This past fall I took part in a pro football “pick’em” contest. For readers unfamiliar with this game, let me explain that the contestants demonstrate their football “smarts” by predicting the outcome of NFL games played each week. Even though I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable about football, I finished dead last. No matter what, I just couldn’t predict the winners. (I guess there’s always next year.)
In some ways, science operates like a football pick’em contest. Scientists develop hypotheses, theories, and models to explain some aspect of nature’s workings. These ideas have logical consequences that lead to predictions about what scientists should have already discovered and what they will uncover in the future.
Scientists consider a theory to be valid only if it harmonizes with current scientific data and successfully predicts future scientific advances. Those theories that repeatedly fail to make successful prognostications must be reconsidered. They are not merely relegated to “last place,” as I was; they are rejected.
As an example of how this process works, a new fossil discovery from an ancient rock formation in South Africa weighs in on the predictions game. In our book, Origins of Life, Hugh Ross and I developed a scientific model for life’s origin based on Genesis 1:2 and Deuteronomy 32:9-12.1 Reasons To Believe’s creation model makes several predictions that can be used to evaluate its validity. For example, the model predicts that life should appear early in Earth’s history and that the first life forms should be inherently complex.
Evolutionary origin of life models, on the other hand, require a long “percolation” time, perhaps up to 1 billion years, before life can emerge from a primordial soup. These naturalistic scenarios also predict that the first life forms should be relatively simple.2
Numerous lines of fossil and geochemical evidence indicate that life was present remarkably early in Earth’s history, possibly as far back as 3.8+ billion years ago.3 (Prior to about 3.8 billion years ago, life would have been impossible on Earth, because the planet’s conditions were “hellishly” unsuitable for life.4) In spite of the weight of evidence in favor of early life on Earth, some origin-of-life researchers have questioned the authenticity of the most important and high-profile examples. These scientists maintain that the markers for early life are actually artifacts produced by inorganic processes.5
In the face of this challenge, RTB’s model predicts that future discoveries will strengthen the evidence for early life on Earth. Such a discovery was made recently by two scientists from Stanford University.6 These investigators recovered new fossil and geochemical evidence for early life on Earth in a 3.416 billion-year-old rock formation from South Africa. Their data indicate that anoxygenic photosynthetic bacteria produced the biological remains found in these ancient rocks. Even though such microbes are single-celled, their biochemical makeup is remarkably complex.
In support of RTB’s model, this new discovery confirms the early appearance of complex metabolic life forms on Earth. These facts find ready explanation if a Creator intervened to make Earth’s first life forms. At the same time, this discovery of early life runs counter to the predictions of evolutionary models. I guess there’s always next year¾but origin-of-life research isn’t football pick’em.
- Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross, Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004), 35-46.
- Rana and Ross, 47-60.
- Rana and Ross, 63-79.
- Rana and Ross, 81-92.
- Rana and Ross, 63-79.
- Michael M. Tice and Donald R. Lowe, “Photosynthetic Microbial Mats in the 3,416-Myr-Old Ocean,” Nature 431 (2004): 549-552.