. Get it?

        Jesus was an Essene. He knew the Jewish Tenach forward and backward. There is no way in heaven or hell that he would break the commandments. That is, of course, if he ever existed. There is NO EVIDENCE that he ever existed…none except the so-called “New” testament which cannot possibly exist because God had already made a covenant with Abraham.

        IF you really believe in what God said, you would know that since he does not lie nor does he change his mind…someone is not telling the truth and I do not believe it is God.

        I’ve nothing against Christians believing what they want to believe. I believe that Christians, together with all other people who worship the ONE God will have an equal share in the world to come.

        What do you make of this: In Deuteronomy, God calls Human sacrifice something that He hates, and an abomination to Him! …for even their sons and daughters they have burnt in the fire top their gods. See the whole passage below:
        Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Eternal thy God: for every abomination to the Eternal, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. [Deuteronomy 12:30-31]

        In Jeremiah, God tells us that Human sacrifice is so horrible a concept to Him, that it did not even come into His mind!

        So, do you STILL believe in God’s words? Or do you still insist that Jesus, who was a human being, could be a sacrifice when God said human sacrifices ARE an abomination to him?

        Keep in mind that nobody thought of Jesus as God until the Nicene Council met around 425 CE.

        All of the “miracles” he did were things others had done before him without them being miracles. I myself have “healed” many people by simply TELLING THEM THAT WHAT I WAS ABOUT TO DO WOULD MAKE THEM BETTER. I then create far infrared heat and lay it on the part that is hurting or is ill, etc.

        Far infrared radiation is the reason when we hurt ourselves we place our hands or a hand on the place where we hurt. If we rubbed our hands together rapidly for a few seconds, we would create far infrared radiation that is healing.

        You say you believe God’s word. He says in Deuteronomy 24:26, “Every man shall be put to death for his own sin,” which is also expressed in Exodus 32:30-35, and Ezekiel 18.

        Do you REALLY believe in God’s word or just some of God’s words?

        You probably believe that blood is necessary for the forgiveness of sin. You would be wrong. In Leviticus 5:11-13, it states, “If, however, he cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons, he is to bring as an offering for his sin a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering.” One can also see that one does not need a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins in the Book of Jonah 3:10. There, the Bible simply states that God saw the works of the people of Ninevah. Specifically it says that the works God saw were that they stopped doing evil, and so God forgave them. There are plenty of other examples, and the idea that one needs a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins is UnBiblical.

        How much blood is in flour? Why were the people in Ninevah forgiven? If people repent of their sins, God forgives them provided they REALLY stop sinning and turn away from doing it again. NO blood is required.

        The main reason for the sacrifices was to feed the priests who had no land of their own. God told them not to eat the FAT but to burn it on the altar. The priests ate pretty well.

        So, once again, my friend, do you believe God or do you believe in a man who was never mentioned in any place other than the “New” testament which is NOT new because God made only ONE covenant and that was with Abraham and the people woh came after him, including, if he existed at all, Jesus.

        Once again, you SAY you believe in God’s words but totally ignore his words because you fine people (I am not being sarcastic, you ARE fine people) have chosen to ignore what God said.

        When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was he said the Shema, the prayer that attests to God’s singularity. “Hear, Israel, the Lord our God is ONE. You shall love the Lord with all you heart, with all your soul and all your resources (the real word) and you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.

      • gensci Says:

        Aw come on, quit being so stubborn, you know that God doesn’t want us sacrificing other humans, he made that abundantly clear with Abraham and Isaac. And besides, it wasn’t Christians who wanted Jesus dead, it was self-rightous bigots who loved their rules more than they loved God! Jesus is mentioned all over the Bible, including Deuteronomy 18:15, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, etc. God made many covenants, including the covenant with Noah in Genesis 9,and the new covenant that Jeremiah prophesies about in Jeremiah 31:31.

        This comment section is for discussing whether or not you think theistic evolution is a disease of learning. I think it is, what do you think and why?

  10. Graham2 Says:

    I believe Jesus lived about 2,000 years ago because I have faith that God’s word is true

    That says it all.

    • gensci Says:

      Hi Graham2,
      This is 2013 A.D. right now. A.D., as in Anno Domini, The Year of our Lord, the year He was conceived (A.D. 1). You can function in the world today based on the truth of Christ’s existence. And the faith I am talking about is not a blind faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith, go check out what it says.


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