Population Growth

One of the more amusingly wrong creationist arguments is that, if the world is really so old, why aren’t there trillions of us? I mean, evolutionists have to propose millions of years without any population growth at all! How could this be true, if population grows in the geometric pattern P(t) = P0ert?

This is the question asked by the latest B.T. DpSU, Earth Hit the 7-Billion Mark Too Late. Mr Thomas is objecting to a paragraph in a paper called When the World’s Population Took Off: The Springboard of the Neolithic Demographic Transition from a three-month old edition of Science which said:

After the members of the genus Homo had been living as foragers for at least 2.4 million years, agriculture began to emerge in seven or eight regions across the world, almost simultaneously at the beginning of the Holocene.

This must clearly be wrong, as “according to the Bible and historical records, there was never a time when humans weren’t engaged in agriculture.”*

Estimated Population curve, from 10000 BCE to 2000 Continue reading

Soft Tissues are Back!

I told you they were conflicted.PLoS-logo

A new article is up at that repository of creationist nonsense, the Institute for Creation Research. It’s called Peer Review Fails in Soft Tissue Study, and is a follow up from an earlier article – Latest Soft Tissue Study Skirts the Issues, which intriguingly they didn’t reference in this article, which is unusual – which I covered in Soft Tissues and Logical Fallacies a fortnight ago. A quick summary of the situation as of then is in order: Continue reading

So Who is this Brian Thomas Guy Anyway?

The ICR has missed two three deadlines (midnight Dallas time, weekdays – 5pm for me) for the publication of DpSUs – there is nothing new since Monday. So much for ‘Daily’…

What have I been doing during this time? Apart from, you know, school work and stuff.

  • I made a ‘blogroll’ – a list of links to other blogs that I read and you might be interested in too. It’s in a widget somewhere on the right at the bottom.
  • I’ve read a gazillion blog posts and webcomics (no change from usual)
  • I have been over at RationalWiki, reading the WIGO:CP page and talk page.
  • And I’ve been working on a RW page for Brian Thomas Continue reading

This is the Best You Can Come Up With? – Quick DpSU

There seems to be a conspiracy theory amongst Creationists, at-least at the ICR, that dinosaur beds contain fossils of modern species as well. This conspiracy seems to be largely the result of the work of “Medical doctor Carl Werner”, and his Evolution: The Grand Experiment book and DVD series.

For today’s DpSU, Brian Thomas (who we haven’t seen for a few days), in typical Type AE (Misrepresented Study) style, uses a National Geographic article about an interview with a palaeontologist working in Madagascar to provide “More Proof That Dinosaurs Lived With ‘Later’ Creatures“.

Ignoring the references to Werner, which I will likely cover as part of my Noah’s Flood series (they appear elsewhere as well), Thomas’ article boils down to the number of non-dinosaur specimens dug up in Madagascar. However, as you can see, Thomas is either ignorant (which I doubt) or is trying to set up a straw man:

According to evolution, dinosaurs dominated certain “times” millions of years ago. But according to Scripture, all animals and plants had been created by the end of the sixth day. If the former is true, then dinosaur fossils should primarily be found by themselves. But if the latter is true, then dinosaur remains should be found mixed with those of birds, mammals, and all kinds of plants.

The “Time” of the dinosaurs was dominated by dinosaurs to a similar degree that the present day is the “Time” of mammals, and is dominated by them. As you are most likely fully aware, while there are a lot of Mammals around there are also Birds and Lizards and Fish and Insects and Slime Moulds, and also a few Plants as well (seriously, where did that come from?). The Mesozoic likewise had those groups, along with dinosaurs and a scattering of mammals (it might be added that birds are dinosaurs). Nobody is arguing that we would only, or even primarily find dinosaurs in Mesozoic sediments. But leaving that aside for the moment, what has been found that so excites the Creationists?

Not much that should, really:

Along with dinosaurs, the finds included an extinct bird named Rahonavis, a short-bodied crocodile-like creature called Simosuchus, and a toad that Krause and his colleagues named Beelzebufo. Other than having been about twice the size of today’s largest toads at 10 pounds, it was just like a modern toad.

An “extinct bird”, a “crocodile-like creature” and a toad.

Wow.

Rahonavis is an extinct genus, part of an equally extinct Subfamily and Family, the latter of which includes Velociraptor, as it happens. Their classification as “birds” appears to come from when they were initially discovered, and before many of the more recent feathered dinosaur finds that had feathers. The National Geographic article calls them a “dromaeosaurid theropod, one that belonged to a particular group known as unenlagines otherwise known only from South America”. Awesome, yes, but not evidence towards Thomas’ premise. It’s hardly modern…

Simosuchus is frankly bizarre:

Simosuchus was based on an exquisitely preserved, articulated skull and most of the skeleton found in 1998 by a Malagasy graduate student, Louis Laurent Randriamiaramanana. It is an extremely unusual crocodyliform that seems to break many of the rules of being crocodile-like. Instead of having a long snout, it had a pug-nose. Instead of having long, conical teeth with which to capture prey, it had leaf-shaped teeth, probably used to eat vegetation. Instead of having a long, laterally compressed tail, it had an extremely short, uncompressed one. Instead of having a few rows of bony plates in its skin like most of its close relatives, it was enveloped in them, resulting in a tank-like body; it even had bony shields on its legs. And on and on. The phenomenal preservation of this specimen in particular, but also several more recently discovered skeletons, prompted us to thoroughly document the anatomy of Simosuchus and make inferences about its relationships and functional morphology in a recently published, large, multi-authored volume (Krause and Kley, 2010).

