Monday, December 24, 2012

I am not an astrophysicist, but I don't need to be one.

I have my news feed tuned to show articles with any connection to evolution, creationism, science education, and a half-dozen other tags. In the Dec. 23, 2012 trawl there was this gem by the "Reverend" Michael Bresciani. A Google search failed to show any reason this guy should be revered for anything. He claims to be a Prophet of God Almighty, and has pages of prophecies. I read a few. As far as I can tell he is about as successful, and specific as the daily horoscopes on newspaper comic pages.

Judging from his, Christmas Speaks to the Evolutionist, this guy has a low high school reading ability. Or, he is possibly really smart, and has a huge scam working. His screed was reposted in a far-right on-line "journal."

The only "science" in this lump of creatocrap was a garbled remark,
The Big Bang theory recently took a big bang itself at the discovery of a galaxy that is almost all black holes according to scientists at the University of Texas in Austin. The discovery punches some serious black holes in the assumption that the universe developed spontaneously without outside or intelligent intervention.

This is only one of hundreds of new discoveries made by creation scientists in the last few decades that have loaded a preponderance of proof onto the side of intelligent design. So why aren’t evolutionists taking a look see?

The actual science was discussed Here: in the University of Texas press release. The original paper was published in Nature on the 28th of November this year, "An over-massive black hole in the compact lenticular galaxy NGC 1277." There was also a brief news item in the same issue.

The Creatocrap
"a galaxy that is almost all black holes"

The Facts
There is only one "Black Hole" in any known Galaxy. There is only one core Black Hole in galaxy NGC 1277, the subject of this idiots remarks (as if he knew it). *Clarification added March 16, 2013: There is only a single core black hole in elliptical galaxies like the Milky Way, or NGC 1277. Small black holes can form in super novas of very massive stars.

The Facts
There is no known galaxy that is "almost" all Black Holes. Even galaxy NGC 1277 which this fool is yammering about, has a Black Hole that is only 14% of the mass of the galaxy. Galaxy NGC 1277 is actually small, only 1/10th the size the Milky Way.

The Creatocrap
The discovery punches some serious black holes in the assumption that the universe developed spontaneously without outside or intelligent intervention.

The Facts
This discovery does not challenge any origin of the universe theories- it is about the evolution of galaxies. This observation cannot suggest any form of "intelligent intervention."

The Facts
It merely challenges a single idea about the ratio of Black Hole mass to galaxy mass, and how that related to the formation of new stars.

The Creatocrap
This is only one of hundreds of new discoveries made by creation scientists

The Facts
This was not a discovery made by "creation scientists." It isn't even that new. (See below)

Just a year ago, Nature also published a news item, "Record-breaking black holes fill a cosmic gap: Largest black holes ever discovered shed light on the early Universe" (06 December 2011). The original article was, "Two ten-billion-solar-mass black holes at the centers of giant elliptical galaxies" Nature
480, 215–218 (08 December 2011).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Deleted by the Kingman Arizona "Daily Miner"

I wrote a reply to the following creatocrap. It was deleted due to "excessive length."

Linda Athens Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Kingman Arizona "Daily Miner"

It is NOT a fact 99.9% of scientists believe in evolution. In fact, most good scientists believe in God. That is FACT.

Ms. Athens repeats a number of common creationist, and fundamentalist errors about science, faith, and history. I doubt that any of them are original with her, as they are easily found in creationist pamphlets. She makes an interesting misstatement claiming, "In fact, most good scientists believe in God." This was compounded because she prefaced it with the false assertion that significant numbers of scientists reject evolutionary theory in biology. (I'll ignore the trivial argument about 99.9% of anything. For the purpose of exposing Ms. Athens, 98.0%, or 69.99% are equally acceptable numbers).

We need to work backwards through this chain of errors. Her conclusion was that "good scientists believe in God." I reject that trivial falsehood that "good" can only be applied to a Christian, although Ms. Athens probably thinks so. In that case a "good" scientist is someone expert in, and professionally successful in science. The question of how these scientists think about the existence of gods, or a non-material immortal soul has been studied going back nearly a century. The following paragraph is closely adapted from Larson and Witham (1998).

James H. Leuba surveyed American scientists in 1914 regardering their belief, or non-belief in a personal god, and an immortal soul. 58% of 1,000 randomly selected US scientists expressed disbelief or doubt in the existence of God, and that this figure rose to near 70% among the 400 “greater” scientists within his sample. Leuba repeated his survey in somewhat different form 20 years later, and found that these percentages had increased to 67% and 85% (1933). Larson and Witham repeated Leuba’s 1914 survey in 1996 and found little change from 1914 for American scientists generally, with 60.7% expressing disbelief or doubt in the existence of gods. (Larson, E. J. & Witham, L. Nature 386, 435–436 1997).

Leuba had also identified "great scientists" as opposed to those merely employed in science. To try and match that population, Larson and Witman in 1998 surveyed members of the American National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The NAS is the most prestigious scientific organization in the United States. Established by Congress in 1863, membership is highly restricted. Larson and Witham found that, "Disbelief in God and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers. We found the highest percentage of belief among NAS mathematicians (14.3% in God, 15.0% in immortality). Biological scientists had the lowest rate of belief (5.5% in God, 7.1% in immortality), with physicists and astronomers slightly higher (7.5% in God, 7.5% in immortality). Overall comparison figures for the 1914, 1933 and 1998 surveys appear in Table 1.


Personal belief 27.7 15 7.0
Personal disbelief 52.7 68 72.2
Doubt or agnosticism 20.9 17 20.8


Personal belief 35.2 18 7.9
Personal disbelief 25.4 53 76.7
Doubt or agnosticism 43.7 29 23.3*

* There was a typographic error. The agnostic position is likely ~16%.

Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham: "Leading Scientists Still Reject God." Nature, 1998; 394, 313.

Leuba, J. H. The Belief in God and Immortality: A Psychological, Anthropological and Statistical Study (Sherman, French & Co., Boston, 1916).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Augusta Chronicle

I made a few posts yesterday to the Augusta Chronicle following a published Letter to the Editor by a typically ignorant creationist.

As it happens, the Chronicle has a policy blocking anyone not subscribed to their paper from reading, or looking in anyway to more than 5 items per month.

As of last night, I cannot see- let alone reply to- anything on the Augusta Chronicle's discussion board.

Readers are welcome to leave any comments here that they care to make. Perhaps we could carry on the discussion.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Junk DNA, and Junk Creationism

(Heads up Feb. 24, 2013: There is a new paper "On the immortality of television sets: “function” in the human genome according to the evolution-free gospel of ENCODE," published in the "Genome Biology and Evolution" journal that does a total debunking of the absurd claims made by the ENCODE project).

The creationists, particularly the intelligent design breed, have been shouting that discovering some functions in "junk" DNA somehow proved their fantasy is correct. Discotute fellow Jon Wells even wrote a book about it, "The Myth Of Junk DNA."

Soon after the discovery of how DNA stored sequences used to replicate proteins there began a bidding war for research funds to specify the DNA sequences and identify their function. In the battle, non-coding sections were called "junk DNA" since there was no obvious function that could be intuitively connected with a particular gene. A protein coding sequence clearly had a function, even if what the protein did was unknown at the time. Since building a sequence data base was then extremely expensive (and boring), the argument against deciphering non-translated "Junk DNA" won out. But, the possible functionality of "Junk DNA" was raised in the late 1970s. The argument was simple: there was an evolutionary cost to making copies of useless DNA. Since this cost was being paid, the "Junk" must have a function. The human genome project was conceived after the discovery of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 1983. Many researchers were still objecting to spending scarce research money on non-coding sequences as late as 1989.

Some likely functions of this "junk" were discovered by geneticists in the late 1980s, reaching journal publications by the early 1990s. The development of automated sequencing machines around 2000 finally eliminated the last objections to sequencing "junk."

AD Riggs (1990) “Marsupials and Mechanisms of X-Chromosome Inactivation”.
Australian Journal of Zoology 37(3) 419 – 441 (Suggested that "junk DNA" would not be preserved without some function, identified control functions specifically as promoters of spreading).

J Brosius and S J Gould (1992) “On "genomenclature": a comprehensive (and respectful) taxonomy for pseudogenes and other "junk DNA"” PNAS November 15, vol. 89 no. 22 10706-10710 (They propose that “junk DNA” is evolutionarily significant by providing raw material for future functions, is implicitly the source for current gene functions, and preserves the evolutionary history of organisms. Received 1991).

Emile Zuckerkandl, 1992, “Revisiting junk DNA” Journal of Molecular Evolution Volume 34, Number 3 / March, 1992 (Received 1991) (Suggested that "junk DNA" would not be preserved without some function, speculated that there were control functions).

What did the creationists have? ... The best they can do is a 1998 article by William Dembski. In an article for the Christian magazine “First Things,” he noted the discovery of functionality by scientists (not by creationists) in portions of the human genome that had been considered as uninteresting “junk DNA” by many. Specifically, Dembski quotes Bodnar et al’s 1997 abstract from, “Deciphering the Language of the Genome.” To a competent reader, Dembski is defending creationism’s position from scientific advances by attempting to co-opt them.

Bodnar, JW, J Killian, M Nagle, S Ramchandani (1997) “Deciphering the Language of the Genome.” Journal of Theoretical Biology Vol 189, Issue 2, 21 November 1997 Pages 183-193).

Dembski, William A. (1998) “Science and Design” First Things 86 (October 1998): 21-27.

The ENCODE project began releasing reports with 30 articles published in the first week of September this year. They generated a great deal of excitement, and controversy. The first highly controversial topic was how they chose to define "functional" for DNA sequences. Basically, any segment of DNA that was transcribed by RNA was anointed as "functional." The directors of the project are already walking back from that claim. They weakly explained that the "public" might have been confused. Days later, a key project leader, Ewan Birney, Ph.D., was trying to justify using "80% functionality" in his press releases. His answer was to redefine "functional." In practical terms, "functional" became anything they could find that could bind somewhere. For what Birney admitted most people think of as "functional," the percentage falls hard to ~20%.

Here is a portion of his self commentary;.

Q. Ok, fair enough. But are you most comfortable with the 10% to 20% figure for the hard-core functional bases? Why emphasize the 80% figure in the abstract and press release?
A. (Sigh.) Indeed. Originally I pushed for using an “80% overall” figure and a “20% conservative floor” figure, since the 20% was extrapolated from the sampling. But putting two percentage-based numbers in the same breath/paragraph is asking a lot of your listener/reader – they need to understand why there is such a big difference between the two numbers, and that takes perhaps more explaining than most people have the patience for. We had to decide on a percentage, because that is easier to visualize, and we choose 80% because (a) it is inclusive of all the ENCODE experiments (and we did not want to leave any of the sub-projects out) and (b) 80% best coveys the difference between a genome made mostly of dead wood and one that is alive with activity. We refer also to “4 million switches”, and that represents the bound motifs and footprints.

We use the bigger number because it brings home the impact of this work to a much wider audience. But we are in fact using an accurate, well-defined figure when we say that 80% of the genome has specific biological activity. ... ughts.html

The only thing holding back "the progress of genomic research" has been lack of money, and the religious-right blocking stem cell research.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Creatocrap from James Nienhuis, Article 1, part 2

Link to Part 1

Nearly all cultures surveyed by ethnographers have a creation myth. They have some common features. They delineate a "time" before the creation of humanity when the universe was populated by magical beings, and then some reason these gods decided to create humans. They give some explanation for death, for another example. When the creation took place is either left open (long long ago, etc.), or ignored altogether. The creation story in Genesis is of the latter type actually making no temporal references at all.

