The Tiny Tranquil Flood

Callan Bentley is an American geologist who runs the blog known as Mountain Beltway on the American Geophysical Union’s network. If, for some strange reason, you don’t follow him there you may well at least know of him as the scientist who pointedly refused the use of one of his photos in the Discovery Institute’s book Darwin’s Doubt.*

At some point in February he and Alan Pitts were apparently looking at sediment exposed by a some road cuts in the Appalachian mountains. Specifically they were looking at what they thought was the Hampshire Formation, which is supposed to be terrestrial in origin (i.e. rivers rather than oceans). But within the outcrop they found a few metres of black marine sediment, containing bands of limestone and a variety of fossils. Bentley wrote: Continue reading

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Friday Falsehoods #1

You don’t need me to tell you about the upcoming “Ham on Nye” debate – a name with many curious connotations – nor give you my opinion on whether it is a good idea or not. But any aspiring debater needs to be able to almost reflexively parse creationist claims for their most crucial and obvious errors. At present we’re four articles behind, so this is the perfect time to start this series – in future I will probably pull from other, non ICR sources as well.

The format we’ll start off with is to give you a quote from each article to consider, and then (if I can get it to work) you can go to the next page to see what I made of each. Then, head to the comments below to tell me what you would have said. Continue reading

Tim Clarey’s Better Explanation

About a week ago at his blog Naturalis Historia Joel Duff discussed the recent discovery in Argentina of the 240 million year old fossilised remains of a communal dinosaur latrine [EDIT: silly me, they’re not dinosaurs but Dinodontosaurs]. I suggest you go there for the details, but the most important point is that we have a number of sites of ~900 square metres in area and containining tens of thousands of individual coprolites (fossil poop). When originally reading his post I thought to myself that if I ended up writing my own piece on the subject it would be called “giant steaming piles of dinosaur shit” – while I have clearly changed my mind since this will still do for a subtitle, for reasons that will become clear.

Duff asked: “how [do] young earth creationists (YECs) interpret this fossil find?” Timothy L. Clarey, in Digging Into a Fossil Outhouse, provides an answer. He opens his article:

A group of paleontologists reported the discovery of concentrated fields of fossilized dung, called coprolite, in northwest Argentina. The closely-spaced dung piles are seen as evidence of gregarious behavior from large herbivores. However, does the great Flood provide a better explanation? Continue reading

On Top of the World

We seem to be making an overdue time jump into November: Brian Thomas’ article for Monday is called Tibetan Cat Fossil: A Tall Tale? He opens:

An international research team claims to have found the world’s oldest big cat fossil in Tibet, publishing their findings in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Big cats include lions, tigers, jaguars, and even snow leopards from Asia. The team dated several snow leopard-like partial fossils at between 4.1 and 5.95 million years old and a complete skull at around 4.4 million years. But how did the authors obtain these large numbers?

Continue reading

Bloody Mosquito Redux

Culiseta annulataIn mid-October I started a list in a google spreadsheet of “Articles of Interest.” It’s already up to 162 entries right now, and contains news articles and blog posts from a wide variety of sources that I might need to find again. The news stories behind a couple of recent ICR articles – on Dmanisi and the ancient galaxy from Monday – feature, as do many other topics which are likely to come up. The ICR tends to operate on a time delay of a few weeks, so looking forwards in the seven days following the galaxy story we have new information on Titan’s lakes; some abiogensis research; better dating for Homo (erectus?*) rudolfensis; and also that silly “Junk DNA face” story. Looking back at things they seem to have missed, meanwhile, turns up items like a story about blue straggler stars, a topic about which Brian Thomas has previously made noises, and an interesting system of extrasolar planets.

My point here is that there is no shortage of fresh science news of the kind the ICR likes to talk about. And yet for the second time in as many weeks Brian Thomas has decided to revisit an older story in order to better make a fool of himself. For Wednesday we have Questionable Dating of Bloody Mosquito Fossil – my previous post on this can be found here. Continue reading

Not Enough Lightning Strikes

Abisko rockI’m feeling a rush of what seems to be nostalgia: I’m sure it’s been ages since we saw such a classic example of an attempt to prove that the Earth is young via the use of an overly simplistic understanding of geological processes as we have here in Counting Earth’s Age in Lightning Strikes, by Brian Thomas.