(From the N.G. article)

This “kind”, as it were, of creature (ie the crocodile and similar) has existed for a long time, longer even than the dinosaurs themselves. This find, while also awesome (this is palaeontology after all), again only helps Thomas if anyone actually did claim that you would only find dinosaur fossils with dinosaurs.

As for the toad? More can be found here. I don’t want to repeat myself, so go read the article yourself.

None of these showed any hint of transitioning from one form to another, as Darwinism predicts, but instead each was found fully formed. And who knows what other birds, amphibians, and possibly mammals were discovered by the team in Madagascar that have yet to be publicized.

What? Were you expecting transformers fossilised in the act? A toad with half a leg? Honestly… It might be added that the lines of both the ‘bird’ and the crocodyliform have died out. Few fossils are the direct ancestors of modern animals, more like the aunts.

So, nobody aside from Brian Thomas is claiming that there can only be dinosaur fossils in finds like this. And because of that, nobody is unduly surprised. If they found a bona-fide modern animal, then maybe he would be right. Until then…

New Study Can Be Made To Vaguely Correlate With (Parts Of The Second Half Of) The Book Of Genesis (DpSU)

Or, as Mr Thomas puts it, Genetics [sic] Analysis of Jews Confirms Genesis. Same thing? Let’s see…

What actually happened? A study was investigating the genetic evidence for further “sub-Saharan African gene flow into some West Eurasian populations after the initial dispersal out of Africa that occurred at least 45,000 years ago” (I’m quoting from the actual study here, by the way). They found that “the proportion of African ancestry in many Southern European groups is 1%–3%, in Middle Eastern groups is 4%–15%, and in Jewish groups is 3%–5%.”

What Brian Thomas picks up on is that the “3%–5%” is (to continue to quote the study) “consistent” over all the “8 diverse Jewish groups we studied”, which had been separated from each other for some thousands of years in many cases. Thomas uses this to back up the following claim:

Genesis records that Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob (Israel), married an African from Egypt.4 Numbers chapter one records that Joseph’s descendants, including those of both Ephraim and Manasseh, together outnumbered those of the other tribes.5 And elsewhere, Numbers tells that the proportion of land area that Joseph’s descendants inherited was larger than other tribes. Together, these records show that the African DNA of Joseph’s wife had a high likelihood of spreading through subsequent generations of Jews. And later relatives could also have married Africans.

In fact, a few generations after Joseph, Moses married a woman who was African. Numbers 12:1 states:

And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.

Though the PLoS study specifically looked for DNA similarities with peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, the fact that any Jewish/African marriages are specifically recounted in biblical records opens the possibility that sub-Saharan Africans would also have intermarried with Jews. The ancient Hebrews considered all of Africa’s inhabitants as either Egyptian if they inhabited the Nile River region, or Ethiopian if they came from any place south of Egypt—including sub-Saharan Africa.

And perhaps others, during the time from roughly 1706 B.C. when the Israelites entered Egypt all the way until they were taken captive by Assyria in 721 B.C. and even later, also intermarried.6 In line with this date range, the genetic study provided a wide time range for African admixture with Jewish ancestors, “between 1,600–3,400 years ago.”1

When it comes to history, genetic analyses can provide clues at best, whereas ancient records provide more reliable information. This analysis of Jewish genes certainly corroborates what the Old Testament tells about the history of the Jewish nation, and this not surprising since “O LORD God, thou art that God, and thy words be true.”7

(See Thomas’ articles for his references)

These claims are…interesting in a number of ways. We’ll get to them shortly. Mr Thomas also says that:

The study authors said:

A parsimonious explanation for these observations is that they reflect a history in which many of the Jewish groups descend from a common ancestral population which was itself admixed with Africans, prior to the beginning of the Jewish diaspora that occurred in 8th to 6th century BC.1

But unlike their other results, the authors did not correlate this explanation with historical records, being evidently content to let the reader speculate about possible associated events. Did they do so because those records are not secular but biblical? Was the Bible ignored because it is considered taboo as a subject of serious historical study?

