Those Soft Tissues

Click to view the list itselfThe Daily Science Update for Tuesday was Skin Sample Is Two Million Years Old? In it we have a return to the topic of soft tissues which were so popular back in July.

Back in July, along with a number of DpSUs on the subject, Mr Thomas created a list of “Published Reports of Original Soft Tissue Fossils.” At the time I went over this list, commenting on each entry in what was admittedly a rather typo-riddled post. I said I would make summary of the contents – considering I didn’t at the time, now is a good a time as any to do so. Continue reading

Ideological Indoctrination

It’s been several weeks now, but I still can’t find the new K-12 blog promised by this month’s Acts and Facts magazine to appear sometime this “Fall” – a season which I understand is roughly equivalent, time of year wise, to NZ’s Spring.

But not to worry – the ICR has been in the indoctrination education business for a while now, but it’s mostly been targeted at home-schoolers until now. The ICR sells a bunch of Science Education Essentials, of which they provide some samples. I’ve taken a look at their Human Heredity sample – which I have uploaded here (fair use for criticism, as always) – and I’ll say that it certainly looks interesting. Continue reading

“I Have A List”

Or the Institute for Creation Research’s Brian Thomas does, at least.

In a recent blog post I mentioned that a possible reason for Mr Thomas’ recent absence is the creation of a list of Published Reports of Original Soft Tissue Fossils. Or something like that – as you will see, the list is a repository of miscellaneous pieces of anomalous data that could potentially be shoehorned into ‘disproving’ evolutionary time-scales. Continue reading

The Global Catastrophic Model

Yes, the flood is coming soon… But give them a moment to build up to it.

Basically, in order to provide basis for the occurrence of the Great Flood, the creationists are attempting to revive the old model of Catastrophism.

The history is this: in the good old days (ie before Darwin and the like) people thought that the world’s features were created by large-scale catastrophes (like really big earthquakes, floods etc). As time passed, a more Uniformitarianist view emerged in the geological community. They now thought that there was very little effect on the environment by catastrophes, and that the processes that caused all of the geological formations on earth were the same as what can be seen to be taking place at present. (A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is wonderful on this topic, btw). However, over the last few decades, it has been found that there is evidence for both Catastrophism and Uniformitarianist, and that both have a role.

The attractiveness of Catastrophism over Uniformitarianism to creationists goes without saying. With pure Catastrophism, you have no need for vast expanses of time, and you can get in the Biblical Flood via the back door (more on that in a few posts). It could come as no surprise then to hear that whoever wrote the “Earth Sciences” section is advocating that “Geologists must deliberately and unabashedly discard outdated uniformitarian thinking and adopt, without reservation, a global catastrophic model”. Rarely is it rue that science decides in favour of one two arbitrary ends of a spectrum (evolution vs creationism being an exception as far as I am aware – they don’t seem easily combinable). Science is nuanced and is never simple, especially in a case like this. The current model still requires long periods of time, punctuated by the occasional catastrophe, like the various asteroid impacts over the millennia. Floods, however, do not figure prominently here, however, and I have a feeling that we are about to see a classic bait-and-switch (they’ll reel you in with volcanoes and asteroids, and then change to the Biblical Flood), as well as the straw man we are already seeing (they’ll demolish the position of pure Uniformitarianism that nobody holds any more).

There’s nothing much here about the model itself, however, which is a pity. I also object to the statement that “History is not open to scientific testing”. You can still make predictions and falsify them, for example you can search for transitional fossils.

Next: The evidence (although ominously the URL for the page is /worldwide-flood/).

The Earth Was Uniquely Created

I reckon I can swallow this category whole. It’s not really much, and I’ve covered much of it before.

Article I: Earth Was Created For Life

“It has been suggested that this page be merged into Earth Was Created in a Wonderful Location” (actually, if this was on wikipedia it wouldn’t last long for other reasons, but that’s not the point)

Basically, we go over he whole goldilocks zone thing that would be better served under the “Wonderful Location” title. But anyway…

So apparently, life couldn’t arise anywhere else in the solar system, but there’s life here, therefore the universe was created. Interestingly, they only talk about the other planets – no mention of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

I would make the claim that we can’t say at this point that there really is no other life in the solar system. On earth, life survives on volcanic vents under the sea – this could easily be the case on other planets and moons as well (though not necessarily under a sea). We can’t rule out non-earth life at present, we just haven’t found any yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if, should life be confirmed on Titan or anywhere else, the ICR will immediately pronounce it to be evidence of the power of God or some such – after all, if God is omnipotent, why can’t he create life anywhere? They’ll also declare it to be proof that scientists are wrong if if is found outside of the goldilocks zone – they have no trouble talking about other outmoded ideas as if they are the last word in science…

Article II: Earth Was Created in a Wonderful Location

This article is broken up into two parts. It should be three and include the above article as well, but never mind…

The first part is about how, if we were located anywhere in the galaxy other than where we are (two thirds out and on a minor spur of a spiral arm) there couldn’t be life in the solar system. As I alluded to before, this doesn’t really help the creationist case. If God is omnipotent and created the world only a few thousand years ago, he wouldn’t have had to be concerned about this sort of thing. Alternatively, had life arisen via natural means some time ago, it could only have survived in such a place as this (if the premise is correct, which it may well be). Therefore, only in such a Wonderful Location could we be here talking about it.