But first a look at the research that prompted his article. Certain angular fracturing in exposed rocks – like in the above picture from northern Sweden – is commonly credited to the freeze-thaw cycle, with the expansion of water forming ice over winter acting to expand existing weaknesses. Other options do exist, but they all follow a similar theme. As Brian’s source paper, Lightning as a geomorphic agent on mountain summits: Evidence from southern Africa, says: Continue reading

Rock Flows

Reverse faultWhen you compress rock – and by “you” I really mean vast tectonic forces, and not your literal thumb and forefinger – it will tend to deform in such a way as to reduce its size in the direction of force. There are two broad categories of deformation. In brittle deformation the rock breaks and moves along the resultant fault. The scale of this movement varies considerably: while not produced from compression, the Alpine Fault in the South Island displaces the rock on either side by hundreds of kilometres and presently moves at a rate of tens of millimetres a year, but these processes go as small as individual tiny fractures in a rock. While the scales might be impressive, brittle deformation is not all that alien to our experience – everyone knows that rock breaks.

FoldingAt the other end of the spectrum is ductile deformation, including the process of folding. In this case, when compression is applied the rock layer gains waves like the folds in a rug. The scale of these folds can range from mountains down to individual crystals. But this latter kind of deformation is more than a little counter-intuitive: in our experience, rock generally doesn’t bend.

John D. Morris, the ICR’s president and holder of a PhD in geology, writes a regular geological column in his organisation’s Acts & Facts magazine. Several of those articles have recently exploited this potential for incredulity to put forward an explanation of the observed folding of rock that is more consistent with his creationist beliefs. While faulting can potentially happen in an instant, folding takes time – something which young Earth creationists famously lack. Continue reading

Hot, But Not Enough

A mid ocean ridgeHere’s something that I intended to write back in August when the Acts & Facts article it comments on was new, but haven’t until now.

For me, one of the most interesting parts of what I do here is compare the description published by the ICR of a piece of “secular” research with the research itself and the other things that have been written about it. Even when I don’t write my own post on the ICR article – whether through a lack of time, or through boredom – I often take a look at the background to see how well the reality matches that which is presented by the ICR. One example has stuck with me for the last couple of months: Tim Clarey’s August Acts & Facts article, Hot Mantle Initiated Ocean and Flood Beginnings.

Thin, dense oceanic crust is formed at mid ocean ridges and destroyed a subduction zones. Around 130 million years ago the super-continent of Pangaea rifted apart, beginning the formation of the Atlantic ocean. Elsewhere over the same period pretty much all of the ocean floor has been replaced at least the once by the same process. Young Earth creationists obviously don’t believe that 130 million years has passed, but the reality of plate tectonics and its components continental drift and sea-floor spreading is so overwhelming that even they cannot deny it (though some do still insist that it is not happening today – here’s John Baumgardner countering some of Michael Oard’s claims to that extent). Indeed, they now incorporate the concept into their models of the flood in the form of “Catastrophic Plate Tectonics,” which posits that the last 100 million years plus of tectonic movements actually happened during the single Flood year.

The problems with this massive increase in the rate of geologic processes are legion, but not the topic of this post. Instead, we’re looking at what Clarey thinks a paper published online in March in Nature Geoscience means for the beginning of the Flood: Continue reading

Mauritia: Another Ancient Microcontinent

India and Madagascar, Late CretaceousClaims of new “lost microcontinents” – often associated in the media with Atlantis – seem to be everywhere lately. For instance we have the recent Brazilian discovery of potentially continental rocks in the Atlantic ocean. Today ICR geologist Timothy L. Clarey has a beef with “Mauritia,” an Indian Ocean microcontinent under what is now Mauritius whose existence was proposed back in Febuary – he writes Outlandish Claims for Missing ‘Continent’.

A group of European scientists have announced the “discovery” of a small continent in the middle of the Indian Ocean that doesn’t exist on any known map. What is this proclamation based on? It’s based on the age estimates of some beach sand and a belief that the “absolute dates” the researchers determined are reliable and factual.

Clarey is not fond of this claim at all. Continue reading

Bone Sniffer

Here’s an interesting take on the soft tissue issue: Brian Thomas writes Can this Dog Sniff out Fossils?

Migaloo is a dog from Queensland, Australia, that has been trained as an “Archaeology dog” by dog trainer Gary Jackson. She sniffs for human remains, and apparently holds the record for the oldest bones found via this method – a 600-year-old Aboriginal grave. Jackson also claims to have trained a cancer-detecting dog, called Chance, but he has recently retired his research program due to expense and difficulty in finding test subjects. Continue reading