Humans need reliable freshwater. Nearly all humans live where there are rivers. Even in tropical regions, rivers and the bays at the mouths of rivers are preferred living places. We see the same thing in archaeological site locations. Nearly all Mesopotamian agricultural societies relied on irrigation following the major drying trend from about 6,000 years before present, to about 3,000 years B.P. There is an interesting geological correlation here, 6K YBP is about when the sea level raise from the end of the last major glaciations stabilized to current average pool levels. The Neolithic origin of agriculture was about 2,000 years before that. It seems obvious that as declining rainfall, and then declining river flow reduced available water for crops, irrigation was developed as a substitute. The oldest recorded creation myth from Sumeria, the Epic of Atrahasis, rationalized the creation of mankind as workers used by the gods to maintain their irrigation canals.

It is a simple, and obvious fact that even during long term droughts, rivers will flood eventually. To a Neolithic farmer the flood that washed away her crops, house, and perhaps most of her community was one that did destroy her whole world. To people who had no idea how large to world really was, the "whole world" was just a little larger than the distance they had walked. It should be obvious to the most naive observer that all cultures will have a flood story about the "big one" that destroyed the world. And if everyone had died there was nobody to tell the tale, so there will always be a hero protected by the gods.

Mr. Nienhuis spins the notion in the last of his first article that all the creation myths, and all the flood myths originated from the biblical account in Genesis 1-11. This isn't original. I suspect that as agricultural populations expanded these myths of floods, and gods, and paradises expanded. The declining nomads, and hunter and gatherer populations under physical and cultural assault, retreated to marginal habitats while replacing their old origin stories with those of the more powerful invaders. But, the Genesis flood stories were themselves derived from the Sumerian, and Babylonian myths we know today as the Epic of Atrahasis, and of Gilgamesh.

Mr. Nienhuis also ventures into the weirdness with unsupportable claims that Einstein's General Relativity, and "the deterioration rates of cosmological entities" are supports for a thousands of years old creation. He then scattered a slew of falsehoods about the "scientific support" for a global flood, lack of transitional fossils, and the "recent dispersion from the Mesopotamian region" of all humanity. We finally reach the end of his sermonette with his pitch to "READ MY BOOK." Always a classic. After all he presents "extremely compelling information" that "science is severely in error regarding earth and cosmological history."

Monday, December 03, 2012

Creatocrap from James Nienhuis, Article 1, part 1

I was pointed to the "scientific proofs" for young earth creationism published by a man called James I. Nienhuis, and his website "Genesis Veracity." Specifically, someone called "Apologia717" wrote,
"I have weighed the validity of against the more than 1000 + page biology or geology textbooks citing thousands of peer reviewed scientific papers and genesisveracity makes the most logical sense...."

Will you discuss with me???? After the debate I can turn an atheist into a believer? I pray that is my mission to further GODS Purpose...."

So, I proposed we take the creatocrap one article at a time. (This seems to be very similar to debunking Mrs. Chatman, but maybe a bit deeper pile). Here we start with Article #1: You Have Not Been Told the Whole Story.

Mr. Nienhuis has a real talent for the Gish Gallop method of debate. This is named for the famous creationist Duane Gish who could spout so many lies and half-truths in a single breath that his opponents were left dumfounded. Nienhuis adds the refinement of using far-right political buzzwords intended to play up his audience's prejudices. In the first sentence he highlights that, "The "elites" of various scientific communities," are not to be trusted because, well that they are "elites." In the fake populist far-right, only billionaires are to be trusted because they are not "elites." Just ask Mittens Romney.

His first assertion of a "fact" is, "However, the assumptions that are the "building blocks" of the derivational dating methods of the physical world are severely cracked. The "assumptions" that Mr. Nienhuis, and his YEC associates most object to are the actual facts which irrefutably demonstrated the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. These are the many radiometric dating methods. The single most important question is "Are Constants Constant?" which I answered at the linked post. The answer is yes they are constant, and have been constant for over six billion years.

Mr. Nienhuis continued, "Most of the scientists throughout human history have believed that the earth and universe are young." Aside from the fact that there have not been any scientists for most of human history, the Hindu tradition claims the cosmos is infinitely ancient. That tradition is older than the Bible by many centuries. In various other traditions there are cyclic creations, an example currently popular with the New Age folks is the Mayan creation myth. In the Sumerian, and other Mesopotamian traditions there was specific creation of the Earth, but from older material of unspecified age. Genesis is of course familiar to anyone likely to be reading this little article.

Mr. Nienhuis next makes several assertion (mostly wrong) in a sentence that will need to be broken down into its components. He wrote, "Only in the 1700's and 1800's did old-earth and universe theories become popular, "thanks" to Lyell, Darwin, Hutton, and Marx, among others.

Before addressing the historical failures of this claim, I want to highlight the political manipulation that is the hallmark of Nienhuis. He mentions (Charles) Lyell (1797-1875), (Charles) Darwin (1809-1882), (James) Hutton (1726-1797), and (Karl) Marx (1818–1883) as proponents of an ancient Earth. Only three of these men were contributors to geology. The only possible reason to mention Karl Marx in this context is to trigger far-right hostility to communists. Marx had nothing what so ever to say regarding the age of the earth, or any other topic in geology. When he wrote about miners, he was totally uninterested in what happened geologically in the mines.

