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Age of the Earth Belief in God Creation/evolution History Physics Roman Catholic church Science

Development of an “old” universe in science

Notes of a lecture on the historical philosophical development of the notion that the universe is very old. The lecture was given August 1st 2015. See Age and Reason Seminar Adelaide for details.


Bishop James Ussher was the Irish Archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland. He excelled in education, was fluent in Arabic and Hebrew. In 1654, after an exhaustive investigation, he published his date for the Creation of the Universe – 4004 B.C..When Ussher published this Creation date it was believed. There was nothing remarkable about that. If you add up the genealogies in the Bible, and with a bit of historical knowledge, you can easily get a time since the beginning of the world of around 6000 years. It was believed that God created the world as He said in Scripture about 4000 years before Christ. For roughly 18 centuries of the Christian era such a time period was widely believed.

In the 17th century Sir Francis Bacon developed the ideas of the modern scientific method – scientific empiricism—where one developed a thesis and did experiments to test it. Bacon has been called the ‘father of the scientific method.’

Middle ages onAnd it was from the Middle Ages science was nurtured in the Christian universities of Europe and flourished after that, from the Reformation on, underpinned by the rich Christian worldview that held that the Universe was created by a rational trustworthy God, and the unchanging laws of nature are His creation.

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Age of the Earth Cosmology Creation/evolution Science

Operational and historical science: What are they?

Two types of science: Operational or experimental and historical or forensic.  Historical science deals with origins, the unseen past, unobserved past events. Operational science deals with the present, not the past. Most people confuse or conflate these two types of science. They are not the same. The former is repeatable and the latter is not.

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Most scientists themselves do not understand the distinction. They often are too close to the subject to realise.

When a forensic scientist enters a crime scene he collects evidence. These are, for example, bodily fluids, tissue samples, fingerprints, paint scrapings, etc. He goes to his lab and uses sophisticated machines to determine the DNA of the victim or perpetrator, or scan for a fingerprint match in a data base, etc. That is repeatable science, hence operational science.

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Creation/evolution Science

Evolution is not operational science

Science1Previously I explained that there are really two types of science.1 One is operational or experimental science which is based on repeatable experiments (e.g. done in a lab) in the present. The experiment can be repeated again and again, and because we trust that laws of nature (which God created in the beginning) are immutable we have learned to expect the same results. This is the basis of the modern technological revolution.

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Historical ‘science’ is based on evidence available in the present but consists of stories about supposed events in the past that cannot be repeated, observed, or tested experimentally. It is forensic science where you have to make up a story about the past, which best fits the evidence at hand. The evidence is circumstantial at best.

EOWilsonHarvard Professor  E.O. Wilson, secular-humanist and deist, said,

If a moving automobile were an organism, functional biology would explain how it is constructed and operates, while evolutionary biology would reconstruct its origin and history—how it came to be made and its journey thus far.

—E. O. Wilson, From so Simply a Beginning, p. 12, Norton, 2006