Thomas’ interpretation here is wrong on multiple counts. The study authors are biologists, not historians, and so can only make explanations based on biology and general population movement and mixing. It is not wise to take your explaination directly from the Bible, especially as your sole source. The study does talk about groups of Irani and Iraqi Jews “thought to descend at least in part from Jews who were exiled to Babylon about 2,600 years ago”, but then they give two references for this (Levy H, Ebrami H (1999) (1999) Comprehensive history of the Jews of Iran: Mazda Publ. and Rejwan N (1985) (1985) The Jews of Iraq: 3000 Years of History and Culture: Westview Press.), neither of which come directly from the Bible. I doubt that the same thing can said of the descendants of Jacob. Secondly, they authors remark (right before the quote) that “An important caveat is that there is significant heterogeneity in the dates of African mixture in various Jewish populations”, something that Mr Thomas seems to have forgotten. What this means is that while in all Jewish groups the mixture seems to be the same, said mixing seems possibly to have happened at different times for different groups. The quoted explanation is merely the winner if you apply Occam’s Razor at this point. We don’t yet know if that is exactly the case. It is therefore infinitely premature for the authors to “speculate about possible associated events”, or anyone else for that matter – especially, as stated above, since the authors are biologists, and to do so would be operating out of their feilds, dangerous at the best of times.

It would take an absurdly more precise study to back up Numbers 1 or 12. You can’t possibly (at least at present) confirm or deny whether or not a particular marriage occurred, interracial or otherwise via such a method. You may be able to shed some light on whether “later relatives could also have married Africans” but doing so doesn’t really help or hinder his argument. Finally, Thomas’ headline was misleading – “Genetics Analysis of Jews Confirms Genesis” – really? All of it? I like mine better…

Genetic Stop Sign Halts Evolutionary Explanations (DpSU)

Soo… If you genetically modify the good ol’ fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to remove a presumed-redundant genetic ‘stop signal’ at one of the many places in the fly’s genome where there are double ups, you don’t get a very happy fly. Also, this disproves evolution. hmm…

You may have noticed that Mr Thomas has two default templates for his news articles. In the first – such as the baby tyrannosaur news item I covered at the end of this post, or the Io post – he takes a legitimate news piece and/or scientific study, and uses that as a launch pad to talk about something only vaguely related, usually something he claims ‘evolutionists’ cannot yet explain. Alternatively, in a post like this, he takes the study and reinterprets it to back up creationist ideas.

In this article, Thomas also talks about “a study published in 1980, [where] core fruit fly genes were altered, one by one, and the resulting plethora of dead flies proved that there was no “wiggle room” to add the mutations that evolution would require.” The 1980 study can be freely downloaded here, while the new one will require a subscription to Nature (which I don’t have, btw). When referring to the study Thomas links to an article here on the subject, if you want to read along.

The 1980 study deals specifically with mutations that affect “segment number and polarity in Drosophilia“. I would contend that tinkering with such genes is like randomly playing with the foundations of a house that’s already been built. Especially since all the mutations involve the removing of segments. As a general rule, major changes in the body plan of animals are rare, for the reason that other things have been built on top of this and rely on it to work, otherwise they become harmful. You can’t give a cat six legs – at the very least you’ll stuff up it’s finely evolved balance. It shouldn’t be unexpected that such mutations would be largely detrimental – evolution doesn’t progress in such large stages all at once.

As for the new study, this doesn’t really support Mr Thomas’ conclusions either. As I mentioned (to quote from the article on the study) “the majority of genes have more than one stop-signal” which looks at first to be redundant and useless. That we can show that there is a strong reason for this doesn’t mean that the organism cannot evolve. Basically, Thomas does not succeed in backing up his conclusions:

First, in addition to the raw code for proteins carried in the gene, this particular stop sequence is also required for any fruit fly to survive. In other words, the genes plus the regulatory DNA comprise an all-or-nothing system that defies evolutionary ideas of the fruit fly being the product of a gradual accretion of its parts.

Moreira said that both full stop signs are required for “effective regulation of the levels of the resulting proteins.”2 The correct numbers of proteins must be expressed during embryonic development.

Second, this result adds to an ever-growing list of regulatory DNA sequences that do not code for proteins but are nevertheless vital. It appears that a vast majority of any organism’s genome is highly regulated, tightly packed with information (often double-layered), and therefore unable to tolerate many mutations without breaking down.3

Citation 2 is from the alphagalileo.org article I linked to above, while 3 is from one of Thomas’ own articles, which is surprising as it seems to be related to Junk DNA, a common subject in the ID community at the moment, for some reason. There are therefore plenty of better places to cite for this important statement.

In summary, what Thomas is saying is that Fruit Fly genome is such that further modifications cannot be made by evolution as all mutations are detrimental. He is also extending this into the past, effectively claiming that the D. melanogaster genome is Irreducibly Complex. This is again a dangerously large example if IC – there could easily be a simpler form, considering what we know from the two studies. A lot of research has been done on D. melanogaster, and I don’t know if there has been other studies showing places where you can mutate the fly to get surviving offspring. I have a hunch though, that there have been documented cases of this.

