An article from Science Alert caught my attention when I suspected the headline might help illustrate some important misconceptions about science and its limitations. Namely, one of the limitations of science is its inability to piece together the past without being able to verify the past.
In this case, a new isotope analysis was enough to convince scientists that, instead of taking “tens of millions of years” for most of the earth to come together, it only took 5 million.
That’s a HUGE difference between what scientists initially believed, to what they believe now. This demonstrates why expressing skepticism towards established scientific theories is healthy, necessary and good. If scientific models were always correct and complete, these theories would never need to be abandoned or altered. Thus, in order for science to work, better theories need to replace inferior ones. But keep in mind that the new theory may not be correct either. How would we know?
The limitations of science should be apparent, particularly when dealing with the past. Thus, I think it’s helpful to recognize the distinction between forensic science and operational science. Forensic science is when scientists try to learn about and understand the distant past by studying evidence available to us right now, and then make inferences. In contrast, operational science is what can be tested in the present. The main difference is observational.
For instance, we can’t observe the distant past to find out what actually happened, so we can’t verify if the inferences are correct. No one can watch the Big Bang happen, and then watch the universe unfold. It’s not an observable, repeatable event. But we can drop an egg off a rooftop in the present and observe the effects of gravity, and we can repeat it over and over. Building a rocket or spaceship that can reach the moon or Mars is an example of operational science because we experiment in the present to see what works, repeat those experiments, draw conclusions, and then implement them successfully. This is why we have working cars, light bults, watches, etc. But how can we know that the Big Bang was an actual event if we can’t observe it? The answer is… we can’t.
This article illustrates this further by admitting as much. Well, they downplay the admission with an extreme understatement: “You see, we’re not really 100 percent sure about how planets form. Astronomers have a pretty good general idea, but the finer details… well, they’re rather hard to observe in action.” Bingo!
The bottom line is, scientists are not sure how planets form. Not 10 percent, not 50 percent, not 99 percent. It’s 100 percent assumption. Those are the limitations of science- in this case, forensic science. It’s a mystery. Nobody was there to observe any planet form, so nobody knows how they form.
So, what about the isotope analysis? Well, scientists found that the earth’s composition doesn’t match that of other objects in our solar system (like the moon and Mars). But it does match those of some meteors, suggesting that the current planetary formation model is incorrect. Therefore, scientists assert that a faster process was needed in order for earth to amass its iron core before the dust of a rare meteorite dust was sprinkled over the earth. This is the only way scientists can make sense of these new findings.
Further, these scientists reason that if the earth formed this way, then planets elsewhere in the universe could have formed this way too, and perhaps it is these conditions that makes life possible.
The article is filled with caution, yet doesn’t hesitate to make the claim that their analysis has changed the “very timeline of how the earth was born”. If there’s any truth to that statement, then the timeline, obviously, has nothing to do with reality. If it did, then the timeline would never change. That’s why it’s considered a model and shouldn’t be confused with facts- like the fact that the automobile engine works.
The author states that this revision contributes significantly to our current understanding of planetary formation. But that’s an unprovable assumption and cannot be substantiated. This assumption stems from the realization that current models don’t work, which I had known for many years.
Nonetheless, the author writes as if some theories are certain- like stellar formation. But it’s really based on incomplete computer models that do what they’re supposed to do, not reality or on observational data.
As a Biblical creationist, I would suggest another model for stellar and planetary formation, one in which God created the earth and universe in six days, not millions or billions of years. And while this model cannot be observed either, we can trust God’s word to be true.