An Old Comet – Quick DpSU

epoxi trajectoryIn November of 2010 (and not October as you see above – comets are fickle beasts) the spacecraft EPOXI (better known as Deep Impact) made a flyby of the comet 103P/Hartley (Hartley 2). It found a rather odd world – peanut shaped, for one. For many of the pictures from the flyby, go here. Continue reading

Dinosaurs! (Flood Part #2)

Arguably the most entertaining part of any creationist Global Flood model is where the dinosaurs come in to it. Indeed, as John Morris himself asks for our introductory article, How Do The Dinosaurs Fit In? Let’s find out…

Velociraptor mongoliensis

Continue reading

ICR and the Time Before the Flood (Flood Part #1)

So what does the ICR believe about the Flood?

Quite a lot of interesting stuff, to judge by my newly expanded (and easily updateable) page with the list of known ICR articles on the flood. There is so much stuff to wade through that this has had to become a series of articles from the original planned (and I use that word loosely) single article.

We will begin, then, with their beliefs about what the world looked like before the Flood: Continue reading

…Or Maybe He Was Just Late (two DpSU’s)

It’s later than usual, but it is here. Brian Thomas is arguing that nature could not produce the spiders’ diving bell (see also) or the Hornets’ “well-developed heat pump system” (which is part of a system that turn ultra-violet light into something that it can use for energy). This is because that “is something that’s not easy [for us] to do.” which means that, according to him, “If it’s not easy for a person with foresight to do, then it is surely impossible for nature, which has no foresight.”

The problem here is that the argument that it is harder for “nature” (evolution/Natural Selection) to solve a problem than it is for humans is fallacious. That is not (necessarily) the case. As an example, in 1996 Adrian Thompson conducted an experiment with evolving electronics (see here, slides 21-26, for an overview, here for more detail). The idea was to evolve a circuit that could differentiate between inputs of 1 and 10 kHz (well, actually “1.042 kHz and
10.416 kHz”) to output 0 and 5V for the different frequencies (it doesn’t matter which voltage corresponds to which frequency. It actually flipped during the experiment, between generations 2550 and 2800). The circuit had to do this without the aid of any kind of timing device (unless, of course, it evolved its own). Continue reading

Updates – 22 June

He must be ill… No DpSU yet today (he doesn’t seem to work on weekends, but this isn’t one. And there have been a lot of other people writing recently that I haven’t covered as they haven’t even tried to talk about science, but there is no such article up as yet).

As for the Flood Series, I’m getting there, but there is a lot of stuff to wade through even for a first article.

See you then!

And..?

In an uncharacteristic article that makes today’s DpSU, Brian Thomas of the ICR appears to faithfully report on a study, and then makes no explicit Creationist claim about it at all! Is he ill, or are we to expect flying bacon at any moment?

He does say, however, that “God made humans in His image—a image that includes the capacity for reason”, the study having been about the capacity for reason in preverbal (not yet talking) infants, but he doesn’t go any further, merely using it as a set up for the traditional Biblical quote, which is here buried in the footnotes:

God appeals to mankind’s reasoning in Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

An odd quote, it looks to me to be more of a threat than an offer for reason, continuing:

19If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:

20But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

What say ye?

In other news, what’s the bets we see a DpSU sometime in the future based on this? I wouldn’t be surprised, considering that Mr Thomas has covered this kind of thing before…

Help! Help! (He’s) Being Opressed! – Quick DpSU June 20

Yes, folks, according to Brian Thomas, after some uppity “anti-design blogger” wrote to the Applied Mathematics Letters Journal, the “Journal Censors ‘Second Law’ Paper Refuting Evolution“. I kid you not – he really thinks that 😀

Let me go and calm down a moment.

Basically, the whole article is talking about how a paper that purports to prove that evolution does, in fact, violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics has been rejected by the aforementioned journal after formally having been approved.

Sewell refutes the notion that the second law can be circumvented as long as the order increase/decrease occurs in an open system. In an online lecture video explaining his “second law” paper, Sewell said, “Suppose you and your wife go for a vacation, leaving a dog, a cat and a parakeet loose in the house (I put the animals there to cause the entropy to increase more rapidly, otherwise you might have to take a much longer vacation to see the same effect). When you come back you will not be surprised to see chaos in the house. But tell her some scientists say, ‘but if you leave the door open while on vacation, your house becomes an open system, and the second law does not apply to open systems…you may find everything in better condition than when you left.’ I’ll bet she will say, ‘if a maid enters through the door and cleans the house, maybe, but if all that enters is sunlight, wind and other animals, probably not.'” Sewell, G. A second look at the second law. Online video. Posted on math.utep.edu, accessed June 9, 2011.

He certainly doesn’t refute my favourite Second Law counterargument. To quote PZ Myers:

Point to the creationist: ask whether he was a baby once. Has he grown? Has he become larger and more complex? Isn’t he standing there in violation of the second law himself? Demand that he immediately regress to a slimy puddle of mingled menses and semen.

The paper itself seems to suffer from a few fatal flaws. As usual, the author confuses Entropy with Disorder. As it happens, Sewell is largely regurgitating things he has already said in previous papers – he quotes himself often. This article covers a lot of what he has said previously.

Possibly new is the claim that “entropy cannot decrease faster than it is exported through the boundary”. The statement is possibly true, but the article never demonstrates that evolution violates it, preferring irrelevant analogies like the one you see above. The author also conflates the possibility of life evolving with that of the creation of man-made technology such as computers, missing the point entirely (what’s new?).