The notion that the Earth could not possibly be anywhere near the 6,000 years old computed by James Ussher in 1650 was not popular until the 20th century. One might think that with the prolific young earth creationists, it is not popular even now. But, popularity is not a scientific proof of anything. Among informed scientists, the knowledge that the Earth was ancient preceded evolutionary biology by over a century, and was not first proposed by atheists. However, prior to the geological discoveries of Smith, and Hutton in the late 1700s, scientists were too afraid of religious persecution to publish their conclusions. The earliest non-biblical idea of the age of the Earth seems to have come from Benoit de Maillet (1656-1738). His ideas were only published posthumously in 1748. Both Newton, and von Leibniz thought that the Earth's original state was molten and both offered ideas of how the Earth's surface could have been molded in a plastic state. Neither men, in spite of their public renown dared publish any non-biblical estimate of the age of the Earth. The first scientist to publicly dispute any biblical age calculations while still living was Comte de Buffon (1707-1788). His experiments on the cooling time of iron spheres allowed him to conclude the Earth must have had at least 74,832 years to cool. In private papers not published until many years after his death, he expressed the thought that the actual age could be as high as 3 billion years. For other early attempts to find extra-biblical estimates of the age of the Earth see; Dr. G. Brent Dalrymple, "The Age of the Earth" (1991 Stanford University Press).

Darwin was first regarded as a geologist, and his proposed mechanism for the formation of pacific ocean coral atolls is still recognized today as the correct one. But, it was the discoveries of Hutton, and William Smith (1749-1817) that truly established geology as a science. Smith showed that geological strata were deposited sequentially, and that the fossils in sedimentary strata were temporally ordered. Hutton is best known for his demonstrations that the same physical forces acting today could account for the entire geological record.

Charles Lyell is still best known for his three volume text, Principles of Geology published between 1830 and 1833. It was Darwin's college professor Sedgwick who sent him off on the HMS Beagle with the first volume of Lyell’s "Principles," which Darwin said, “Allowed me to see with the eyes of Hutton.” Darwin cared little about the age of the Earth. When Lord Kelvin insisted that the Earth was no more than 100 million years old, Darwin accepted this, although he had privately speculated it was much older. It didn't matter to him how long evolution had taken- it had happened in what ever time was available. (Additional materials on Darwin's education are available, Here.

Link to Part 2

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The opening lines from Mrs. Chatman's latest screed...

There is a great deal of controversy over how old the earth is. Darwinian evolution has a theory that the earth is millions and billions of years old. Is there proof that the earth is that old? NO! However, there is a multi-faceted theory, supported by many unproven assumptions. All the assumptions of an old earth support the theory that there is no Intelligent Designer or Creator. Old earth theories teach that all things just accidentally occurred over billions of years.

had passed by without drawing my attention. They are the common creato rant that I have seen so often that it just slides by, and away. But, there are six full sentences and six falsehoods. That score is good even for a creationist.

1) There is no controversy about the age of the Earth in science. There is a political movement called creationism that has created a political controversy. These are two very different things. For example, while there isn't any doubt among scientists about the age of the Earth/Moon system (4.5 billion years), a major Republican politician named Marco Rubio was just exposed as too afraid of his radical religious rightwing to tell the truth. How could such a coward ever honestly represent the United States against foreign enemies?

2) Then "Darwinian theory" has little or nothing to say about geology, and the age of the Earth. Darwin was publicly of the opinion that geology and the fossil record were too fragmented to be useful. When Lord Kelvin insisted that the Earth was no more than 100 million years old, Darwin agreed. It didn't matter how long evolution had taken- it had happened in what ever time was available.

3) Next, Mrs. Chatman denies there is "proof that the earth is that old." I am not a post-modernest "truth is all just what you believe kind'a guy." Nor do I subscribe to that idea that "nothing can be really known." We do have sufficient evidence that the Earth/Moon system resulted from the collision of two planetesimals just over 4.5 billion years ago that the counter claim must be able to overturn physics, chemistry, astronomy, and geology. This must be done without any reference to biblical passages, as Mrs. Chatman is pretending she is motivated by facts, not emotion, dreams, hallucinations, or revelations.

4) The "unproven assumptions" that Mrs. Chatman, and her YEC associates most object to are those which irrefutably demonstrated the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. These are the many radiometric dating methods. The single most important question is "Are Constants Constant?" which I answered at the linked post. The answer is yes they are constant, and have been constant for over six billion years.

5) Mrs. Chatman's hollow assertion that the science which proves the Earth is ancient require that, "there is no Intelligent Designer or Creator" is easily falsified. First there are many people who are "old earth" creationists. An American example is Huge Ross, president and CEO of "Reasons to Believe Ministry." But, an even larger population of old earth creationists are the billion Hindus around the world. Not only do they believe in an ancient earth, but they have even more gods on their side than Mrs. Chatman.

6) Finally, the only people who think that a scientific perspective is that all events "just accidentally occurred" are people without the least understanding of science. What is the single outstanding feature of all science? The thing that sets science apart from all other activities by humans?

Science makes predictions. And if those predictions do not come true, then that scientific theory is subject to serious revision, if not rejection. This is the total, 180 degree difference from "just accidentally occurred." Only an idiot would claim science relies merely on accidents. (Although, accidents do happen).

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I had decided to limit the time I waste on Mrs. Chatman's foolishness. She seems to have no readers other than a few pro-science readers like myself. Her nonsense turns up in my news feed since I have it look for anything with "creationism" and a half-dozen other buzz words. So, I wanted to pick just one of the last 5 of her "evidences" to debunk. It was too hard to chose.

Item #5 of her "evidences" was about radiocarbon dating. There are five gross errors, and three minor errors. There was only one lonely true statement she made, radiocarbon is made in the upper atmosphere from nitrogen, and decays back to nitrogen. There is a qualification to even that: minor amounts of C14 are generated from neutron capture. I didn't even count this as an error.

