R. Overton Essay, Research Paper
Samir Kumar September 15, 1996
ANALYSIS OF THE OPINION OF JUDGE WILLIAM R. OVERTON
Judge William R. Overton sets out five criteria in examining the validity of “creation science” as a scientific theory in the case McLean vs. Arkansas. Two of these characteristics are testability against the empirical world and the tentativeness of a theory’s conclusion. Overton explains why he thinks these criteria are important and why creation science fails to satisfy them.
Overton feels that testability against the empirical world is a fundamental tenet of modern science. According to Overton testability or falsifiability is what makes a theory scientific. Overton believes that creation science fails to meet this criteria. Creationists belief states that we do not know how God created, what processes he used, for God used processes which are not now operating anywhere in the natural universe. They believe we cannot discover by scientific investigation anything about the creative processes used by God. Thus the theory is not even open to the concept of testability because they claim that processes which brought about the universe are no longer in existence. Overton goes on to say that this aspect of creationist belief is straight out of the bible and the story of Genesis. The bible is not science but religion.
To be able to test a theory is essential to all science. How else does one determine a hypothesis from reality, or fact from fiction? Science is only limited by technology and the tools of the era available to it. To say that a theory is not testable via scientific means is a rash statement. Einstein’s theory of relativity made many predictions which could not be tested at the time the theory was presented. For example measuring time dilation and the distortion of space-time was only possible with the onset of extremely accurate atomic clocks. The bending of starlight could not be observed until the appropriate solar telescope was available. This is a perfect example of how technology empowers science to prove or disprove its theories. The purpose of science is to explain the universe based on a premise that the properties of the universe are rational and logical. These same standards also apply to the formation of the earth and the subsequent rise of life on this planet. There is no evidence yet to show otherwise. The same elements that form all living things and the planet we live on also form the rest of the universe. The same forces that governed the earth when life came about also govern the universe today. It is only the short lifetime of human beings and the limitation of our knowledge to gain a complete and concise picture of the events that led to the formation of life. Thus at this time it is very difficult to test the validity of any theory concerning creation. We can make cHowever no one can say that will be the case in the future. Who would have guessed that only 66 years after the Wright Brothers first flight man would land on the moon. Back then there were people who were audacious enough to say that space flight would never be possible. In science there is no absolute. least of all the concept that certain scientific theories can never be tested against the empirical world. This also leads to one of the other criteria that Overton uses to judge creation science, the tenativeness of a theory’s conclusions.
Tentativity is considered to be a natural aspect of a scientific theory. To date there has not been one scientific theory which has been absolute.