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The Creation Explanation

Creation Explanation Man in His World

Can Scientists Be Mistaken?

Like all human beings, a scientist is fallible. Yet the scientific method keeps him from making errors that he otherwise might make. If he bases his findings only on repeatable, carefully observed data, he will not. for example, argue for the existence of flying saucers simply because he dreamed about flying saucers and being interviewed by the saucer people--or because sixty other people told him that they once saw a flying saucer. No, he must have reproducible data which can be observed also by other scientists under controlled conditions. A scientist may err in his observations, but since the same experiments and tests can be and usually are performed by others, his mistakes will be discovered sooner or later, and corrected. Errors in the work of scientists can result from a number of causes:

1. The scientist may be biased for some reason. Overenthusiastic and not entirely objective, he wishes something to be true, factual. This kind of bias may very well result in his "seeing" flying saucers, for example.

2. The scientist may not have enough data. A few more experiments, properly designed, may generate new data that would falsify or require modification of his conclusions.

3. The scientist's experimental method may be incorrectly designed and lead to incorrect. data.

4. When the scientist attempts to answer the questions of history or speculate concerning the origins of man and nature, he may fall into the error of equating metaphysics with science. Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with questions of being and of origins. Falsifiability by physical test or observation is the criterion that separates empirical science from metaphysics. Theories about origins are not necessarily subject to rejection on the basis of empirical test or observation. Therefore, when a scientist asserts an explanation of origins, he is generally asserting a theory of metaphysics, not science.

5. Deliberate deception stemming from actual moral turpitude can result in false information its way into the scientific literature. The classic example of this was the falsification of sketches of embryos a century and more ago by German biologist Ernst Haeckel. He was later forced to admit his dishonesty in print after having been exposed by several leading scientists. His excuse was that other scientists had done similar things.5 In the decade of the 1980s and on into the 1990s public exposure of a number of cases of gross professional dishonesty by scientists has brought considerable embarrassment to their close associates as well as to the scientific community at large

Science Is Self-Correcting

If the rules of the scientific method are carefully followed, they will prevent the scientist from asking improper questions and also aid him in amending his incorrect answers. The progress of science offers clear evidence that mistaken ideas are being corrected. Medical science, at the time of our first president, treated Washington's tonsilitis by a method called "bloodletting." Making cuts on the body and letting them bleed so weakened the President that he finally died as the result of this scientifically wrong treatment. The findings of science have corrected this mistaken idea so that bloodletting is no longer practiced.

Even more recently we can see how one scientist was in error because of mistaken observation. He spent years viewing Mars in his astronomical observatory and in great detail described a network of canals on the planet. He claimed that his observations proved that intelligent life existed on Mar. It should be remembered that according to the standard evolutionary scenarios life could be expected to develop wherever conditions are favorable. Advocates of evolution are commonly eager to find evidence of extraterrestrial life. Orbiters have thoroughly mapped Mars and shown it to be a heavily cratered body. Mars landers have measured the very thin atmosphere and chemically tested samples of soil. These unmanned explorations have discovered absolutely no evidence of life on Mars, past or present. They have established that surface conditions are not suitable to support life as we know it. Thus mistaken ideas about Mars have been corrected by scientific observation made possible by the instruments of space exploration.



5. Davidheiser, Bolton, Evolution and Christian Faith (Presbyterian and Reformed, Philadelphia, 1969), pp. 75-77.

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