Indirect Observation

From Issue: R&R Volume 27 #2

The idea often is presented that the creation of the Universe is not “scientific” because a supernatural Creator cannot be tested using present scientific instruments and procedures. Eugenie Scott, the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, avid proponent of evolution and outspoken opponent of creation, has expressed precisely such sentiments: “The ultimate statement of creationism—that the present universe came about as the result of the action or actions of a divine Creator—is thus outside the abilities of science to test” (2004, p. 19). Presumably, because God cannot be “controlled” in an experiment, and because He is a supernatural, non-physical Being, then any information that involves such a God cannot be deemed “scientific.”

It is interesting to note, however, that Scott makes some very pertinent admissions when it comes to the ways in which scientists gather data and formulate their theories. In her discussion of data collection, she noted that some scientific data are gathered from indirect observation. She stated:

In some fields, not only is it impossible to directly control the variables, but the phenomena themselves may not be directly observable. A research design known as indirect experimentation is often utilized in such fields. Explanations can be tested even if the phenomena being studied are too far away, too small, or too far back in time to be observed directly. For example, giant planets recently have been discovered orbiting distant stars—though we cannot directly observe them (2004, p. 6, emp. added, italics in orig.).

She proceeded to suggest that because we know that large planets would have quite a large gravitational pull, and because we see the distant stars “wobble” like they have been pulled by planet gravitation, then we can know that “these planetary giants do exist,” and even estimate their sizes.

Let us, then, analyze what Ms. Scott is suggesting: (1) there are some things in this world that we cannot observe directly; (2) we cannot do tests or experiments on the actual object; (3) nor can we see, taste, hear, smell, or touch them. But we can know that they exist due to the fact that we can see their effects on things.

One reason Scott is forced to admit the legitimacy of indirect observation is the fact that evolution cannot be tested directly. She admits: “Indeed, no paleontologist has ever observed one species evolving into another, but as we have seen, a theory can be scientific even if its phenomena are not directly observable” (2004, p. 14). According to Scott, we cannot observe evolution in action, per se, but we can look at the effects it has left in the fossil record and other areas and call it a “scientific” discipline.

It may come as quite a surprise to the reader that Ms. Scott’s explanation of indirect experimentation is almost identical to the evidence given by the apostle Paul for the existence of an omnipotent Creator: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things which are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Paul was simply saying that the general population cannot directly observe the Creator, and yet the effects the Creator causes in this observable Universe are so directly tied to His omnipotent abilities that those who refuse to recognize His existence are without excuse.

Can we look into this Universe and see complex biological machinery that demands a superintending mind? Yes. Can we look at the qualities of matter and energy in relationship to the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics and know that matter cannot be eternal and must have had a starting point? Absolutely. Is it possible to locate irreducibly complex systems in nature that could not have evolved, but must have been designed by an Intelligence that far surpasses any and all human intelligence? Certainly. Then just as surely as Ms. Scott recognizes that much scientific data comes from indirect observation, a rational thinker must admit the legitimacy of obtaining information about the Creator in the same way.

If we can look at phenomena that we know must be caused by a mind, such as computers, cars, and houses, then we can study the characteristics that show they were caused by a mind and look for those same characteristics in nature. When we do, we find abundant evidence that a Mind must have been involved in the Universe to bring about the physical effects that we observe directly. In truth, Creation is the only rational, scientific explanation for the material Universe.


Scott, Eugenie (2004), Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction (Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press).


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