Like Mondas, but Bigger

Today’s piece of pseudoscience from the ICR is entitled Mythical Planet Doesn’t Solve Orbit Origins, lambasting a study which attempted to model the formation of the solar system – specifically the orbital characteristics of the outer gas-giants – by hypothesising the existence of a fifth gas giant, the size of which was comparable to Neptune and Uranus, which influenced the orbits of the planets but was knocked out of the Solar System by Jupiter. As I said: like Mondas, but bigger and without the Cybermen.

An artists impression of a much larger (Jupiter sized) rogue planet, but then how would you tell?

It has always been impossibly difficult for astronomers to realistically explain how galaxies, stars, and planets might have formed through natural processes. To prop up their naturalistic theories, they will sometimes invent unobserved structures, such as the Oort cloud for comets.

The Oort cloud is, shall we say, rather a bad example of an unobserved post-hoc object invented to explain a phenomenon. Certainly, we have never directly observed the cloud itself – indeed, we are currently incapable of doing so. We have, however, observed quite a number of comets that spend most of their long orbits in the region of the cloud. We have also observed similar clouds around other stars. In short, it’s looking pretty promising that it exists.

Imagine that you’re sitting inside one day and look out the window. You notice that the ground outside is getting wet, and hypothesise the existence of a small, localised rain cloud above your house, complete with (to you, invisible due to their small size) rain drops. You can see the effects of the cloud, but not to cloud itself.

Looking out over the valley you see another cloud, of which you can see the raindrops due to the collective haze they produce. You can see the cloud, but not the effects – you are too far away to see the damp footpaths. In this case, the Oort cloud is the cloud and raindrops, the damp ground the observed comets.

The creationists have no reason to attack the Oort cloud idea, other than the fact that it is inconvenient with regards to any argument they might have relating to comets not being able to be billions of years old. They will do anything to confuse you with regards to the amount of support the existence of the cloud has – the year-old DpSU that Mr Thomas cites on this subject is a prime example of this. It is also a prime example of “burning stupid,” so I advise you not to read it, at least while eating.

More recently, astronomers conjured an unknown massive planet that was supposedly responsible for placing Uranus and Neptune in their unique paths around the sun. However, the fictional planet is still a woefully insufficient cause for today’s planetary orbits.

The extra planet was proposed because cosmologists have had a miserable time trying to model the evolution of the solar system’s four gas giant planets from a huge, unorganized dust disc. The recent modeling effort, partly funded by the National Science Foundation, defined a “successful” attempt very loosely.

The requirements, according to Mr Thomas, were:

  • You must end up with rough equivalents to the planets we see today – if, like the study we are specifically talking about, you include extra planets at the beginning, they must have disappeared in some way by this point.
  • “[T]he four planets in the model only needed to have orbits that merely resembled, rather than exactly matching, those of the real planets.” As an example, the semi-major axis of the orbit of each planet at the end of the simulation needed to be within only 20% of what is observed.
  • Due, apparently, to some difficultly in obtaining the correct number, the amplitude of Jupiter needs only to be more than half of what is currently observed. I’m not entirely sure whether “amplitude” here refers to inclination or eccentricity or what, but I find it interesting that the creationists are attacking this science for predicting a situation that is more “perfect” than reality, which is the opposite of the usual.
  • The fourth was, according to B.T., something to do with the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter – presumably the resonance aspect. It is this that the ‘fifth planet’ is supposed to solve.

In other words, we don’t have to get exactly what we see through our telescopes, only something similar.

Mr Thomas complains that “the study author never clearly asserted that it provided a solution for all four criteria—or even one of them.” Also “even if it did, the defined criteria were not up to the standards of the solar system’s true structure, which just “happen” to be perfect for life on earth.” While it’s possible that life-as-we-know-it may not have been possible in a solar system that wasn’t identical to our own (after all, it wouldn’t have taken much for the dinosaurs to never have been wiped out), unless in this situation Earth also gets shot out of the solar system I can’t say that a remarkably similar kind of life couldn’t have turned up. And that will do, frankly – we’re probably within the margin of error anyway, considering.