To cap it all off, and to return to Mr Thomas, we end with an irrelevant Bible quote:

Similarly, the way to arrive at DNA is not to transfer sunlight’s energy onto earth’s chemicals, but for someone to build DNA and place it in living creatures on the planet. And that scenario may sound familiar to those who have read Exodus 20:11. “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.”

Why that quote, exactly? I despair of these people sometimes…

With the Return of the Solar Flares Comes Talk of the Goldilocks Zone – Quick DpSU June 16

CME from June 7

I haven’t seen a Type Io DpSU for a (short) while, but this one just rehashes things I’ve talked about before, with a few additions.

So, the solar cycle is coming back around to its peak. There has been a lot of news about that lately, with Mr Thomas taking as his sources these two articles. Interestingly, since then there has been news that the cycle might calm down for quite a while, but that’s not particularly relevant.

Mr Thomas instead uses this study as an excuse to talk about the Goldilocks Zone, and other related arguments for Fine Tuning, beginning with the Magnetosphere and continuing from there:

[T]he magnetic field protects life on earth from this serious danger. If the field were not there, living creatures could not survive.

The problem with this, along with most other such arguments, is that it is only really true of life as we know it. There are ‘living creatures’ around volcanic vents, deep under the oceans, that couldn’t care less about the magnetic field of the earth. And there could easily be life on other planets that do not have such a field either.

Mr Thomas then goes on to list other fine tuning arguments:

Earth, for example, is situated within the Goldilocks zone, a “just right” distance from the sun for water to remain in liquid form on the planet’s surface. No other planet yet discovered has liquid water like that found on earth.

Again, this is only a prerequisite for our own sort of life. Take, for example, Titan. Titan has liquid (and solid and gas) methane on its surface. Such a situation could well be suitable for other sorts of life based on a similar(ish) chemistry to our own. The fact that this star-system contains both a water-planet and a methane-planet (well, moon), for no apparent reason, suggests that the chances of planets that could at least theoretically support life could well be higher than Mr Thomas is implying. The “Goldilocks zone” idea is unnecessary restrictive.

Also, the moon is strikingly well-balanced for life, being just the right distance from earth, just the right size, mass, and in just the right orbital path to make life on earth possible, in part by stirring up the ocean’s tides. In fact, its many precise specifications led two atheist scientists to title their 2005 book on the subject Who Built the Moon? They quoted famous author Isaac Asimov’s statement that the moon’s arrangement is “the most unlikely coincidence imaginable.”

One of the “atheist scientists”, Christopher Knight, is a proponent of, among other things, 366-degree Geometry. Remember, the correlation between ‘atheist’ and ‘sane’ is not perfect…

The moon has been moving out from the earth for some time, changing it’s orbit and distance. This is not a problem, as far as I am aware. Secondly, I direct you here.

Mr Thomas also mentions a few other things in an etcetera fashion, and I won’t go into them here. However, I’ve bookmarked one of his ‘references’ for later deconstruction…

Limits to Evolution and an Out of Place Fossil – Quick DpSU 14 June

Our first DpSU is entitled “The Cost of Adaptations Limits Evolution“. This seems to be a classic Micro/Macro Evolution story, and by my reckoning a Type AE DpSU (Misrepresented Study).

Or in this case, studies. Mr Thomas is talking about two studies from a recent issue of the journal Science in which bacteria (Methylobacterium and E. coli) were experimented upon, with the researches investigating the effects of multiple mutations on Epistasis. Epistasis, btw, is (to quote WP) “the phenomenon where the effects of one gene are modified by one or several other genes, which are sometimes called modifier genes.” Interestingly, the ICR article does not mention the word Epistasis anywhere outside of it’s references.

The problem I have with this article is that I don’t have access to any part of the studies beyond the abstract, so I’m a bit limited about what I can say.

To distil the ICR article down somewhat, what the studies seem to show is that, as beneficial mutations accumulate, their benefits decrease, causing a diminishing returns situation. And this disproves evolution how? Mr Thomas extrapolates this to say that animals only have a limited ability to evolve. So Baraminology is out the door then? Definiately an AE, though I don’t have the time to deconstruct the article.

As for the second, “Out of Place Marine Fossil Disrupts Evolutionary Index“.

The science behind this is that a group of animals from the Cambrian period, the Anomalocaridids, have been shown to have survived significantly longer. It might be added that we already knew that to a certain degree, but that wont stop Mr Thomas.

No, a new discovery shows (according to him) that the whole ‘Evolutionary Index’ is unreliable, as Anomalocaridids are a defining feature of Cambrian rocks, indeed make Cambrian rocks Cambrian. There is, however, no reference to that claim, which would help. He also claims that Noah’s flood predicts that fossils should be disorganised, and that this is a prime example of that. I’ll cover this kind of thing in my Noah’s Ark series shortly, but I’ll add here that the Flood would disorganise fossils a whole lot more than is observed.

Thomas also throws in a declaration that the fossils found are already perfect, and therefore could not evolve further and could not have been evolved either — therefore God (spot the logical fallacy anyone?). Also, he says that “no anomalocaridid looks like an evolutionary transition”. *sigh*. What is an evolutionary transition by Mr Thomas’ unknown definition anyway. A ‘transition’ looks no different from any other fossil, and is defined only by the prior discovery of fossils that have the potential to be ancestors/aunts and descendants/nieces of the new discovery. If you find fossils in a different order, different fossils are classified as ‘transitional’.

And that’s all I have time for tonight…