The second part, entitled “Our Planet is Perfectly Located Within Our Solar System”, is not actually about the “goldilocks zone”. Instead, it’s more about how the set-up of the solar system (such as Jupiter and the Moon) prevents asteroid impacts on the earth. This is… odd. This is coming from people who believe the earth is only a few thousand years old, while the craters would have taken a few billion to build up via such a method that we could be conceivably “protected” from them. This section also suffers from the criticism I gave for the above – if God is omnipotent, why did he rope in a moon and a few planets to his work for him? Also, what makes our moon “unusually large”? If the moon is, what is Charon?

Article III: Earth’s Core Was Created to Protect Life

This article seems to be a pile of half-baked ideas that haven’t really been expanded into a full-sized article:

Our planet was created for life.

A smaller planet, like Mars, would be unable to hold our atmosphere, which protects us from meteoroids and keeps the temperature within the range needed for life.

A larger planet, like Neptune, would trap too much atmosphere. The pressure and temperature would greatly increase.  A  stronger gravity from the increased size would also trap harmful gases in the atmosphere.

Earth has a strong magnetic field. This protects us from harmful radiation from the sun.

Venus has a much thicker atmosphere than us, but is around the same size as we are. Titan is much smaller than us, with a much larger atmosphere than we do. And define “harmful gases”. All of these, including the magnetic field reference, have the same problems as the previous article.

Article IV: Earth’s Water Cycle Protects and Provides

A nice piece of water chauvinism here.

“Water is the most abundant chemical compound on earth” – what about Silica and Alumina? They’re pretty common.

This article is basically waxing lyrical about how the water cycle is such a wonderful thing. It doesn’t really help the “Uniquely Created” story though – Titan has a similar system with methane, while Mars probably used to have a water cycle as well. The article also implies that you need water for life. You need it on the earth, yes, but not necessarily anywhere else. There’s plenty of water on Europa as well, as it happens.

Annd that’s it for that category, and indeed all of the “physics” section, as the all the categories under “Branches of Physical Science” are empty (Even Radiometric Dating) excluding the “related articles”. I’ll go over them after I finish the “Evidence from Science” branch of the Topics tree.

Next up in the archives: Catastrophes.

Elements Are Dependable across the Universe

….and this is “evidence for creation” how?

Arguably this is just evidence for the reliability of scientific methods of dating the universe. The ICR gave up on c-decay as an explanation for the starlight problem some time ago, hence their current rejection of the possibility of everyday changes in physical laws. Basically, this is just a justification for future uses of goddidit:

Processes today operate primarily within fixed natural laws and relatively uniform process rates, but since these laws were themselves originally created and are daily maintained by their Creator, there is always the possibility of miraculous intervention in these laws or processes by their Creator.

Aside from that, the rest of the article is pretty accurate.

So, now for the next category: “The Earth Was Uniquely Created“…

Available Energy Decreases Over Time

Another quick one. The reason? I almost agree with it.

This is the part that I agree with, more or less:

There is less available energy today then there was yesterday.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system, such as the universe, that is not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium. The Third Law of Thermodynamics states that as the temperature approaches absolute zero, the entropy of a system approaches a constant.

Fortunately for us, the temperature of the universe is not zero. It is moving that way each moment, but it is not there yet.

At some prior time, all the energy in the universe was available. Energy must have been created at some finite time in the past; otherwise we would have died long ago.

Interesting that this goes under the heading, The Universe is Stable. Depending on the answers to the problems raised in the previous article, the claims above may well be true. Hurray! But not for long…

The logical conclusion is that an infinite Creator made the universe a finite time ago.

Well, I dunno where the ‘infinite’ creator part comes from, and the whole sentence is a non-sequitur. That is to say, it’s not the logical conclusion. Assuming that the first part is correct and relevant (ie there is no way for energy or matter to enter the universe), we might well be able to say that the universe is of finite age. I’m no steady statesman, and they have their own ways around the problem. But to then say that we need a creator? Far too large a logical jump.

More Turtles on the Menu, Folks!

According to the Law of Conservation of Energy, and now the ICR, Energy Cannot Naturally Be Created Or Destroyed.

You’ll note that they differ from the usual phrase by the word ‘Naturally’. The author contends that the universe contains energy, and energy cannot be created, therefore God (or in this case, “our supernatural Creator”).

