Friday Falsehoods #4

1. The Solar System: Uranus, Jason Lisle, Acts & Facts, 1 February

The orientation of Uranus’ magnetic field is quite unusual. Most planets have a magnetic field that is approximately aligned with their rotation axis. Not so with Uranus. The magnetic axis is offset from the rotation axis by an astonishing 60 degrees. Moreover, the magnetic axis does not pass through the center of the planet but is offset to one side by roughly one third the radius of the planet. From a secular perspective, it is mystifying that Uranus should have a magnetic field at all. Magnetic fields naturally decay with time and should be nonexistent in planets that are billions of years old.

On the other hand, the magnetic field of Uranus fits perfectly with biblical creation. In 1984, creation physicist Russ Humphreys predicted the magnetic field of Uranus based on the amount of magnetic decay that would have happened on the planet in the 6,000 years since its creation.11 Voyager 2 confirmed this prediction. Although the presence of a strong magnetic field on any planet is a confirmation of recent creation, this is especially the case for Uranus.

So the standard explanation, which models planetary magnetic fields as complex fluid “dynamos,” cannot explain a misaligned and off-centre field, but Humphreys’ model, effectively a giant decaying bar magnet, can? That doesn’t make any sense.

Deeper reading: the notion that he “predicted” the field of Uranus is debunked at – basically, it was the equivalent of him saying “I predict that you earn $70,000 in a year, but if you earn anything between $7,000 and $700,000 I’m going to claim it as a win.” For more on Humphreys search for him in the bar on the right near the top.

In the next paragraph Lisle also claims that Uranus “lacks any measureable internal heat.” While it’s true that the planet outputs considerably less heat relative to that which it gains from the sun than the other gas giants – less even than the Earth – that’s not at all the same as an outright absence. According to Lisle this means that a dynamo could not be powered: he seems to be picturing an entirely cold and dead world.

2. Counting Sheep Since Jacob’s Day, Brian Thomas, Acts & Facts, 1 February

Genesis presents the first written record of selective breeding when it describes Jacob inducing specific sheep to mate and then separating the “stronger livestock” from the “feeble.” There is every historical indication that this practice has continued unbroken from before Jacob’s time until today. How many years has this artificial selection been going on?

And I thought we were supposed to be all about the strong vs. the weak… The biblical story that Thomas is referencing – which is actually about goats, but accuracy when talking about sacred texts is for chumps – involves Jacob attempting some sympathetic magic in an attempt to produce results which appear to be caused by underlying mendalian genetics about which he is utterly ignorant. It does talk about differentiating between the stronger and feebler goats, but this is all about the placement of the magic sticks he has made and not an actual breeding project as we would understand it.

Deeper reading: Thomas’ point is that artificial selection doesn’t produce new kinds, therefore Darwin was wrong when he used it as evidence for the power of natural selection. To which I say: have you looked at the abominations that have been inflicted on Brassica oleracea lately?

3. Early Man Findings Contradict Evolution, David Coppedge, Creation Evolution Headlines, 3 February

PhysOrg reported a fossil claimed to be an ape-like Paranthropus that was supposedly evolving into Homo erectus, but if there was gene flow between Homo erectus and Neanderthals—as is now believed—it creates a severe break between the first two links.  Moreover, the feet of the specimen show that this ape spent most of its life in the trees.  It went extinct, the article says, not evolving into a human line.

Were do we start? Perhaps with how Paranthropus isn’t an ancestor of H. erectus, but instead a side branch? And what is he saying about H. erectus and Neanderthals? This makes even less sense than the Uranus story.

Deeper reading: This is just one of a number of news stories that Coppedge talks about in that article. All of the other explanations are similarly bad. Read through at your own risk.

