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What They Didn’t Tell You about the National Academy of Sciences

In the recently published booklet Science, Evolution, and Creationism, the National Academy of Sciences claims that science must be limited to naturalistic explanations:

In science, explanations must be based on naturally occurring phenomena. Natural causes are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature, scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations. (p. 10)

Evolutionists have always been dogmatic about naturalism. They believe that science must, in principle, be absolutely constrained to naturalistic explanations. This is a philosophical position — there is no scientific evidence that could make evolutionists think twice.

Like the creationist who mandates a particular interpretation of the scientific evidence (according to scripture), the evolutionist also mandates a particular interpretation of the scientific evidence (according to naturalism). All explanations must be thoroughly and completely naturalistic, no matter how contorted those explanations become.
We could find a code buried in our cells, but for evolutionists only naturalistic causes can be considered. And so all scientific evidence is interpreted according to this restriction –one way or another, the evidence is force-fitted to the pre-existing framework. Consequently, evolutionary theory is highly speculative.
For instance, how did life evolve? The booklet explains that there are no consensus hypotheses for this remarkable event, and that evolutionists are searching a variety of ideas. “Researchers have shown how this process might have worked,” write the authors. For “if a molecule … could reproduce … perhaps with the assistance … it could form … if such self-replicators … they might have formed … could lead to variants” and so forth. (p. 22) The evidence for the origin of life is packed with question marks.
Obviously, we do not have strong evidence that the highly complex cell arose on its own, and the booklet admits that
“[c]onstructing a plausible hypothesis of life’s origins will require that many questions be answered. Scientists who study the origin of life do not yet know which sets of chemicals could have begun replicating themselves.” As if realizing that this hardly constitutes “compelling” evidence for the “fact” of evolution, the authors conclude this section with a nod toward the future:

The history of science shows that even very difficult questions such as how life originated may become amenable to solution as a result of advances in theory, the development of new instrumentation, and the discovery of new facts. (p. 22)

While this certainly is true, scientists also need to evaluate theories according to what is known. We can always hope our favorite theories will be saved by future findings, but this is no substitute for accurate theory evaluation according to the known data. It is simply misleading and irresponsible to state that it is a scientific fact that life evolved from non-living chemicals.
This unfortunately is characteristic of how the National Academy of Sciences informs the reader of the biological evidence for evolution. While some legitimate evidences are presented, the booklet repeatedly presents speculations and interpretations according to the theory as strong evidences for the theory. And it consistently ignores the many negative evidences. An informed reader can easily see the evidences fail to demonstrate that evolution is a well supported theory, much less that it is a fact. But unfortunately, many readers may be influenced by the authority of the National Academy of Sciences and erroneously conclude that the evidence must support the booklet’s triumphant claims.

Cornelius G. Hunter

Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Cornelius G. Hunter is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he earned a Ph.D. in Biophysics and Computational Biology. He is Adjunct Professor at Biola University and author of the award-winning Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil. Hunter’s other books include Darwin’s Proof, and his newest book Science’s Blind Spot (Baker/Brazos Press). Dr. Hunter's interest in the theory of evolution involves the historical and theological, as well as scientific, aspects of the theory. His blog is Darwin's God.