Here is her claim:

5. Does carbon dating prove the earth is millions of years old? NO! The sun's radiation hits the earth during the day. That energy is able to convert 21 pounds of nitrogen into radioactive carbon 14. The radio active carbon 14 eventually decays and turns back into nitrogen. Laboratory tests have shown that about half the C-14 molecules have a life of 5,730 years, and the remaining half will decay after another 5,730 years. Tests reveal that there is more C-14 now than there was 40 years ago. This proves that the earth is not even 30,000 years old and its atmosphere has not reached its equilibrium yet.

Her first gross error is particularly amusing because it was accidentally a true statement: "Does carbon dating prove the earth is millions of years old? NO!"

Radiocarbon dating is theoretically limited to about 100,000 years. Technical limitations in our field conditions, and laboratory instruments reduce this to commonly reported dates between 50 and 60 thousands of years. So, even if we had perfect field conditions, and perfect laboratory measurement, we could only "prove" that the Earth was more than 100,000 years old- just 1/10 of a million. Even when Mrs. Chatman is right, she is wrong. Nobody ever has used radiocarbon dating to "prove the earth is millions of years old." That would be stupid.

Back in 1948 when the radiocarbon dating method was first proposed, the assumption was made by Willard Frank Libby that the production of C14 in the upper atmosphere would reach a break-even point with the decay of C14 back to nitrogen. This would have made radiocarbon dating a very tidy, and easy method to apply. However, nature is rarely tidy. Our sun is a variable star, so that the amount of solar radiation producing C14 in the upper atmosphere is also variable. This does lead to the first minor error, that 21 pounds of C14 are produced annually. The production of C14 is variable over the millennia. Then, there are physical, geochemical events that can store carbon, and release carbon. These can effect the available mix of C12, and C14 particularly in marine animals. This can under some conditions substantively change the radiocarbon age of an object. This was discovered in the 1960s, and the first calibrations were being published in the early 1970s. This means that for over 50 years we have known that the "equilibrium" of atmospheric C14 was meaningless. I wish creationists like Mrs. Chatman could catch-up with the rest of us.

The first calibrations were made by counting tree-rings, and taking measure of the amount of C14 in the wood of known age. Over the many years of work, we have a very solid calibration from dendrochronology for the last 12,000 years. The most recent calibration published just this month was "A Complete Terrestrial Radiocarbon Record for 11.2 to 52.8 kyr B.P." (Science 19 October 2012: 370-374. [DOI:10.1126/science.1226660} This research used the annually deposited algal, and sediment layers (varves) in a Japanese lake. Other calibrations have used trapped carbon in ice caps, and marine sediments, and cross-correlation with Uranium/Thorium decay. The measurement errors have been reduced to less than 5% of the age of the material.

Here is the single most stupid thing Mrs. Chatman wrote since I first encountered her many stupid claims, "The sun's radiation hits the earth during the day." The sun's radiation hits the earth somewhere all the time except for the tiny fraction of time our sun is eclipsed by the moon. Upper atmosphere circulation effectively mixes gasses including carbon dioxide loaded with C14. There isn't anything I can say that can make it any better.

Mrs. Chatman wrote that the half-life of C14 was known as, "... C-14 molecules have a life of 5,730 years, and the remaining half will decay after another 5,730 years." We have one minor error, and one gross error in these few words. Above average even for a creationist. The minor error (and I am being charitable) is that there are "C-14 molecules." C-14 is an isotope, and atom of carbon with an excess of neutrons making it radioactive. It is not a "molecule." The gross error is about what a half-life is. If we start with some amount of a radioactive isotope, X, the amount left after one half-life will be X/2. After a second half-life there will be X/4, or one half of that from before. Then after the next interval, there will be X/8 or one half of X/4.

And finally, we have the true but misunderstood statement that, "Tests reveal that there is more C-14 now than there was 40 years ago." There is a considerable excess of C14 over the amount generated by solar radiation currently circulating in biosphere. It was produced by the insanity of open atmospheric atomic weapons exploded between 1945 and 1963 when they were limited by international treaty (France continued until 1974 China continued until 1980). Increasing amounts of ancient C14 depleted carbon released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, and by volcanic eruptions has not significantly diluted the atomic test C14 signal. The last gross error associated with Mrs. Chatman's lack of science reading skills is that this excess could possibly be confused as something that "proves that the earth is not even 30,000 years old."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mrs. Chatman's items #2 and 3

Mrs. Chatman makes some very weird assertions. One that is outstandingly weird is;

"2. It is not known what light really is or if it travels the same speed through out time and space."

What light is, is really well known. It has been really well known for many decades. The scientific understanding of light is called electromagnetic theory. It is a central part of physics. Electromagnetic radiation ranges from the low of radio waves to the upper extreme of high energy gamma radiation. Light, limited to what we humans can typically see, falls in the frequency range of 380 nanometres to about 740 nm. For more information about the physics of light, read up on "photons."

We are also certain that the speed of light had been constant for over 6 billion years at a minimum. This isn't from theory, but from direct measurement. See my short item "Are constants constant?"

Mrs. Chatman's argument for a 6,000 year-old Earth and Universe item #3 seems to feature a brief, and not very well stated description of some parts of general relativity. There is her confusion about the differences between relativity, and quantum mechanics. That is easily forgiven since most people (even physicists) can be confused. What is totally missing is why these are an issue relevant to young earth creationism? I wonder if she just needed some fillers to get to "10 arguments." Maybe 10 is a magic number.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Into the Cyber with Creationists

Mrs. Chatman gets her wind up and sails another essay into cyberspace.