4. Genetics — Not a Friend of Evolution, Bob Sorensen, Evolutionary Truth by Piltdown Superman, 5 February

Evolution is an ancient pagan religion. After various attempts to make it appear scientific before and during the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin managed to popularize it in 1859 and 1871. People grabbed evolution as a means to reject God while appearing scientific and intellectual. Darwin taught that natural selection was the basis of changes in species. Creationists also believe in natural selection, as it eliminates organisms that are unfit for certain environments and is scientifically verified. However, traditional Darwinism had to abandon natural selection as a means of molecules-to-man evolution. (Surprisingly, some people are uninformed that they are holding to a belief system that has been left behind for decades; creationists often educate them. Or try to.)

That may be the worst explanation of evolution that I have ever seen. Congratulations? Sorensen has at least come across the fact that there is more to evolution than natural selection – a topic covered in detail in highschool biology here – but doesn’t seem to know the true significance of that fact.

Deeper reading: This wonderful example of the Dunning-Kruger effect is just a longwinded way for Sorensen to link to an apologetics article, as is often the case.

5. Noah’s Journal, (Unknown), Answers in Genesis, 6 February

Without having to use our imagination and relying instead on God’s Word, we read the account in Genesis 7 of the breaking apart of the fountains of the deep. This breaking up would have almost certainly tossed the Ark about. But because of its stable design due to its seaworthy proportions, the Ark would have ridden out the angry waters with confidence. After all, it was the Creator—the designer and builder of the world and all its magnificent complexities—who specified to Noah how the Ark was to be built.

YECs often seem to forget where the text ends and their interpretation – the “imagination” of a multitude – begins, especially when it comes to the Ark story. For one, it’s not at all clear what the “fountains of the deep” actually are. Whoever wrote this clearly has an idea, but whatever it is it’s not in genesis.

Deeper reading: this article is of course another ad for AiG’s Ark Encounter project. Wasn’t there an important deadline about that recently?

There you go. Have at!

19 thoughts on “Friday Falsehoods #4

  1. I did watch the great debate and found it pretty dull really. I would have much preferred it if Nye had waded into the ridiculous Ham claims with a bit more clinical precision, much as you have done here, but alas, it was all a bit lame. Really like your posts, they give me much food for thought and help me to understand issues that I don’t have time to research myself, thanks 🙂

    • Thanks! I did end up seeing about 30 seconds total, and neither of them were terribly inspiring. It could have gone much worse, however.

  2. Without sounding gooey I can’t fully express the dimensions of my appreciation for the time and thoughtful effort you put into EotICR here, Peter, so I’ll simply say (again, as I have before) that I am SO glad you are on the empirical science side of the naturalism/supernaturalism chasm, THANK YOU for being here!

  3. I say Amen to Frank’s remarks. Peter, if you or someone similarly well versed in creationist claims and their best rebuttals had taken on Ham, he would have been mince meat. Instead, I think Ham got off easy, and ended up looking somewhat credible (at least to fellow YECS), as Nye missed chance after chance to make strong rebuttals and raise some of the strongest evidence for OE and evolution. A classic case was their getting into a flap about whether Noah was skilled enough to build the ark –as if Nye was coneding or at least entertaining that there was a real Noah and Flood, instead of explaining some of the powerful lines of evidence against a recent Global Flood. At one point Nye went off on some tangent about the origin of sex that was more confusing than anything else. Nye showed a fossil from the very site of the Museum, saying it refuted Ham’s view, , but didn’t explain why and how. Ham claimed a piece of wood in basalt was dated at 45k, and Nye failed to even recognize that its a case of misapplication of C14. Ham claimed repeatedly that there were over 100 dating methods that indicated a young earth, and that radiometric dating is wildly inconsistent and based on dubious assumptions, both outright lies (not one reliable method indicates a 6k year old earth, and radio dating is largely consistent, based on well established principles, and confirmed by several independent methods). Nye didn’t bring any of that out. Ham repeatedly asserted there was no death and no predators before the Fall, and all Nye did was say lions have sharp teeth for eating mean, which Ham countered by pointing out that bears have sharp teeth and are mostly vegetarians. Nye just let that go, instead of pointing out all the animals that are clearly predators (sharks, poisonous snakes, etc) and the fact that the absence of physiall death would be an ecological impossibility, since with unchecked reproduction, the earth would soon be awash in horrendous overpopulation and starvation. I could go on. After many of Ham’s claims, all Nye did was say something milk-toasty like he didn’t find Ham’s view “very reasonable” when he could and should have showed how utterly wrong it was. Ugh.