So, Thomas is trying to show that “the removal of this one fly “stop sign” demonstrates that the whole fly must also have been purposefully engineered.” He doesn’t manage it. All we have is a study that shows it’s not possible to remove segments from the fly willy-nilly, while the other shows that a common feature of genes is infact useful, as you would expect. More evidence is needed to “prove that there [is] no “wiggle room” to add the mutations that evolution would require”. Until then…

Amber and Embryos – DpSU’s, May 30

There have been some rather amusing articles from Mr Thomas in the last few days…

To summarise the first, a CT scan of a 49 million year old spider trapped in amber (video) apparently challenges evolution, largely on the grounds that

  1. The spider’s relatives haven’t noticeably changed over the millennia, and
  2. The amber has rapidly oxidised and turned opaque since being found in 1854 – how can it have been 49 million years old?
  3. The Baltic Amber was caused by the Flood, as “a large deposit [of amber, such as in the Baltic,] implies massive damage to whole forests that was catastrophic enough to trap even “strong, quick animals.” This kind of broad-scale destruction is consistent with the global Flood or its residual catastrophes.”

The first is interesting – how much can you expect the surface of a spider to change over a few millennia, compared to another spider in the same genus? Considering, you understand, that you can’t see the colour and the specimen isn’t complete in all respects. I dunno myself, but I doubt it’s that much. As time passes, major changes in organism groups are decreasingly common, and spiders had been around for nearly 200 million years when the amber here was made. Thomas tried to make a similar argument not too long ago, when he claimed that horsetails hadn’t evolved much since the time of the dinosaurs (150 million years ago, in this case). Again, this isn’t unbelievable. What would be useful here is DNA for comparison, and despite what you might have seen on Jurrassic Park this is unfortunately not possible for either the horsetail or the spider specimen. This hardly “Confirms Creation”. It is also worth noting that the whole “Punctuated Evolution” saga is over the degree to which evolution occurs in bursts, nobody feels that evolution occurs “relentlessly”, even if more the most part mutations do.

As for the second, this is claimed to be a killing blow but in reality is glossed over somewhat. Thomas claims that “there are no known rock types that are able to totally block oxygen from passing through them”, which may well be true, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the amount (or lack of) oxygen is sufficient to slow the rate of oxidation by orders of magnitude. Considering that it still took 150 or so years to turn opaque while out in the air, how long would it take under anaerobic conditions? Probably quite a while, I think. Tellingly, a section of a paper that I am unable to access states that “The high content of organic matter in the sediments [which sediments I don’t know] favours the preservation of amber by preventing its oxidation and destruction. Otherwise, in aerobic conditions, during pre-transport exposure to the atmosphere or reworking processes, amber oxidation takes place quickly”. Interesting…

The Flood reference seems a little out of place, or at least poorly backed up. It may well be true that amber appears as a result of catastrophe, but I can’t see how this could be caused by “the global Flood or its residual catastrophes”, the nature of which are not specified by Thomas or the Bible as far as I am aware. Indeed, Thomas provides no challenge to the dating of the amber at 49 million years, nor the insects in other pieces of amber, which are indeed different to their present forms.

As for the second, “Embryonic Tissue Development Needs More than Just DNA“, therefore God. Something like that, anyway…

I can’t claim to be an expert in this (or anything else), so I’ll take it that Thomas has faithfully reported the study that he is using for a source, and is merely adding his own interpretation. What he is claiming the study shows that if you stimulate muscle contractions in roundworms with a needle, you can cause stem cells to differentiate into epithelial cells. Fair enough, but then Thomas goes on to claim that this means that not all embryonic development is caused by DNA, and even further as to say that:

…the fact that specific elements other than DNA—in this case, nearby cells and their contractile motions—are required for proper development removes evolution from contention as a possible origins hypothesis, since evolution supposedly operates by making changes to DNA.[ref to own article] So if something other than DNA is needed to develop and sustain life forms, then evolution is out.

So, what causes these contractions in nature? (I’m assuming they do occur in nature, though it doesn’t necessarily follow). It’s possible that it comes back to DNA. Even if not, Thomas is attacking a straw man of evolution, in which DNA is the only agent of heredity. It doesn’t have to be – Darwin sure didn’t know about DNA or genes, and anything that permits “descent with modification” can be incorporated into the system. After all, why wouldn’t it be? Imagine, for a moment, that we’re talking mammals instead of minute invertebrates, and that the cause of the muscle contractions is the precise chemical composition of the fluids in the womb. Most likely, the make-up of this fluid is determined by the mother’s genes – evolution can still occur. If it comes from the food she eats, that is still determined by genes. Hypothetically it could come from an approximate synthesis of the fluid the mother experienced in the womb herself, but even here evolution can still occur, although DNA is no longer involved to such a degree. Mistakes can still be made, and Natural Selection can still punish them. Thomas needs to show that the only possible explanation of the roundworm muscle contractions is divine – Evolution can still act on anything else, except possibly direct environmental influence, but if this was generally harmful to the organism, it can be evolved away from, or if not the species will simply die off. Will he do it? Lets see…

