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What Is Science? & Other Definitions

copyright 2004

By Reason McLucus

originally published at

What does the term “science” refer to? What makes a “scientific theory” different from other expressions of human thoughts? What is a “supernatural” event?

I’ll begin by stating my qualifications to discuss the issue. Although my initial academic work was in math and physics, my graduate work, except for computer courses, dealt with human behavior. I’m a generalist rather than a specialist in any one field. I look at things in terms of the systems involved.

As an expert on human behavior I’m qualified to discuss the expression of human thoughts. Regardless of what else “scientific theories” may be, they are expressions of human thoughts. The evaluation and classification of human thoughts requires knowledge of various types of thoughts. Such knowledge is necessary to determine whether some aspect of “scientific” thought is unique or is shared with other types of thoughts.

Science attempts to answer the question “What is real?” or more accurately “what our senses perceive as real” through repeated experimentation and observation. It is the use of experimentation and observation to verify theories that separates “science” and “scientific theories” from other intellectual pursuits.

Some researchers mistakenly believe that the examination of physical evidence is inherently “scientific”. Cops often rely on physical evidence to solve crimes. Does that mean that cops are “scientists? Lawyers present physical evidence to convince juries to accept their view of the case being tried. Does that mean that lawyers are “scientists”?

 While scientific knowledge may help in the evaluation of physical evidence, the study of the evidence itself isn’t scientific. Science helps by demonstrating how the physical evidence might have been produced or where it might have come from. A scientific experiment or an observation could show what type of actions could produce the evidence.

Even those involved in the physical sciences have to rely at times on the observations of others rather than on examination of physical evidence. For example, during recent times scientists have been able to visually record various occurrences in space. Scientists wishing to compare current events to events before such recordings were possible must rely on written records of the observations of others. Reliance on written records is essential to determining whether certain comets have appeared in the past.

“History” is also a factually based form of inquiry. “Historians” attempt to answer the question “What was real?”. Historians who study humans prefer written information because written accounts describe behavior. Physical objects from the past may require some type of information about current physical objects to evaluate the meaning of the past objects.

For example, fossilized bones are recognized as bones because of similarities to bones of existing animals. However, these similarities by themselves cannot indicate whether past animals are genetically related to current animals. The skeleton represents only a portion of the genes of any animal. The environment also plays a role in skeletal development, although this role is often only noticed in cases of abnormal development. Those researchers who look at old bones may call themselves “scientists”, but they are really “historians”.

Historians should look at all possible explanations for objects and events from the past. Human nature tends to cause historians to try to fit evidence into only one explanation. Each historian wants to be the one to have the “correct” explanation of the past. The writing process encourages a single explanation. A “good essay” is considered to be one that presents some type of hypothesis and then presents arguments(evidence) to support the hypotnesis.

What does “supernatural” mean? Religious individuals may think of “supernatural” as being synonymous with the actions of God. But, shouldn’t the Creator of the universe be able to act by using the system He created? Wouldn’t He have designed the system so that He could act without being obvious?

Chaos theory includes the butterfly effect. A butterfly fluttering in China may cause a thunderstorm in Kansas a week later because other factors may gradually increase the level of that disturbance. God would be able to use this effect to produce results without being obvious.

A better definition of “supernatural” would be something that is inconsistent with known regular physical processes. This definition also has a problem because human societies may have inadequate knowledge of natural processes. For example, primitive societies may regard an eruption of a nearby volcano as being supernatural because they don’t understand the process. They may feel they have offended their god and must placate him/her.

The Big Bang as it is commonly described would be the ultimate supernatural event. The entire universe suddenly exploding from a single black hole with the particles speeding away from each other at or near the speed of light certainly isn’t a normal event that is witnesses even on an irregular basis. I realize that some prefer to describe the event as an “expansion”, but when particles of matter move away from each other at even 1% of the speed of light that is an explosion not an expansion.

In thinking about the term “evolution” I realized that it is an undefinable term. It’s use is more consistent with political terms like “democracy”. The definition varies from group to group and individual to individual. Darwinists use “evolution” to mean the gradual development of life from a single cell with random mutations causing the development of new species from existing ones.

To some “evolution” means the development of life without the intervention of any form of intelligence. To these individuals anyone who claims that an intelligence was involved is a “creationist”.

To others like Michael Behe, “evolution” is the gradual development of life by an Intelligent Designer. Behe shares the belief that humans and chimpanzees may have had a common ancestor.

Some use evolution to describe a process in which multiple life forms may have developed and changed into others through processes that may or may not have always been gradual. The original cells might have developed by combining two more primitive life forms. Species may have interacted to produce still other species.

Some creationists call anyone an “evolutionist” who doesn’t support their view that God zapped each individual species into existence full sized. I’m not sure where they get this belief but it doesn’t come from Genesis. Even Adam was “formed from the dust of the earth” which would be consistent with God creating a human cell and then developing it into Adam.

None of these views is completely distinct. They can be placed along a continuum with the Darwinists and creationists who view anyone who disagrees as belonging to the opposite group at the extreme ends. The middle tends to be dynamic with new views developing as research in microbiology produces new information.

The concept of an Intelligent Designer also varies. The God of Abraham has been the most common “Designer” in Western thought. Discover magazine reported a year or two ago that there is a growing belief in the concept of “Gaia” that the earth itself may somehow be alive. The Raelians believe that Extra Terrestrials called “Elohim” created life. Some other E.T. might have encased the necessary molecules in a comet or asteroid like body to develop on distant planets with the appropriate environment.

The Darwinist explanation of a single cell producing all life would indicate a supernatural event. A natural process would allow many different types of cells to develop given the appropriate conditions. Under a natural process similar appearing species might develop through separate lineages.

The Darwinist concept of evolution isn’t based on evidence. The evidence Darwin had didn’t support the idea of past species becoming the species of Darwin’s time, even relying on comparison of skeletons.

Darwin’s concept is consistent with the way humans produce change. Mechanical devices had been gradually improved over time. Writers, including Darwin, often develop their finished pieces through gradual expansion and clarification of ideas. Darwin’s works were modified over time in this manner. Societies change in a similar manner. Idea’s such as the Darwinian concept of evolution develop through this process.

 Evolution fit in with other ideas of the time such as the notion of progress. Western leaders believed change was progress to something better, at least until some began to question the environmental costs. Evolution was consistent with the racist beliefs that some people were essentially “fitter” than others. It supported the idea that the exploitation of the poor by the rich was a natural process of “social Darwinism”.

The important issue in the development of life is how changes occurred at the molecular level. Darwin had no relevant knowledge of such processes. Indeed this knowledge is only now becoming available and is not yet sufficient to show precisely how life developed. Current knowledge indicates the likelihood that the molecules for producing life originated from space and life had multiple origins rather than developing from a single cell.


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