Before I debunk her 10 "evidences" for a 6,000 year old creation, I want to note the emotionally loaded language Mrs. Chatman uses. She also makes statements simply unfounded historically. For example, the notion that the Earth could not possibly be anywhere near the biblical 6,000 years old preceded evolutionary biology by over a century, and was not first proposed by atheists. However, prior to the geological discoveries of Smith, and Hutton in the late 1700s, scientists were too afraid of religious persecution to publish their conclusions. The earliest non-biblical idea of the age of the Earth seems to have come from Benoit de Maillet (1656-1738). His ideas were only published posthumously in 1748. Both Newton, and von Leibniz thought that the Earth's original state was molten and both offered ideas of how the Earth's surface could have been molded in a plastic state. Neither men, in spite of their public renown dared publish any non-biblical estimate of the age of the Earth. The first scientist to publicly dispute any biblical age calculations while still living was Comte de Buffon (1707-1788). His experiments on the cooling time of iron spheres allowed him to conclude the Earth must have had at least taken 74,832 years to cool. In private papers not published until many years after his death, he expressed the thought that the actual age could be as high as 3 billion years. For additional early attempts to find extra-biblical estimates of the age of the Earth see; Dr. G. Brent Dalrymple, "The Age of the Earth" (1991 Stanford University Press).

Mrs. Chatman would probably insist she is a patriotic American, but she is fully committed to subverting the US Constitution. She objects strongly that "Christians and Jews are not allowed to teach what they believe" using the legal authority of public schools. They can if they are invited speakers to a religious history course. They cannot use the government to teach lies about science. She would oppose Sharia law while longing to impose her religious laws (which would not be very different from Sharia). The difference between us on this point is that I oppose both Jihadists, and Tea-hadists. We who oppose those who would pervert our Nation's heritage are the patriots.

Creationists try to fake controversies they claim question the scientific understanding of the Earth. In the latest fraud presented by Mrs. Chatman, she assaults our intelligence with denials of the age of the Earth. I'll take these in small groups to limit eye strain, and my mental health.

1. Distances beyond 100 light years cannot be measured accurately.

4. The farthest distance that can be measured accurately is 100 light years. Several billion light years cannot be measured, only theorized.

This is a "twofer" or "two for one." First, there is the logical failure of Mrs. Chatman. The age of the Universe is not essential to her stated goal of proving the Earth is a mere 6,000 years old. Then there is the failed creationist notion is that we can only measure astronomical distance by triangulation, known as the Trigonometric Parallax method. Since the distant star would be sighted from the extremes of the Earth's orbit every six months, there is an observational accuracy of 0.01 arcseconds. This limits this method to stars no more than 100 parsecs distant from the Earth. That is one hundred times 3.085678 X 10^18 cm, or 100 parsecs. This method directly measured distances of 326 light-years. That is over 3 time the distance cited by Mrs. Chatman. The first application of this method was in 1838 by Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel using ground based telescopes. Current space telescopes measure stellar distances using the same method to 1000 parsecs, or 3,260 light years away. A new telescope launching soon by the European Space Agency will measure distances to 8,000 parsecs, or 26,080 light years away.

This is also a falsehood because we not limited to the Trigonometric Parallax method. It has been a falsehood since the start of the last century. We have 25 other accurate methods to measure astronomical distances, up to the maximum of about 13.7 billion light years away. For a fast, and fun review of how we measure the vast distances of the Universe see Ned Wright's excellent
The ABCs of Distances.

There are folks known as "Old Earth Creationists." Former astronomer Hugh Ross, founder of "Reasons to Believe Ministries" realized long ago that you couldn't lie like Mrs. Chatman and still be taken seriously. But this is an old problem for creationists, as Wiser Christians have Said

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Illustra Media

(Sorry! I thought I posted this already).

There are some amusing screw-ups in the movie. Most of the shots with the monarch butterfly pupa are shown upside down. But this is the quality of the "science" from creationist outfits like Illustra Media, and the Discovery Institute. The narration also falsely claimed that the adult butterfly has reassembled from a "chemical soup." This particular lie insults anyone capable of reading basic scientific literature.

The extensive reworking of the body, metamorphosis, is not limited to butteries. We see similar development even in fish, and amphibians. Much of these events are hidden from view in mammals within the uterus,or behind the shield of the eggshell with birds. Some of the first studies ever done in Western science were of chicken embryos. For a review of some of the magical thinking about metamorphosis, I suggest reading Hart and Grosberg, "Extraordinary Scientific Delusions about Metamorphosis," which reviews Frank Ryan’s "The Mystery of Metamorphosis." Most of their observations are applicable to the Illustra Media's nonsense.

Paul Nelson appears a few minutes into the trailer. He is a young earth creationist, and senior fellow of the Discovery Institute. He thinks the developmental biology of butterflies is a "problem for evolution" because evolutionary changes take a long time. What he want you to think is that 1) biologists are too stupid to have thought about this, and 2) that the developmental biology of butterflies are unique and isolated from all the other millions of insects. He hopes you are stupid.

As a "philosopher" Paul Nelson is a failure. Only a failure would pretend that an open question about a technical problem, even a deep theoretical problem, means that the parent science is invalidated. We don't have, and don't really need a cell by cell map of a monarch butterfly development in order to confirm evolutionary biology. We do have all we need by realizing that the Lepidoptera are only one order of insect, and they are in a continuum of developmental strategies. For a quick overview see: "Origin and Evolution of Insect Metamorphosis" by Prof. Xavier Belles.

While I was not posting here last week

I was dumping on a creationist Here

The premise was to refute the notion that, "Biblical creationists don't have a prayer when it comes to any kind of an honest argument with an evolutionist." And so, self-employed marketing consultant Randy Ruggles wants to teach us po' po' sinners the truth of young earth creationism (YEC).

Hilarity ensues...

There wasn't much new for the readers of Stones and Bones, so I didn't post a blow by blow account. I did read, and debunk some quote mined nuggets. I was frustrated that I didn't find one I had already written about C14 dates and Canadian archaeologist Robert E. Lee. (Really his name- a great great grandson). I'll need to recreate it.

