A friend of mine likes to invest in stocks. He understands computer companies so he trades only those stocks. This limitation makes for a simple and straightforward investing strategy. Evolutionists also limit themselves. They investigate only those phenomena that are the result of strictly natural causes. This limitation makes for a simple and straightforward research strategy, though it does create a blind spot.
An investor who buys only computer company stocks can easily identify those companies. He can find companies that build computers, computer components, computer software, and so forth. But how can evolutionists know whether the causes of a past event are strictly natural? How can evolutionists decide which phenomena fall into their research program?
The answer is they can't. Evolutionists have no test for naturalism. They have no way of knowing whether a phenomenon is the result of strictly natural causes.
Imagine an evolutionist using natural laws and processes to describe a phenomenon that does not follow such laws and processes. By searching and searching, he may find a partial fit. So he may have some success, but there are always unexplained observables—data anomalies for which the naturalistic explanation cannot account. Naturalistic explanations will always be problematic. More data will be collected, further analysis will be done, and theories will be modified or replaced altogether. All good scientific research and—in this hypothetical example of a non natural phenomenon—wrong.
When problems are encountered there is no way to tell whether the correct naturalistic solution has simply not yet been found, or whether the phenomenon itself is non natural. Non natural phenomenon can be confused with natural ones, and science has no tools for detecting this, for there is no mechanism within science to detect non natural phenomenon.
Consider the following example. What if it were found that a code existed in all living species and that, within each organism, complicated machinery was used to read vast amounts of stored information via the code? The machinery was so complicated that it automatically (i) read the information, (ii) used the code to interpret the information, and (iii) acted on the instructions.
And what if, after decades of research, no naturalistic explanation could be found for how the code and machinery arose? Even in this example, scientists could not know if naturalistic explanations have been exhausted. There are many problems with naturalistic explanations for the existence of the code and associated machinery. The problem seems to defy naturalistic explanation. But there could be a plausible explanation for how the code arose which has not yet been discovered. And how could anyone prove otherwise? To prove that a plausible explanation does not exist is far more difficult than simply continuing the search for such explanations. For to prove that no explanation exists requires knowledge about all possible explanations.
And what if there were hundreds of other such problems for which naturalistic explanations offered little more than speculation and were consistently falsified?
The answer is, of course, "so what?" Evolutionists cannot consider the possibility that there is no naturalistic explanation. This is science's blind spot. If a theory of natural history has problems—and many of them have their share—the problems are always viewed as research problems and never as paradigm problems.
Evolutionists continue to search for naturalistic explanations for hard problems because they must. Like Sisyphus forever pushing the stone up the hill, they must pursue naturalistic explanations no matter how unlikely. Imagine if they did not. What if, at some point, they were to give up? If they did, then they might miss an undiscovered solution. They might have been on the cusp of a stunning new discovery. One cannot stop trying because the problem seems too difficult—this would be stopping science in its tracks.
Consider the problem of the planet Uranus. After its discovery Uranus did not seem to orbit the sun correctly. Could there be an unknown force perturbing the planet? Uranus's orbit could be explained by the presence of yet another planet. This was one idea to explain the strange orbit of Uranus, and it led to the discovery of the next planet, Neptune.
Imagine if astronomers had considered that Uranus's anomalous path was due to non naturalistic causes. Perhaps an invisible giant was blowing on the planet. Then the prediction and subsequent discovery of Neptune would not have occurred. Deciding on non naturalistic causes can be a science stopper.
How can we decide when a scientific problem is not a research problem, but a paradigm problem? Naturalism has no criteria, no set of rules by which to make such a judgment. And no one wants to turn science's attention away from the future discoveries. In fact, phenomena that are more daunting for naturalism are also more tantalizing, for their explanations will be more surprising and dramatic. Not only does science have a blind spot, not knowing if it has stumbled upon an unsolvable problem, but there is a certain allure of such problems. No one knows what will be science's next "Neptune."
This helps to explain the hesitancy of scientists to admit that non natural phenomena might exist. In science we follow Descartes' prescription and approach everything using naturalistic explanations. It also helps to explain the tolerance for improbable theories. Historical theories, no matter how erroneous they may seem, could be just a "Neptune" away from falling into place.
All of this helps to explain how such an implausible theory as evolution persists. It is underwritten not only by theological conviction that natural causes must suffice, but by a philosophy of science that cannot abide any other possibility, no matter how implausible evolution becomes.