Earlier this year, young Earth creationist (and founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum) Ken Ham took issue with teenager Zack Kopplin’s arguments against allowing creationism in public school classrooms.
Ham claims that Kopplin and other public school students are “being brainwashed with evolutionary ideas.” He also argues that there is an important distinction between “historical science” and “operational (observational) science.”
Operational science is indeed observable, testable, falsifiable, and so on—but none of those words describes evolutionary ideas! While biblical creation may not be provable through tests and observation, neither is molecules-to-man evolution (or astronomical evolution). (Source)
(Note too that Ham challenges Kopplin to a debate. )
John Wilkins today addresses this creationist line of argument and points out that science doesn’t shy away from historical facts:
We will never know for certain if this or that ancestor existed in one way or another, but we have perfectly reasonable grounds for thinking there was an ancestor, in part because we have seen speciation (the splitting of one species into two) in the modern period, but also because we have firm grounds for thinking this theory (of common descent) explains adequately and without trouble the observed relationships of modern organisms. (Link)
Notice that the form of scientific inference that Wilkins seems to have in mind here is inference to the best explanation.
Wilkins also provides a link to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) discussion of “historical” vs.”experimental” science (which includes some good quotations from Eliot Sober).