    • To do that, you’d need a truly encyclopedic knowledge of creationist claims – the Index and then some. Apparently Ham talked about some planes buried in ice in Greenland: I’d likely have been stumped if I hadn’t looked it up. The challenge is knowing what to say when you haven’t heard the claim before.

      But it would have been nice if Nye had known the carbon dating stuff inside-out – that’s just too common a claim.

  4. In regards to David Coppedge’s remarks: “PhysOrg reported a fossil claimed to be an ape-like Paranthropus that was supposedly evolving into Homo erectus, but if there was gene flow between Homo erectus and Neanderthals—as is now believed—it creates a severe break between the first two links.”
    This seems like total nonsense, or am I missing something? I’d like to ask Coppege, how would H erectus interbreeding with Parantropus hinder H erectus or its ancestors from later breeding with Neanderthals?
    By the way, one of the first YEC books I read was the 1973 book Evolution: Possible or Impossible, by David’s father James Coppege. It makes mathematical arguments that various proteins and other organic molecules could not arise from “chance alone.” At the time, as a mush-brained teenager wanting to make YECism work, I was initially impressed by the book’s arguments, but now realize that they were based on many assumptions which range from weak to demonstrably false. James also seemed to imply that if the first cells did not arise from chance, than the entire concept of evolution was wrong, which of course does not follow at all. Not surprisingly, David gives his dad’s book (still in circulation) glowing reviews on and elsewhere.

    • I really don’t know what Coppedge was getting at – perhaps he meant H. sapiens had the gene flow with Neanderthals? He does have a comment thread if you want to ask him directly, but I don’t know if he’ll answer.

    • I’m wondering whether he might be starting a series. Nye may have gone too far saying that creationists can’t be scientists (or something like that), but Thomas himself is stretching it a bit there.

  5. The entire thrust of Thomas’s review was that Nye’s based his case mainly on the “no true Scotsman” fallacy–by implying that that YECism is unscientific because most scientists reject YECism. Besides neglecting many other aspects of the debate, Thomas is the one making a fallacious argument. Nye did not imply YECism was scientific just because most scientists reject it, but because it is contradicted by extensive evidence, and because Ham was not open to even considering that he may be wrong. Indeed, when Ham was if any evidence would possibly change his view of origins, Ham said no, because it was based on Bible.

  6. Not to pile on Nye more, but another thing that surprised me was his letting Ham repeatedly claim that only current events can be reliably studied by science because for past events “no one was there.” One time Nye commented that even things in the room happening “in the past” which seemed weak at best, since we all saw what happened in the room- which was part of Ham’s point–when Nye could have pointed out that many past events (including evolution) can be well studied, and reliable conclusions drawn, from a wide variety of compelling evidence, from fingerprints and DNA at a crime scene (often far more reliable than eyewitness testimony) to fossils, tree rings, radiometric dates, and other hard evidence in the geologic record.

  7. Yes, Coppege said there was gene flow between H erectus and Neandertals, but then said that implied a break in “the linkage” between the first two, which is what makes no sense to me. It sounds as logical as saying my mother bred with my father, so that breaks any linkage between my parents and my grandparents. Thanks for the reference on where I could ask him what he meant, but I’m sure it would be a waste of time. No matter what he says, it would not change the fact that hominids like H erectus and other hominids had features intermediate between modern humans and earlier species. Yet he still rejects human evolution (and evolution in general), so he’s obviously not a man who can be reasoned with.

