There have been three Daily (pseudo)Science Updates from the Institute for Creation Research since I last had long enough to systematically make fun of them. First:
Wednesday’s DpSU was called Water Near Edge of Universe Bolsters Creation Cosmology. It has in fact been so long since then that two other wordpress blogs that I read – Exposing PseudoAstronomy and The Sensuous Curmudgeon – have already covered it. It reads like follows:
- There is a (ginormous) cloud of water around a quasar 12 billion light-years away. This is legit – there is a news release and academic papersto back Mr Thomas up on this.
There is no problem so far. To quote the Curmudgeon:
We read about it but we didn’t think it was relevant to this blog’s usual subject matter. But then, we don’t think like a creationist.
I agree entirely – while I didn’t see this particular news item myself when it was still fresh, I will agree that it is exceedingly difficult to predict what Brian Thomas (for it is indeed he that is the author of these) will write about.
- One of the more bizarre Creationist cosmological hypothesis involves some kind of spherical shell of water around the universe. This is largely based on Genesis 1:6, which reads:“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” The “firmament” in this case is interpreted to mean space, or “Heaven” as 1:8 calls it.
That’s… a bit of a leap. but frankly it’s their problem if I turns out they’re been misinterpreting scripture all along…
The question of how some water around a random galaxy in the far-off distant reaches of space is evidence for this I’m not entirely sure. They also claim that the universe is ‘bounded’ – that is, has an edge. Modern cosmology would have it that the universe does not have an edge, in much the same way that the surface of a balloon doesn’t either – while the area is finite, you can keep going forever. “Finite but Unbounded” is the term used I understand. The reference for this (in a round about way) is a creationist “Technical article” called Our galaxy is the centre of the universe, ‘quantized’ red shifts show. I asked Stuart Robbins, the PseudoAstronomy guy, about it, and he said:
I gave sections 5 and 6 a quick read and then went to find some galaxy catalogues. I found three fairly quickly that had 76, 371, and 117 galaxies with redshifts in them. I made a simple histogram. None showed any quantization. Ergo, his basic working premise is already falsified. No real need to go further.
I didn’t look at Tifft’s original papers that Humphreys talks about, but I’m reminded of something on Coast to Coast AM that went on for awhile: A guest was saying that earthquakes in some state out west were following specific lines of latitude and longitude, meaning that they must have been manmade and then drawing all this conspiracy stuff from them. He had to retract the claims later (I was quite surprised he did so) when it came out that the data he was using was rounded to something like the closest 0.1°. So of course, when you look at it and plot it out with a resolution higher than 0.1° (or whatever the resolution was), then it’s going to look grid-like.
A bit more digging on Tifft shows that he may have had his own agenda and did start the whole “redshift quantization” thing, but it has now pretty much been put to rest as an artifact. But, as that same page I just linked to shows, it’s still frequently used by creationists to saw we’re in the center of the universe therefore goddidit.
That really sounds like it’s no real problem any more.
- And finally, this has something to do with the Pioneer anomaly:
[T]he Pioneer anomaly, an unexplained slowing of the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spacecraft on their way out of the solar system, is already well-explained by the overwhelming mass of a proposed sphere of water above the heavens.
The trouble is, the Pioneer anomaly is already explained, without recourse to any water in the interstellar medium (about which we already know the constitution). Bear in mind also that the anomaly was an acceleration, and not the effect of drag. Presumably the book that is cited to support the claim deals with that, but I can neither confirm nor deny whether it does.
The second DpSU is called Origin of Cells Study Uses Bad Science. It is about a study that adds evidence to the hypothesis that Mitochondria are most closely related to the bacterium Rickettsia, which is notable, among other things, for actually living inside other cells, as Mitochondria do.
The Creationist response to this is to claim that if Mitochondria evolved from bacteria that was ‘engulfed’ by a cell, at some point in the middle it would have had to have passed through a point where it was “temporarily useless.”
I have got to say that this is pretty weak. We can find bacteria such as this one that live inside cells. It is a fair assumption to say that over time the two will get used to each other. The only problem that the creationists seem to be able to raise it that you can’t evolve from that to the current situation, a premise which seems to be entirely based on the old “Mutations are always harmful” routine that we are familiar with.
Also, Mr Thomas accuses the study authors of begging the question, or using their results to back up the premise they started with. In reality, their premise – that Mitochondria were originally bacteria – is pretty well established, an this simply expands on that. This is not the first time that Mr Thomas has erroneously accused somebody of this fallacy.
A week or so ago it was announced across the world that new research suggests that Archaeopteryx may not be on the direct line between dinosaurs and birds after all. In the circumstances, this is not surprising – what would be the odds if we ever found such a fossil? As I’ve said before, most fossils we find are the aunts of existing animals, not the direct ancestor.
Nevertheless, the creationists have been all over this. The general evolutionary response to this attack has been written up here and here and here and here… As usual, the ICR is a bit late to the party, however. Brian Thomas’ article on the subject is called Early Bird Gets the Boot: Researchers Reclassify Archaeopteryx.
All I will say that we have yet another animal in the mess that is the divergence between birds and dinosaurs. This is just what evolution predicts. He also says:
In reality, Archaeopteryx is still just an extinct bird, and it is still not even close to an evolutionary transitional form
Which is…really wrong. It’s transitional – what makes it not. He’s already admitted that it shares features between birds and dinosaurs – what’s his problem?
And that makes a good enough point as any to end on – what is his problem?