Mrs. Chatman made another appearance at Waynesville Daily Guide, entitled, "Throw Out Evidence of a Young Earth, It Doesn't Fit our Theory"

She regales us with 10 sure-fire proofs of the young earth, Genesis flood, and the evils of evolutionism. By popular request (one reader), I'll take each of them in turn.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A little bit on a newspaper item

I knocked this out waiting for a phone call. Posted to a Huston, Texas newspaper.

The famous creationist Duane Gish perfected a debate technique of spewing so many lies in just a few minutes that his opponent would need hours to reply. The even became known as the "Gish Gallop."

"JosephU" has adopted the same method in his recent comment on science. He used 8 items that supposedly confound evolutionary biology. But each of these makes multiple false statements. But the lies started even sooner. Creationists do not want any science taught in schools because all sciences honestly taught expose creationism as a fraud.

Consider JosephU's first claim regarding the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The first error is that evolutionary theory is an account for the origin of life. Second is the assumption that "man" is the ultimate goal of evolution. There are multiple additional reasons that the 2ndL is never violated by life, or evolution that I'll just link to below. But the most obvious is that if life violated the 2ndL, we and all other life on earth could not exist. Consider the "spontaneous increases in order" that take place when a chick grows in an egg, or a tree from a seed. For a detailed examination I recommend reading "An Introduction to Entropy-and-Evolution and The Second Law of Thermodynamics: (The Second Law in Science and in Young-Earth Creationism) by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D. This was written by a Christian specifically for a Christian audience. For a somewhat more technical article, see: "Entropy and the second law of thermodynamics" by Professor Frank L. Lambert,

JosephU's second claim is that evolution is a theory about the origin of the universe. It isn't. Charles Darwin in 1868 called it "absurd" to expect a theory of biological change to account for either the origin of matter, or of life. But, we do know today quite a lot about the origin of the Universe, at least our part of it. I suggest reading The NASA Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) website on "Cosmology: The Study of the Universe"

His third false claim is that amino acids cannot form "through natural processes." We can and do observe this happening constantly. Perhaps the most famous experimental observation was by Stanley Miller back in 1953. But, we have since then discovered many other natural mechanisms that generate amino acids in marine hydrothermal vents, and cometary ices.

By now the readers should get the idea. Every single "fact" used by JosephU is a non-fact. They are falsehoods. And these are the falsehoods creationists like he and Barbara Cargill want taught instead of science.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I have been a lazy boy

But, I have had some great days fishing. The fishing season finished this year with a Big Bang. I wish I had remembered to bring a camera. I have been enjoying Calico Bass, Boccaccio (a rockfish in the genus Sebastes), and various tuna. Today I'm preparing about 30 pounds of tuna for my smoker.

I have not forgotten "Stones and Bones," or the evo-creato battles. Here is one nice Dorado that I caught a few weeks ago.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

OK, "Big Daddy is Dead" goes 'live'

I made a new blog exclusively to critique Jack Chick's cartoon apologetics. The first post is about rather boring copyright issues, but there are some good links to other critical websites on Chick Tracts. My first bunch of posts will take on "Big Daddy."

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Newspaper Rants

I had a little Letter to the Editor published today by the Monroe Louisiana News Star The reader comments are, as always, more fun than the original letter. EDIT TO ADD I was responding to an earlier letter by a creationist engineer, Robert H Havard. (Either I or the spell checker promoted Mr. Havard to "Harvard").

Thursday, August 30, 2012

They are at it again.

A few weeks ago I spent some effort debunking the creationist spewing of Mrs. Jeannie Chatman. Then, all the posts she had made to the Waynesville Daily Guide were sent into the interweb ozone. But, SHE IS BACK!. And she is just as crazy as ever. Closer to home, the OC Weekly ran an article today about creationist engineer Bill Morgan. The dilemma is worse than the obvious choice of who to debunk first. I needed to finish registering the old pick-up, the rear window of the PU camper shell needs to be replaced, there is a rust hole in the PU muffler, I have a water leak in the laundry + kitchen wall, and I am going fishing tomorrow. I compromised by registering PU, buying various supplies for additional truck repair and plumbing, opening the wall from the laundry side so it will drain out and not screw my new kitchen paint job, using a high temp silicon caulk on the muffler, drinking a beer, and getting ready to fish. Oh, and I dropped a few comments at OC Weekly.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Ross S. Olson, Collected

I have been slowly working through the utter creationist bullshit, AKA Cretocrap, written by pediatrician Ross S. Olson and published by the Minnesota Star Tribune.

I have done 3 posts so far constrained by the newspaper's 4125 character limit on critical comments. I have not gotten through half of Olson's lies and fabrications. None of the remaining creatocrap presents anything novel. It is the same bullshit we have shoveled for over a decade. I will keep posting my replies here at Stones and Bones, since it is obvious the "Minnesota Star Tribune" has refused to run them, and is a tool of creationism. I will try to link to this post from the StarTribune, and update the links if I add comments.

I really think we are screwed. Ignorance is easier than knowledge.

Updated Aug. 9, 2012

The Star Tribune has not posted any of my comments, or submitted debunking. This can only mean they are active creationism supporters. I mentioned the other day that none of the remaining creatocrap spewed by Ross Olson was at all new, or original. Topics like "polystrate" trees, and "C14 in diamonds" have been well covered by the TalkOrigin Archive for years. Just click on the links.

Olson makes reference to Carl Baugh's faked human and dinosaur footprints which I have debunked several times. Glen J. Kuban has an excellent website devoted to the dinos and humans together nonsense.

