Is Evolution like Mathematics?

On the last two Sundays of March the Everlasting Truths team will be airing a two part special broadcast on the debate between creation and evolution. In the weeks leading up to that broadcast, I will be answering several common questions related to origins, science and the Bible.

Many who are of a scientific bent lament the folly of those who believe in creation and accuse creationists of rejecting science. They scoff at creationists and say things like, “rejecting evolution is like rejecting modern medicine” or ask in disbelief, “do you refuse to believe 2+2=4, as well?”. The assertion, at times implied but most often stated is that evolution is proven science. Evolution is just like bacterial and viral models of medicine or like the certainty of basic mathematical equations. Is this a valid claim?

Without arguing about evidence or presuppositions, the legitimacy of this allegation can be considered through a right understanding of the different methods by which scientific conclusions are reached. The first, and primary means, is through what is often referred to as the scientific method. The scientific method is the process by which a problem is considered, a hypothetical solution is suggested, predictions are made, tests are performed, results are analyzed, the hypothesis is refined, more tests are run and after a long series of proving and disproving possible hypotheses, a model is developed which provides a generally accepted answer to the original problem.

The second means of reaching scientific conclusions is used in those cases where direct testing is not possible. In this method a problem is considered, a hypothetical solution is suggested, predictions are made, available evidence is analyzed, and the hypotheses and predictions are refined to agree with the available evidence. As new evidence becomes available the hypothesized model is then refined further and further.

Medical sciences are for the most part observational sciences. An explanation for the source of a disease can by suggested, tested, observed, refined and repeated until the genuine source can be shown with a high degree of certainty. Most mathematics fall into the same category. Much of science takes place in the realms of observational science. However, a number of scientific endeavors take place in the other realm, the realm of conjectural sciences. These kinds of sciences include some portions of quantum physics, consideration of the ultimate structure of the universe (or multiverse if you subscribe to that hypothesis), questions regarding the growth of the universe and beliefs about the development of mankind. The fact that a branch of science is not entirely observational does not make it illegitimate. However, one must recognize the answers provided by conjectural sciences are not of the same quality or reliability as those provided by observational sciences.

Evolution is a valid scientific model. It offers a possible explanation by which to explain the origins of all things. As a scientific model it is constantly being refined as additional data is discovered. However, comparing the evolutionary model to a well-proven scientific theory, like gravitational theory, is nonsense. Evolution is not testable by repeatable experiments. It can only be compared to observations made by scientists in the world and adjusted to match the current observations. Despite its wide acceptance among scientists, evolution is not like math and medicine.