Since no combination of natural factors, even with the addition of imaginary planets, can result in the known solar system, it must have been created by intent and not accident. If anything, this solar system simulation perhaps unwittingly confirms the Genesis account of creation, in which God purposely made the “lights in the firmament of the heaven” on Day 3 of the creation week.

Even if, even if Mr Thomas had indeed proved that ‘natural factors’ could not have created the planets, he has merely shown that the supernatural must have been involved some how, and not that it must have been done “by intent and not accident.” I could just have easily been one of those drunk Roman gods, and not by the weird triune God that the ICR believes in. Even if, even if you could prove the ‘design’ of xyz, you’re still a long way off the ‘intelligent’ part.

3/10 – slightly better than yesterday.


5 thoughts on “Like Mondas, but Bigger

  1. I was surprised to find that this non peer-reviewed paper, being a highly technical study of a work-in-progress, published on a relatively obscure website, should have been the subject of so many articles published in the popular press – from Scientific American to our own Daily Mail.

    Mr Thomas uses the common creationist tactic of hitting anything that might lead the faithful astray, fast and hard. Like a typical creationist he only reads a paper as a source of ammunition, he has absolutely no interest in understanding the content, let alone being enlightened by it. Ignoramus that he is, he latches on to certain ‘criteria’ but completely misses the point of setting them as he never read, or never understood, or never wanted to understand, the paper.

    The ‘amplitude’ in criterion C is the e55 amplitude. I suspect that Mr Thomas has no more idea what that is than he has of the ‘evolution of the secular g5 , g6 and s6 modes’. I suspect that few outside of a select group of researchers would understand it. Mr Thomas no doubt thinks that he is an expert on everything: paleontology, biology, astronomy, anything.

    If I have been hard on Mr Thomas, it is because David Nesvorny has written a perfectly innocent paper to be read by his peers and which adds a little light to a dark area of science. All Mr Thomas does is sneer.

  2. Alan, I’m not sure where you say this paper is “published,” but if you are referring to, then you are not familiar with that site. It’s a site where almost all people who work in astrophysics publish papers – either just after they are submitted to journals, after they have gone through first review, or just before final submission.

    Since almost all papers take months to go through review (the fastest I ever heard of was, well, one of my own that from when I got the idea to when it was accepted was a period of 2 months), many in the community have gotten sick of it and publish their completed drafts on arxiv. Some people post “submitted” papers on their websites or CVs (such as me), but it appears as though Dr. Nesvorny does not (I checked). It is likely he submitted that paper to The Astrophysical Journal or Icarus; if I see him Friday, I’ll ask.

    Otherwise, I agree with your reply. This was something our Dear Brian saw that he used as a springboard for a “Modern Science can’t exactly say what happened therefore goddidit!”

    Ergo, I’ll also not do a blog post on this particular “DpSU” and let Peter have the last word on it. 🙂

  3. Stuart, thank you for your reply. I was not intending to disparage but it is rather obscure to those of us who are not astrophysicists and this paper is hardly light reading.

  4. So that’s what is…
    I do wonder some times where he originally gets many of the papers that he writes on – while this one was indeed a reasonably major story, at least as far as science journalism goes (and now that you mention it Alan I’m also rather surprised that they ran with it), many of his others just seem to come out of the blue. I have a mental picture of some kind of creationist mailing list, exchanging links to things they think should be ‘debunked’…

    “…if I see him Friday, I’ll ask.”

    Is it normal, Stuart, for you to know so many other astronomers/astrophysicists? Were they that desperate for a good crater map, or do they all just live near Boulder?

    • Boulder has actually one of the highest densities of planetary scientists in the world. I got my degree at the university there and have a half-time postdoc there. But the other half postdoc is at SwRI (Southwest Research Institute) which is in downtown Boulder (Boulder “downtown” is like 4 km across). That’s where this guy works (checked the author location). Every Friday morning at SwRI, we have what I call “Friday Morning Science Doughnut 3/4 Hour” where we’re fed doughnuts and talk about the science news of the week from 9:15-10:00. I’m horrible with names and faces, but I’ll look to see if he’s there on Friday – 12-20 of the 70+ scientists come (depends on the week).


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