Our Weird Universe

Better instruments have gotten us better data, but it's still not enoughPerhaps the most hypocritical of the arguments used by the Institute for Creation Research that we’ve encountered recently is the claim that the use of what Brian Thomas called “rescuing devices” mean that an argument can be dismissed apparently out of hand. That is to say, should a scientific theory commit the heinous crime of adjusting itself to fit the evidence, it must be flawed.

What makes this hypocritical, of course, is that that kind of thing describes young Earth creationism in a nutshell – we saw an example of that in the very next article. But Thomas did have a point: the classic example of Ptolemy’s model of the solar system shows that modifications to a theory can be a sign of a failed paradigm, but in the same way that not all people who have their ideas dismissed are Galileo, if a theory changes to fit the evidence that doesn’t meant that it’s broken and does not describe reality.

It’s a question of balance between dogma and unfalsifiable pseudoscience, though it’s not properly a spectrum as creationism tends to manage both simultaneously. In his August Acts & Facts article (yes, there’s a point to this post), Jake Hebert asks “Why Is Modern Cosmology So Weird?” The answer, according to him, is that it’s the fault of “ad-hoc” additions to the Big Bang to make it work. And you can probably guess his conclusions from there. Continue reading

Remember That Sky Map?

Here it is again:3D Sky Map

Yes, Brian Thomas is today using a similar study, which (apparently) shows that the “Universe’s Matter Is Too Clumpy“. Amusingly, the study’s primary author’s name is Shaun Thomas, which is going to make this rather difficult… Brian Thomas says:

[Shaun] Thomas and his colleagues used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which represents an unprecedented “zoom out” view of the universe, to analyze the 3-D distribution of hundreds of thousands of galaxies. Seen from such a great distance, and assuming a naturalistic origin, matter should appear to be twice as smooth (i.e., evenly distributed) as it actually is. However, the matter is “clumpier than astronomers expected.”

With his source being this article from Wired Science.

About that “twice as smooth”… Continue reading

3D Sky Map and the Latest in DpSU’s

I would hope that you are all aware of the recent (ish) map from the 2MASS Redshift Survey. If not, take a look:

Click Through For a Much Bigger Version

Astronomers Unveil Most Complete 3-D Map of Local Universe

According to Brian Thomas, ‘Science’ Writer at the ICR, this map “Shows Big Bang Even More Unlikely“. This article is a borderline Type AE (see the Terminology page) in that Mr Thomas takes a study and bends it to suit his message, but it also has elements of Type Io as he also goes and talks about other things only sometimes related.

What does Mr Thomas think are the problems with the Big Bang in the light of this map? First, here is his description of the event:

The most popular nature-only explanation of the origin of the universe is the Big Bang, which proposes that all space, time, and matter were once densely packed into a tiny volume. For some unknown reason, this nugget exploded, yielding elements in ever-expanding space that eventually self-organized into such structures as stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies.

This isn’t a very detailed description, but we’ll live. See WP for a much better one.

[A] problem with the Big Bang is the horizon problem, which is the question of why temperature is so remarkably uniform throughout the universe when light has not had enough time since the Big Bang to travel throughout space and evenly distribute radiation.

Ah, the (former) horizon problem. I wonder if Mr Thomas has ever heard of Inflation?

Also, the Big Bang should have resulted in equal amounts of matter and antimatter, but the real universe is dominated by matter.

This is genuinely an unsolved problem in physics, and somebody will (I’m pretty sure) get a Nobel for this, but not for running around claiming it proves God and creationism. Basically, there are people spending their careers trying to discover what the differences between matter and antimatter really are, and whether their could be some small bias in favour of matter. Did you here about the CERN antimatter thing? Only now are we getting a good look at the actual particles, a nice change from near pure theory.

the First Law of Thermodynamics states that matter and energy can be neither created nor destroyed. Big Bang beliefs violate this law by positing the appearance of matter from no prior material.

You understand that creationism is exempt from such things by the ancient scientific principle of Goddidit.

At the very earliest parts of the Big Bang process, the general rules of the universe were a bit f**ked, as it were. It’s not unbelievable that thermodynamics did exist at the time, although I doubt that’s the solution here. It’s more a case that thermodynamics just doesn’t apply here – the Big Bang is the beginning of time, so it’s not a case of more matter being added to the the universe, as it was already there… Something like that, anyway. Go ask a physicist…

The Big Bang also violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics—which states that some orderliness is always lost when energy or matter are converted to other forms—by positing the creation of orderliness in the form of stars, galaxies, and galactic clusters, all with insufficient cause.

