A simple tenant of science is the concept of falsifiability — you cannot prove something is true unless you can express a test, or a logical chain, that can prove the theory true. To achieve the standard of “truth,” you must, in fact, have a null hypothesis, or a counter theory, that you can hold your theory against as a sort of test.
Global climate change is a perfect example. The hypothesis can be roughly stated:
Human activity is causing climate change on a scale massive enough to endanger either all life, most life, or the quality of life in the future.
What is the null hypothesis for this statement? The telling point is — there isn’t one. Rather than presenting a null hypothesis, the common story line goes something like this:
It’s been proven; those who are opposed are evil, mean, uncaring people who don’t want to save their children.
What would the null hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming actually be? Something like:
While humans change the environment, the environment itself is so large that the impact of humans is too small to have any significant impact on the future of the planet, or life on the planet.
Have you ever heard it stated that way in the media? No… Me either. Even stating the null hypothesis, and taking it seriously, gets you immediately labeled as some sort of anti-scientific weirdo. You probably have big hair and a 70’s suit, and you probably cling to your Bible, too. So there.
For all our love of science, we often accept theories either with a false null hypothesis, or none at all. Evolution is the second example. What is the theory of evolution, simply stated? You could say something like:
All forms of life currently in existence, all intelligence, all emotion, all social organization, and all moral beliefs, are a product of chance operating on purely physical matter over long periods of time.
Most evolutionists would stop at “life,” in the statement above, but there is no place for the rest to come from in a purely evolutionary belief system other than evolution itself. What is the null hypothesis of this theory? The most common one you will hear is this:
All life came from an intelligent designer.
Can you see the problem here? The null hypothesis doesn’t really address the original hypothesis — the original theory. Instead of operating as a falsifier, the null hypothesis chosen actually operates as a completely separate theory. To give a different example, one that might be more helpful, if you have a hypothesis that says:
The sky is blue.
The null hypothesis is not:
The sky is cream cheese.
These two statements are not opposites. The opposite of “The sky is blue,” is, “the sky is not blue.” If you happen to be able to prove the sky is cream cheese, then you may, or may not, have proven the sky is not blue. It all depends on what colors cream cheese comes in.
In the case of evolution, the correct null hypothesis is:
Evolution cannot cause the variety of life, intelligence, the social structures, and the moral beliefs we actually see in the world around us.
Evolution doesn’t have to stand against intelligent design, it has to stand against the evidence. It’s not particularly important what the other options are when discussing evolution — and yet the entire world acts as though the only thing that matters is that we don’t start believing in what they call a “sky god.”
What’s going on here is actually a false dichotomy, not a real null hypothesis.
Which should leave us with this pair of questions:
Does evolution actually explain everything we see — all the forms of life, self-consciousness, morality, and all the rest? Can time plus chance plus nothing actually create information out of randomness? Does emergence really work?
What are the implications for human life if evolution is true? If emergence really happens on the scale required to produce the life we see, then emergence should be common enough to make things like communication impossible. Why doesn’t it? If emergence really works at this scale, then why aren’t new forms of intelligent life swarming the Earth? If emergence really works, then why must we “evolve” life in a lab to provide ourselves with examples of mindless processes creating new types of life? Or are we saying the scientist performing these experiments are actually examples of mindlessness?
While I certainly believe in a personal God who did, in fact, create all we see, the point is not whether or not such a God exists. The point is that evolution can’t stand without the prop of “I don’t believe in God” to hold it up. Find the right null hypothesis, and evolution collapses.