…He doesn’t. Instead he goes off on a tangent with a dangerously large example of irreducible complexity. I.C is usually invoked for the very small, such as bacterial flagella, not for things as large as roundworms and other multicellular creatures, as it makes it more plausible that the arch really would collapse if one stone was removed. This makes it even more likely that this, like most – if not all – other examples of I.C. raised over the years, simply isn’t irreducibly complex. I couldn’t tell you if that was the case, however, so I’ll assume that the situation is indeed I.C. It would seem likely, then, that instead of a simpler origin to the situation, it began (or at least went through a period of being) far more complex, inefficient and redundant. As time and evolution passed, it became simpler and simpler until it could do so no more, like a mountain eroded down to a single, beautiful rock. As a result, it fits the definition of ‘irreducibly complex’, but has still evolved. As you would expect, Thomas does not mention this, and merely finishes thusly:

So, what does it take to make epithelial tissue in roundworms, and possibly in other creatures? The answer is: precisely the right DNA, the right hemidesmosomes, the right kinds of nearby muscle cells, and the right strength and duration of muscle contractions. Without all these features already in place and fine-tuned to work together, there would be no epithelial tissue, and as a result, no surviving creature.

Skin development could not have evolved by a gradual addition of traits, because this would require a version of the animal that did not already have all the required traits. Such a transitional form would have died, and the animal would not exist today. And since it certainly exists, it must have been created.

*sigh* And to think I thought irreducible complexity was dead…

Quick DpSU’s #1

Here’re some quickies:

Self-Cloning Lizards Fit for Survival

So, some lizards can reproduce by a system akin to cloning – parthenogenesis – and this can be created in the lab. Also, “evolution has no useful explanation for the origin of sexual reproduction, let alone unisexual.”

This isn’t useful in itself. Sure, the field is not settled, but what is? Ironically, the article itself gives us an idea for an explanation for why a species could reproduce both sexually and asexually:

It would make sense that a Creator would have endowed these egg-laying vertebrates with the potential to perpetuate themselves even in the event that a male was unavailable.

It would also make sense that a species could have both abilities due to natural selection. And anyway, the actions of a ‘Creator’ can always be made to ‘make sense’ in the light of new evidence. How is this a ‘useful explanation’?

Sounds like another “you can’t explain therefore God” article.

‘Old’ Galaxy Found in ‘Young’ Part of the Universe

According to Mr Brian Thomas, M.S., the author of most of the science related DpSU’s, a distant galaxy imaged via gravitational lensing as it was 800 million years after the Big bang is too modern in appearance to be from that time period, calling the whole Big Bang theory into question, claiming that “In the common conception of stellar evolution, 200 million years is not enough time for the Big Bang’s randomly distributed gases to have coalesced into well-formed stars and galaxies.” That the reference for this is, interestingly enough, from one or Mr Thomas’ own articles from about a year ago, which doesn’t provide any references of its own that would back up Thomas’ present claim. Even more interestingly, the citation has the following statement beside it:

Actually, the addition of time does not make star formation any more feasible. Since a nearby exploding star would be necessary to form a new star naturally, it stands to reason that the first stars—and therefore the galaxies that they inhabit—must have been intentionally created.

I was under the impression that the very earliest stars did not need any stellar shock waves to start off – they coalesced out of the abundant hydrogen and were very large, lasted for only a short while and blew up in a spectacular fashion, providing plenty of energy to get any nearby stars that did need a good jolt moving. It would also make sense if the reason why modern stars need such a shock is that, if they didn’t, the would’ve already have formed. I could be wrong, mind.

Original Study: (pdf)

Thomas’ source articles: here and here

He also seems worried (if that is the right word) about this new galaxy having “well-defined edges”. I’m not sure how he can tell (a more zoomed in picture doesn’t help), and I can’t find his source for that.

Evolutionary Leftovers in DNA? Not So, Says New Study

This is basically about Junk DNA (the titular Evolutionary Leftovers) which other people are covering in far more detalil than I am at the moment, so I’ll defer you to one of them

And finally, T. Rex Toddler Answers Noah’s Ark Questions

What? The whole the-whole-thing-couldn’t-actually-float-if-made-from-contemporary-materials thing? Or what they fed the animals on? How a colony of bees is supposed to recover from a population of a single queen and a useless drone? How small flightless birds such as the kiwi are supposed to have gotten from the far corners of the earth to Mesopotamia in time to catch a boat, and then back again? What all the trees were doing at the time? What the salinity of the water during the flood was, and what all the fish that didn’t like that amount did during that time? How the flood managed to carve out the grand canyon in one go without stripping the topsoil off the entire world at the same time? Where all that water came from, and where it went (without invoking divine intervention)? And for that matter, where did they put all the feces?

Apparently not. The article is trying to counter the old claim that there wouldn’t be enough room for all the animals on the ark, and does so in two ways.

  1. There could have been juveniles on the ark, rather than adults (hence the tying in with a new discovery of a “T. Rex Toddler”), cutting down on the space per animal (never mind infant mortality)
  2. There was only one pair of every kind on board, and so cutting down on the number of animals needed to be taken.