  8. On the Nye thing again… I have to disagree that Nye would have needed an encyclopedic knowledge of YEC claims to do a better job. Other than the example you cited and maybe a couple others, most of Ham’s claims were not new and exotic, but frequently repeated YEC claims or predictable variations of them. And aside from often dropping the ball on giving strong refutations of those, what disappointed me at least as much was that (in my opinion) he didn’t do a very good job of explaining some of the most powerful lines of evidence for evolution and an old earth. He barely touched on fossils and fossil succession for example, and repeatedly let ham get away with repeatedly claiming radiometric methods were based on dubious assumptions, and that hundreds of dating methods indicated a young earth. He alsowasted quite a bit of time on largely irrelevant tangents, like how good a ship builder Noah was. Don’t get me wrong, I like Nye, and think he did a fair job, and kept his composure well. I just think he could have been much better boned up on YEC claims and refutations, and presented a much stronger case for OE and evolution.

    • You might be right there – as I said, I didn’t watch the debate.

      If it had been me debating that question I’d probably have taken it very literally. That is to say, I would have spent much of my 30 minutes running through various creationist research projects and demonstrated how they were terrible: I’d probably start with baraminology, move on to RATE, then some palaeontology, talk for a bit about planetary magnetic fields and finish with the various proposed solutions to the starlight problem (there’s a pattern there, if you can see it). That would be fun, and would annoy Ham’s amazing phd scientists to no end, but I dunno how effective it would be.

      Giving an outline of the evidence for an old Earth and evolution is certainly important, but I don’t think you should spend all your time on the defensive in that situation.

    • I wasn’t suggesting that Nye summarize strong evidence for an old earth and against YE/FG while on the defensive. Each debated had a large block of time (I think a half hour) to give their positive evidence at the beginning, and in the Q $ A session. I think Nye blew most of it on relatively insignificant arguments and tangential comments (including several attempts at humor that didn’t work). When he briefly mentioned some strong evidence, like star light or fossils, he said relatively little about them, and left out some of ways they are most devastating to YECism. For example, he showed that many stars are measured to be far more than 6.000 light years away, without mentioned that they also include events supernova explosions embedded in them, for which YEs have no plausible explanation, unless God is a deceiver. On fossils, he never gave a coherent explanation of fossil succession or why it strongly refutes Flood Geology by demonstrating major changes through time, with zillions of fossils in consistent patterns around the world, and not a single reliable “out of place” exception, whereas Flood Geology predicts millions of them. A couple times he tried to imply that by saying all Ham needed was a fish that swam into the wrong layer or something like that, but I suspect that went over the heads of most listeners. Likewise, he showed a slide with hominid skulls, and an Ordovician fossil from near the museum, asserting they refuted Ham’s view, but didn’t clearly explain how they did that (the homind skulls might have been somewhat self evident, but certainly not the Ordovician fossil). He spent a lot of time repeating the refrain that the US will be hurt economically if kids don’t understand evolution, but ironically, I don’t think anyone would have gotten a much better understanding of it from Nye’s performance, or realized how utterly refuted Ham’s position is (and the very question of the debate was whether YE Creationism was a reasonable view). In fact, if I were a YEC I’d have probably believed that Ham won, and if I were a fence sitter, I’d probably have concluded that neither made a verr strong case, and that Ham was at least somewhat “reasonable.” I say that from the perspective of someone who once (in the folly of my youth) tried to make YECism work, so I understand the YEC or would-be YEC mindset.

  9. Peter, I too would have brought up the RATE project during the discussion of radiometric dating, I think it _would_ have effectively refuted Ham’s claims on the subject, and showed how thoroughly unscientific YECism is in general. Nye could have even quoted from the RATE report, where the authors admitted that the geologic record shows massive amounts of radioactive decay, which cannot be explained in a YE timetable unless decay rates were vastly accelerated –for which there is no known mechanism, and which (if it did happen) would generate enough heat to vaporize the earth and everything on it. Then he could have quoted the author’s conclusions, where they propose unspecified “miracles” to both accelerate the decay rates and protect the earth from the resultant heat. That would have shown the gist of YECism–where “miracles” are proposed whenever major problem arise, making “scientific creationism” anything but scientific.


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