Science is at the heart of the question of origins and the age of the earth. Evolutionists like to claim that science shows the universe evolved from a super dense super-hot state in what is commonly called the Big Bang, and that the Earth collapsed from a cloud of dust and gas about 4.5 billion years ago. They also claim that life formed naturally from lifeless chemicals and then evolved into all the living things we see today including man. They further deny any legitimacy of creation science. However, discussing origins or any other topic scientifically requires knowing what science is.
Science is not a collection of unquestionable facts, but it is actually a methodology for acquiring knowledge. This methodology is known as the scientific method. While you can find some variations in the exact wording, the basic concept is as follows:
- Define the problem.
- Develop a hypothesis that solves the problem.
- Performing an experiment or observation to test the hypothesis.
- If the hypothesis does not fit the experiment or observation repeat #2.
- If the hypothesis is a close fit to the experiment or observation refine the hypothesis and repeat #3.
- If the hypothesis agrees with the experimental observation, then write up the results.
- Report the results of your work.
In many ways, this is a trial-and-error process, and each step is not always carried out by the same individual. For example, theoretical work is often tested by others who have the skills and or equipment to do the actual experiments or observations. A key point to note is that the hypothesis needs to make one or more testable predictions in order to be able to develop an experiment or observation that will test it.
So, what makes something scientific? First of all, there is nothing in this process that requires a naturalistic hypothesis. The key requirement is that your hypothesis has to produce at least one testable prediction the failure of which will show the hypothesis to be false, to qualify as scientific. There is a tendency within academia and institutionalized science to add the restriction that a hypothesis needs to be a totally naturalistic explanation. The justification for this is that you can explain away anything by throwing it under the label of supernatural, however, that is only true if that is only as far as you take it. After all the same argument can be made with the general label of naturalistic. If you are dealing with a specific supernatural event, that leaves detectable evidence then it is a testable hypothesis and would still qualify as scientific. The same thing goes for including intelligent agency, as long as an intelligence leaves testable evidence behind from its activity, then such a hypothesis can be considered scientific. In fact, both forensics and archaeology distinguish intelligent activities from natural phenomena. Any rule excluding either intelligent or supernatural explanations is an artificial limitation based on philosophical presuppositions that eliminate the possibility of God as an explanation before any data is actually looked at. The simple fact is, that as long as an explanation produces one or more predictions the failure of which shows the hypothesis to be false, it can be considered scientific regardless of the nature of that hypothesis. Otherwise, you cannot consider science to be a true search for knowledge.
There are those that will reject as science or scientific evidence anything that has not been through formal peer review. Not only that but the formal peer review has to be from acceptable publications or else it still does not count. There are two types of peer review formal and informal. Formal peer review is a gatekeeping mechanism for publication in scientific journals. Informal peer review is reporting the results in a book or other format, that then gets reviewed by others and either accepted or not. There is nothing wrong with either of these approaches but over-reliance on formal peer review as a qualification of science is problematic, particularly when limited to relatively few journals. The point is that the results of scientific research do not magically become science by being published in the right scientific journal. However, this is the position that some people seem to take, and it is particularly common among evolutionists.
At its heart, science is a methodology for acquiring knowledge. As good as it is, science is not perfect. The fact is that science works best when dealing with what is happening in the present and studying currently active phenomena. This makes it an excellent process for learning about how the universe functions, but philosophical presuppositions can get in the way, particularly when the phenomenon being studied cannot be studied directly. This can be the case with the extremely small, the extremely large, the extremely distant, and the past. The simple fact is that the further something is from direct observation, the harder it is to study it scientifically and the more likely that philosophical presuppositions can get in the way of finding the truth.