I haven’t done that math, but I doubt number one does anything to help the situation. On a related note, are Dinosaurs ‘clean’, and do they count as birds? (I know bats do). If so, then Noah needed not one but seven pairs of each.

As for number two, this is shaky ground. If only one pair of each kind was on board, then in the intervening period between then and now millions of species would have had to evolve, at a much faster rate than any ‘Evilutionist’ has suggested actually happens. And this from people who reject evolution utterly as having never been observed…

Despite ‘Magma Ocean’ Discovery, Io’s Volcanic Heat Remains a Mystery (Rumour Has It)

Now for some ‘news’, or rather “Daily (pseudo)Science Updates”.

Apparently, adding to the hefty list of evidence against both evolution and the universe having existed for a long time in general, Io gives out too much energy to be “old” (he must be flattered).

A recent creation astronomy video summarized the issue by stating, “If Io is young, it could still be cooling off from its initial formation. But if it’s really billions of years old, that energy would have dissipated long ago.” [What You Aren’t Being Told about Astronomy, Volume 1: Our Created Solar System. 2009. DVD. Directed by Spike Psarris. Creation Astronomy Media.]

Said video isn’t all that recent, mind – as you can see, it came out in ’09. What is, however, is a new study that shows that, as expected, there is a magma ocean beneath the surface of Io that is the source of the raw materials for its eruptions. The article about the study that they link to, however (I can’t see the study itself), has got nothing to say about any troubles when it comes to explaining Ioian heat loss. So where do they get the idea that Io is emitting an “order of magnitude” more radiation than it “should be” if the “long age” models were correct.

The answer to that question is here:

A review paper on the Io heat problem referenced German planet scientist Tilman Spohn, who “acknowledges that there is a gap of about one order of magnitude between the observed heat flow from infrared measurements and the heat flow theoretically determined from tidal [friction] dissipation models.”5 Io’s heat output is therefore around ten timesgreater than the long-age models say it should be.

Well, sort of. You see, the citation that the number ‘5’ refers to is  not anything by Spohn that either confirms or denies this, but a paper from the “Fifth International Conference on Creationism”. After some digging I’ve found that paper here. As there doesn’t seem to be anything new in the article, Let’s take a look…

The paper begins with an explanation of the Orbital mechanics involved. Io, Europa and Ganymede are in an approximate 1:2:4 orbital resonance. That is to say that for every one orbit of Ganymede around Jupiter, Europa goes around twice and Io four times. Also, this resonance apparently causes Io to have a much greater eccentricity than it would otherwise, and also prevents Io from drifting away from Jupiter. So far, this seems legitimate and is largely a paraphrase of one of the papers references (pdf). There is also a reference to the use of Lunar Recession as a creationist argument, but this isn’t the core premise of the paper.

The paper then goes on to talk about tidal heating and Io’s heat output. It first mentions the (accurate) prediction in 1979 (in the above referenced paper) that Io could be “the most intensely heated terrestrial-type body in the solar system ” due to tidal heating. They go on to say:

Though this was an excellent bit of work and the prediction was confirmed by Voyager and other observations, the heat produced by Io and radiated from its surface appears to be greater than the amount of heat generated by tidal dissipation. Of the energy transferred from Jupiter to Io via the tides, some of this energy produces internal heat in Io’s interior and some of it affects the orbit, tending to cause Io to slowly drift outward from Jupiter over time. The orbit resonance with Europa and Ganymede on the other hand tends to prevent Io from drifting away from Jupiter, though it increases Io’s orbital eccentricity and causes certain variations in Io’s orbit. Planetary scientists today generally believe that the tidal dissipation mechanism is an adequate source of heat to drive Io’s volcanism and explain Io’s high surface temperatures.

There are no citations here, so we’re going to have to suspend our disbelief and take the authors word for it that they’re going to back it up eventually. To continue:

Io radiates a great deal of energy; the total heat power given off over its whole surface would be approximately 10^14 Watts

This is backed up by a reference (pdf) which seems all in order. I’ve taken the liberty of using this figure to calculate the total energy output of Io over the last four billion years, assuming that the energy output has remained the same for the entire period (which is unlikely). The answer? 10^31 Joules. According to Wolfram|Alpha, 10^31 Joules is equivalent to:

From Wolfram|Alpha

It’s a lot, but not unbelievably high (for 4 billion years). Also, 10^14 Watts for only the one year comes out as 3.154×10^21 Joules, which is:

From Wolfram|Alpha

Again, not actually that much… An order of magnitude or two more than it receives from the sun, I’ll believe (the area Io exposes to the sun – pi times the square of it’s radius – is 0.08184 of that of the Earth, and Io is a lot further from the sun). To continue on that vein, 10^14 Watts over a mere 24 hours comes in at 8.64×10^18 Joules. The radiation gained by the Earth from the sun in the same period mentioned above appears to be around 1.5×10^22 Joules. Io, therefore, presents .05% of the area to the sun and gets 4% of the radiation for a given area, for  about .002% of the energy as a total. That comes out as 3×10^17 Joules of energy from the sun per day (ignoring Jupiter’s shadow etc), or about an order of magnitude or so less than the amount outputted by the Jovian Moon in a day. Whew… Anyway, where were we?