This is an interesting point, though more in where you go to answer it than any intrinsic value of it’s own. Leaving aside the whole turtles thing (What created God then? Oh, wait, you’re not supposed to ask that question. My bad), let’s look into it.

The Law of Conservation of Energy only works here by implying that the Universe is a closed, isolated system, where energy and matter cannot leave or enter. This sounds reasonable, but we don’t know that this is true. It might not be. So much for “the [only] logical conclusion”.

Then we have the question of how much energy there is in the universe. It isn’t infinite, it might even be nothing.

Considering we live in a time where we are just discovering dark matter and dark energy, and have not yet fully finished Big Bang theory, we are in no position to say anything concrete on this subject. You can’t prove it either way, at the moment. But it is too soon to jump to supernatural causes.

The Universe Has a Centre (apparently)

I shall begin with their existing “Evidence for Creation”. I’ll skip “Evidence for God” and “Truth”, as I’m not interested in that kind of argument (it should be evident that the ICR, unlike the Discovery Institute, make no attempt to hide their fundamental reliance on scripture) and I’ll leave “from Nature” for later. First and foremost are their (rather amusing) articles about evidence from Science that apparently back them up. Let’s bore down the tree and see what we get…

We find ourselves at an article announcing that The Universe Has a Centre. Now, you may think that I’ve given myself an easy one to do, but I assure you that it’s a direct drop from Evidence from Science, via The Physical Sciences and The Universe was Created. And no, it’s not the shortest article there, amazingly.

The article begins:

Our solar system appears to be near the center of the universe. Galaxies look the same, and are moving away from us in the same way, in all directions. The cosmic microwave background radiation comes to us very uniformly from all directions. These and other data strongly indicate we are located at a very special location by design.

There are a lot of problems with even this opening paragraph. Ignoring the statement that “Galaxies look the same” (if so, I wouldn’t be able to purloin nearly as good desktop backgrounds from Phil Plait’s blog), we come to the claim that everything is “moving away from us”, like the big bang happened right where we are standing, or thereabouts. While it is true that everything appears to be moving away from us, with the things that are further away moving faster than the closer ones, the inference from this that we are therefore at the centre of the universe is flawed. Imagine that the space time continuum is, rather than a trampoline, the surface of a balloon. “In the beginning”, as it were, said balloon was not inflated. Imagine the balloon has random dots on it, which represent places that you could stand and observe the universe from. As the balloon is inflated, keep your eye on one of the dots (if you’re going to do this for real, I recommend a pump, or alternatively a friend – I am not responsible for any eye strain caused by this little demonstration. Indeed, considering that it comes from Simon Singh’s Big Bang even the demonstration isn’t mine. Preform at your own risk). You will see all the other dots nearby retreat from it, with the further away dots moving the fastest. But this doesn’t mean that the point you put your eye on is the centre of this pocket universe. Rather, if you consider the universe to only include the rubber, it has no centre. Taking this to the real universe, we see all the galaxies rushing apart as a consequence of the expansion of the universe, and all the other galaxies see the same thing.

As for the microwave background radiation, it can be said that if the Big Bang happened anywhere, it happened everywhere. Because of this and the inflationary expansion of the universe, we see the CMB radiation coming at us from all directions, more or less uniformly, as they say. But this doesn’t show that we’re in a “very special location by design”.

You will remember that they say that we are near the centre of the universe. An interesting point is that by near, we are talking tens, if not hundreds of thousands of light years. If their little non sequitur was correct, our galaxy might be “near” the centre of the universe, but we are not at the centre of the galaxy. Not even close. Therefore, it might be assumed that the universe was created not for us, but for Trantorian aliens. A sobering thought…

Next Paragraph: (2 of 3)

Instead of accepting the obvious, recent models of physical cosmology assume the earth is not special and that everywhere in the universe the exact same observation of receding objects would be seen. Instead of a universe with an age measured in thousands of years, this assumption leads to billions of years.

Are they really trying to use Occam’s Razor on science? To continue a little from above, here is why having the earth (or Milky Way) not be the centre of the galaxy is the simplest choice: If we were really at the centre, and everything they say is true, somebody standing in the Virgo cluster of galaxies (say) would still see everything rushing away from them, in the same way that while a car may appear to you to be rushing away from you, to the occupants of the car, you’re travelling away form them. In short, “recent models of physical cosmology” are only assuming that you too are driving a car.

 In contrast, creation cosmologies explain the data better by starting from biblically-based axioms: the cosmos has a unique center and a boundary for its matter, beyond which there is at least some empty space; and on a cosmic scale of distances, the earth is near the center.

As you may have noticed, the ICR are basing their ideas on the bible, and are bending scientific observations to fit. A word to the wise – you’re supposed to do things the other way around.

Next up (in the archives series), a slightly longer article on… lots of things. Fine Tuning features prominently, for some reason. We’ll demolish that bridge when we come to it, as they say…