Is cause a quantifiable physical quantity now, like Force and Mass? 😀

But in all seriousness, this is not a valid criticism either. I once saw a video demonstrating planetary accretion on the ISS, using rice as a substitute for the rocks. I can’t find the source, but here’s a link to somebody else who evidently has, in order to prove my sanity. Basically, what happened is that there was a whole to of rice floating randomly in a bag, as they would under zero-g conditions. Over time, however, their minute gravitational attractions caused them to accrete into clusters. You might also know that if you have a group of different sized objects (or was it weights? I can’t remember. I haven’t been five for some time now… Basically, I’m talking about small pieces of sandstone in my personal experience.) and you roll them down a slope, they organise themselves out. Are these violations of the Second Law?

No. What is happening in all cases is that gravitational potential energy is being lost, and is turned into waste energy. This more than makes up for the organisation of the substance, whether it be rice, stone or hydrogen. There is no loss of Entropy and therefore no violation of the Second Law.

Now onto the actual study:

About 20 years ago, the first results from three-dimensional maps of sections of the sky showed unforeseen mega-structures. In stark contrast to the random and even distribution of stars that a Big Bang would have produced, galaxies are instead grouped into clusters and superstructures.2 And the galactic clusters, tendrils, and voids exhibited in the new 3-D map serve as a blatant reminder that this universe is not random.

Like prior star maps, this [new] one shows huge, intricate structures in space that simply should not exist unless they were put there on purpose.

They’re still random, just not quite white-noise random. This kind of thing is actually predicted by Inflation as I alluded to to above. You might be wondering about how the universe can be both homogeneous and contain mega-structures. Basically, the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation is largely uniform, but after a certain level of detail is no-longer so. As the CMB was influenced by the density distribution of the early universe, we see similar pattens in the universe today. Said density distribution and it’s consequences is what is predicted by Inflationary Theory. As an aside, while the CMB was a successful prediction of the Big Bang itself (which raises the question of how, if the Big Bang did not happen, people theorising that it did predicted exactly what is observed), Creationists have never offered a convincing idea as to why it’s there and has the correspondence it does with the observed reality. And no, as you might have worked out, Goddidit doesn’t cut it. I want something funny, like lunar bukkake.

And that’s it, really, apart from the obligatory Biblical quote. Today, however, it isn’t even relivent, being merely a longwinded title for God:

he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth…that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in. (Isaiah 40:22)

Till next time…

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 Was Created Recently, ish

Many clock-like processes operating in the solar system and beyond indicate that the universe is young. For example, spiral galaxies should not exist if they are billions of years old. The stars near their centers rotate around the galactic cores faster than stars at the perimeters. If a cosmology based on long ages is correct, they should have blended into disk-shaped galaxies by now.

“Spiral galaxies” aren’t in the solar system, but I’m sure I’ve already made worse mistakes. In any case, this is… odd. Unlike with the DpSU’s, there are no references in this article, so I can’t see where it’s coming from here. What makes a spiral galaxy not a disk galaxy also? If he is referring to the Galactic Bulge, this could be formed by cannibalism of other galaxies, and there are spiral galaxies without them. And the winding problem? There are answers, but the author hasn’t bothered to counter them in any way.

Comets pose a similar problem. They lose material each time they pass around the sun. Why would they still exist after vast eons?

There are thought to be billions of comets-in-waiting in the Oort cloud and in the nearer Kuiper Belt. Short period comets like Haley need not have gone round and around for all of the last few billion years.

Saturn’s rings still look new and shiny. And many planets and moons are very geologically active. Surely the energy they continually expend should have been spent long ago if they are as old as they are usually claimed to be.

The current material in Saturn’s rings is not all that old, coming from the break up of a moon. (Edit: or maybe not. Here’s a relevant blog post on the subject.). They are kept fresh by the constituent particles of ice bumping into each other and creating new, clean surfaces for light to reflect on. And I’ve already covered Io, which can be extended further. (As it happens, I’ve been alerted to the existence of a paper from nature on this subject, which very much suggests that the problem has been resolved, and not in favour of the creationists).

Instead, the more astronomers learn about the heavens, the more evidence there is that the universe is young.

Yeah, no… Try again.

The Universe Was Created Powerfully – Or, You Can’t Get Something From Nothing

Turtles, anyone?

So the premise of this article is twofold.

  1. You need a lot of ‘power’ to start a universe
  2. The universe is fine tuned for life

You know, the usual.

The argument from fine tuning has already been done to death, so I shan’t cover it here.

As for the power argument, here’s the crux of it:

To create matter and energy can only be done by a Creator who is outside of nature.

Quantum Physics, anyone? Virtual particles? It’s perfectly plausible that suddenly coming into existence is something that universes that contain nothing at all are inclined to do. And at any rate, who created God then?

It’s not uncommon for non-YEC theists to interpret Genesis as God lighting the fuse as it were, as they feel that science can’t explain it. A word for the wise – never stake anything important, like your faith, on the inability of science to explain something. History tells us that someday you’ll have to pay out…

(As an aside, I heard somewhere that the net energy content of the universe could well be zero. Then what’d they say?)