So this paper is trying to ‘explain’ the descrepancy between the energy output of Io and the amount of energy gained by Io from tidal forces. You will notice, however, that the author has not quantified or qualified the statement “the heat produced by Io and radiated from its surface appears to be greater than the amount of heat generated by tidal dissipation ”. It is also admitted that “Planetary scientists today generally believe that the tidal dissipation mechanism is an adequate source of heat to drive Io’s volcanism and explain Io’s high surface temperatures.”. Therefore, the paper needs to show that there is indeed a discrepancy here, and that the only explanation for this is that Io is exceedingly young – in the order of a few tens of thousands of years.

I’ll skip over the section on the moon’s geology and interaction with Jupiter and go straight to the section entitled “Tidal dissipation and the heat problem ”.

“Tidal dissipation”, you might have gathered by now, is the process by which an object (here Io) gains energy (as heat) from friction in its interior due to Io changing shape because of the differences in gravitational attraction from Jupiter between apojove (furtherest from Jupiter during orbit) and perijove (closest). As you might remember, Io’s orbit is somewhat more eccentric (non-circular) than it could have been due to the aforementioned orbital resonance. Now, as you would expect, energy gained by Io has to come from somewhere, and with regards to Tidal Dissipation it comes from Jupiter. We also have some information about the quality factor, which is:


This information can be used to analyse the models that the paper covers, but isn’t really useful.

Now, here we go:

Can the observations of the heat radiating from Io as well as the orbital observations be explained in a  framework that assumes Io is less than 10,000 years in age? Is tidal dissipation the most significant heat  source in Io?

Interesting that he doesn’t ask if the situation is explainable in a situation where Io is much older. But anyway…

In order to address these questions we must first look at the observational evidence on
how much heat is radiated from Io

What follows is a much more detailed dicussion on how the energy output of Io has been determined, concluding that the average over a 10 year study was 10^14 Watts, as above, which he will use as the standard that “theoretical models of the tidal dissipation need to be tested against ”. Fair enough.

If tidal dissipation is the largest source of heat in Io, then do we have observational evidence of Io
moving farther from Jupiter? Most planetary scientists researching the Io tidal problem seem to assume  that Io’s orbit must slowly expand as a result of the tidal mechanism.

Ok, apparently Io needs to move away from Jupiter for Tidal Dissipation to work. Why? You tell me… I seem to have missed something. Let’s continue on until it becomes clear.

But from observations of Io, any  change in Io’s orbit seems to be too small to measure. This is shown by results published by Lieske [14,  pp 146-158]. This study examined a large amount of data, including 16,000 eclipse observations from  1652 to 1983. Their published value, for the rate of change of the mean motion of Io, is (-.74 ∀ .87) X  10–11 yr–1. They suggest that Io is slowly evolving out from Jupiter and out of resonance with time. But,  when the uncertainty is greater than the measured change how can this be the proper conclusion? I will  take the view that this result indicates Io’s orbit is stable and exhibits no secular change. If tidal  dissipation is the largest heat source it seems we should be able to measure some long-term change in  Io’s orbit. Lieske [14, p 146] comments to this effect: “The modern infra-red measurements of the energy  emitted by Io . . . if interpreted as being due to interactions of Io with Jupiter . . . large secular changes in  the mean motion of the satellite ought to be observable.”

So, we have a reference for this. I’ll go check it out…
It seems to be as reported. The ellipses in the quote are where Lieske’s original citations have been removed, if you’re wondering. What would be nice is that if the author feels he can arbitrarily decide on no change in Io’s orbit for his calculations, can he provide the results using Lieske’s number (-.74 above)? Just to check his working, as it were…

A number of planetary scientists have commented to the effect that the heat produced by tidal dissipation  is less than the amount radiated from Io’s surface from observations. Cassen, Peale, and Reynolds, in  1982 published [5, p 102] that the heat produced by tidal dissipation had an upper limit of 3.3 X 1013 Watts (W). Later in the same article the authors state, “However, the upper bound on Io’s dissipation . . .  is also exceeded by a factor of two. This is a serious discrepancy whose resolution requires further  study.” Pearl and Sinton further comment in a different article in the same volume [5, p 753]:

The observed high value of the heat flux can be obtained by adjusting the tidal energy
dissipation factor (Q) of Io, but the required dissipation is untenable if the current
eccentricity of Io’s orbit is an equilibrium value determined by a balance of the effects
of dissipation in Jupiter and Io . . . . As Cassen et. al. . . . point out, the satellites would
have been pushed farther from Jupiter in 4.6 X 109 yr than their present distances.
Hence the solution of one enigma, the old 10 to 20 :m discrepancies, has led to yet
another enigma: apparent incompatibility with the present orbital configuration. . . .
Complete elucidation of the heat source remains a significant outstanding problem
resulting from the discovery of active volcanism on Io.

