You may recall that Don Prothero, the prominent American paleontologist, geologist, and author of great books like Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters coached Bill Nye in his debate vs. Ken Ham. In an earlier post, I referenced his behind-the-scenes perspective. Now Prothero addresses that annoying bit of vocabulary we heard Ham use over and over: “observational” vs. “historical” science. If you thought that sounded fishy when Ham used it, you were right and Prothero tells us why when he explains that:
In reality, all science is a seamless mix of things we observe directly, and things we infer using natural laws extended into the realms of the past, the very distant, or the very tiny (what is called “uniformitarianism” or “actualism”).
He includes some great examples of how science works including this forensic science one:
If a crime is committed and no one saw the criminal, does the CSI just shrug their shoulders and say “we can’t solve it”? NO! The whole point of the show is that there are many clues all over the place that allows us to reliably infer things about the past, whether a few hours after a crime, or a few million years ago. Let’s say a burglar robbed Ham’s house while he was not at home. Would he insist that the CSIs stop working the crime scene because Ham doesn’t believe in “historical science”? NO! He’d want them to use any science that would solve the crime–just like real scientists use any evidence available to solve the mysteries of nature.
I won’t recount the entire post here because as always, Don Prothero does it best. For the entire article, check out: Skepticblog » “Observational” vs. “historical” science? Pure bunk!.