Finally, the “citation needed” is not longer. So this is where he’s coming from…Trouble is, I can’t get my hands on said paper.

So maybe there is a problem. What we’re actually after, by the way, is Tilman Spohn’s ideas, which is what started this 2000+ word essay in the first place (see what I mean about it taking longer to analyse and debunk than to make up?). I’ll skip ahead to that part. You miss a discussion on whether if the tidal effect is enough to explain the entirety of Io’s heat loss, then would Europa and Ganymede have volcanoes too? along with some other models of the heat flow on Io, which the author believes to be inferior to Spohn’s for the most part.

The most recent study of the tidal dissipation problem for Io is published by Tilman Spohn in 1997 [19]. I  will refer to this model as the Turbulent Convection Model. Spohn acknowledges that there is a gap of  about one order of magnitude between the observed heat flow from infrared measurements and the heat  flow theoretically determined from tidal dissipation models. Spohn assumes first of all that Io’s core has  at least a molten outer layer and that there is a significant amount of melt in Io’s mantle. He assumes  that Io formed undifferentiated and that initially Io and the other Galilean moons were in orbits different  than today. The Galilean moons Io, Europa, and Ganymede then evolved into resonance by the  influence of gravity over about 2.5 billion years of their early existence. Following this (about 2 billion  years ago) these three satellites settled into the current resonant orbits. Thus in Spohn’s approach, the  orbital interactions of these moons, as well as the tidal-orbit mechanism, have been operating for about 2  billion years. Spohn assumes that the temperature of Io’s core was 2300 Kelvin at the time Io entered  the resonance [19, p 369]. He further assumes a radiogenic heating rate of 10^9 Watts. In Spohn’s  approach the orbital parameters of Io undergo a periodic variation with a period of 10^8 years [9, p 61].  Spohn relates thermal parameter variations to the orbital parameters in a manner different from other  researchers (he does not use the Q parameter). Spohn’s model is a disequilibrium model.

N.B. The author has defined a disequilibrium model as one that rejects “either or both of”

1) any long-term change in Io’s orbit is due to the  effects of the tides and
2) there are no thermal effects in Io more significant than those produced by the
tides.

As it happens, Spohn’s model (I can’t find his paper, unfortunately) involves a structure of Io similar to that which has been announced in the article that makes this “news”, hence his reference there.

Now, the paper quotes this from Spohn’s paper:

The time required to generate the lava is about 10^4 years accounting only for the
latent heat. The hot-spots in the mantle would thus use about 10% of the tidal
dissipation power and store the energy in magma for about 10^4 years. This energy
can then be released at an average rate of 10^14 W from the surface in about a
century after the lava has erupted.

So, problem solved, right? The author disagrees:

Some potential weaknesses of Spohn’s analysis are the following. In Spohn’s approach, the turbulent  convection would have taken place in Io’s interior for over two billion years. In this time, Io’s interior  properties would be likely to change due to the heat transferred to the surface and the amount of sulfur  and silicate compounds deposited on the surface. It seems doubtful that the interior properties could  support this type of convection for such a long time. Secondly, the time scale of the build up of the  mantle hot spots, (or magma chambers) from Spohn’s model is only 10,000 years, yet the time frame of  the orbital oscillations is on the order of 100 million years. These two phenomena should be related in  some realistic way if tidal dissipation is the primary heat source in Io. Spohn also assumed a high  temperature value at the beginning of the resonance period in Io’s history (2300 K). This high  temperature would stem from radioactive decay in Io’s early history and a proposed period of greater  tidal dissipation in the past as Io’s orbit was evolving into resonance. Considering other studies of heat from radioactive decay, from an evolutionary viewpoint, this temperature may be unrealistic. Most other studies of Io’s interior use temperatures of approximately 1500 or 1600 K.

Sounds like “more research is needed” – that is, business as usual for science. The author, being a creationist, disagrees, it seems. He feels, in a classic “god of the gaps” way, that because the normal scientific way has failed, that means that Io must have been created relatively recently by God, with an initial heat source that is comparatively rapidly dissipating. In other words, the entire article can be summed up as: you can’t explain it right now, therefore God.

Interestingly, the authors model could potentially make predictions about the situation, not just conveniently explain it via divine intervention, the usual situation when it comes to creationism. If Io is losing energy at such a fast rate, could it be shrinking as it cools? What would that mean for the Galilean system? All this was 8 years ago, so what’s the situation now?
(and for that matter, how badly is this post written?)

To conclude with the paper, while it does successfully demonstrate that there is a problem, dismisses Spohn’s model too easily, and prematurely jumps to the conclusion that Io must have been created. But this is what you’d expect, considering….

As for the ICR article, what’s new? Nothing much. It’s just another Daily (pseudo)Science update.