As a final note, I have debunked the creationist distortions of Prof. Mary Schweitzer's work on biomolecules, and other related dinosaur research several times over the last 10 years. These are available on-line;

"Dino-blood and the Young Earth"

"Dino Blood Redux"

"Ancient Molecules and Modern Myths"

The short form message is that creationists cannot tell the truth about these discoveries, and refuse to honestly deal with the evidence for billions of years of biological evolution.

Ross S. Olson, I

Ross S. Olson, II

Ross S. Olson, III

Creationist pediatrician Ross S. Olson, Part 3

Creationist Ross Olson continued his creationist Gish Gallop with a strange suggestion about the St. Peter sandstone. I could easily use all of the 4,125 character limit imposed on critics just on this particular foolishness. Ross claimed falsely that this well rounded fine grain sand was deposited by a "rapid current," and "attributed to river deltas." He falsely claimed it varies in depth from 100 to 300 feet. He also claimed falsely that some localities with marine fossils entirely "rules out desert sand dunes."

I'll take the last error first. The St. Peter Sandstone contains three units, the Readstown, Tonti, and Glenwood Members. Each of these has a mix of wind deposited, and marine strata, or layers. We recognize wind born sand by the sediment structure or pattern, and the very well sorted grain size. Taking the middle of the St. Peter Formation's three sub-units, it has a large scale structure of hundreds of square kilometers of cross-bedded wind dunes, with occasional marine beds with micro-bedding, burrows, and shelly species similar to shallow water habitat today. Where we find this exact pattern today is in the Namibian Desert. Sand dunes hundreds of feet high stretch for thousands of square kilometers, and the ocean periodically intrudes, creating shallow sandy coves, and bays. These can persist for years, becoming colonized by invertebrates until they buried by the returning dunes. The sand that was washed out by the waves and tides is re-deposited by the near shore currents. This also rounds, and polishes the individual sand grains.
(Photo credit Elizabeth Seibert. Used with permision).

This latter fact also destroyed Olson's assertion that the St. Peter Formation's well sorted, rounded sands were part of a high energy "rapid current" forming river deltas. In fact, river sands have a rough texture and under a microscope, individual grains have many sharp angles, and projections and they also vary considerably in size. When studied microscopically, the St. Peter Formation Sandstone is well rounded, and remarkably uniform in grain size. The geochemical analysis of the St. Peter Sandstone also reveals the interesting fact that the silicate binder, or "cement" weakly connecting individual grains was genearted by plain rain water, well after the shallow ocean had retreated from central North America.

The St. Peter Sandstone in fact varies in depth from less than a meter, to just over 120 meters. The uppermost surface of the St. Peter Formation is particularly flat. What is a strong confirmation of an ancient Earth is that the depth variation is mostly due to irregularity in the bottom of the deposits. These Ordovician Era sands rest on top of the ~570-505 million year old Cambrian deposits. The ancient Cambrian surface had been exposed to air, and eroded with deep canyons over tens of thousands of years, if not even longer. What Ross Olson has not apparently considered at all is that the St. Peter Formation is capped with additional millions of years of sediments in places over a mile thick, although mostly the regional overburden thickness has been less than half that.

Below are some freely available references to competent studies of the St. Peter Sandstone Formation;

Twin Cities Geology

Mai H. and Dott, Jr., R. H. (1985) "A subsurface study of the St. Peter Sandstone in southern and eastern Wisconsin" Wisc. Geol. Nat. Hist. Surv. Info. Circ. 47, p. 26.

Jacque L. Kelly, Bin Fu, Noriko T. Kita, John W. Valley 2007 "Optically continuous silcrete quartz cements of the St. Peter Sandstone: High precision oxygen isotope analysis by ion microprobe" Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 71:3812–3832

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Creationist pediatrician Ross Olson.

I did another piece on creationist Ross Olson and submitted it to the StarTribune. They have not run the last one, and I doubt they will run this one. I have taken the advantage here of inserting some appropriate links, and graphics which are not allowed by the newspaper.

Creationist Ross Olson wrote that understanding the age of the earth "requires
more technical knowledge." He then exposed a total lack of basic geological
knowledge. The Earth's crust is built of constantly shifting plates. Proposed in
the 1940s, plate tectonics was not widely accepted professionally until the late
1960s. Scientists are actually very conservative and demand a high degree of
certainty before accepting any new theory. They are moving both across the
surface, but also some are being pushed back down into the molten magma. As
these tectonic plates press against one another some bow upward, and others at
times ride up over a neighboring plate. This causes "up lift" and is how most
mountain ranges are built. When rock masses are pushed into the air, weather and
gravity act to wear them down. This erosion produces source material from
boulders to clay particles which form sedimentary layers, or strata. Also
discovered bedded in these strata are the remains of once living animals. A tiny
fraction of one percent of ancient life have left remains as fossils. The Alps,
the Appalachians, and the Himalayan mountains are examples of ocean basin
sediments that have been pressed up between tectonic plates. Nearly all of the
Earth's sedimentary history is the succession of ocean basins filling with
sediment, being up-lifted, and then eroding away. Interspersed are episodes of
volcanic eruptions, and asteroid strikes sometimes so massive that they altered
the global climate for tens of thousands of years.

James Hutton, a Scot surveyor and geologist in the late 1700s, discovered that
the biblical flood story could not account for this up lift and erosion cycle.
We know the exact place,
Siccar Point, and year, 1788, that any possibility of a literal Genesis Flood was eliminated forever. In 1802, Professor John Playfair who was with Hutton described it as viewing "far into the abyss of time." What Hutton saw was layers of sediment that had accumulated in the bottom of an ocean. They had then been compressed, folded, lifted out of the ocean, tilted as a massive stone block, eroded over many thousands of years while exposed to air in their hardened "lithified" state, resubmerged in the ocean, where later series of erosion deposits settled over them. Not finished, the newer sediments cemented, and were again uplifted, tilted, and eroded. Each of the erosion events eliminated some sediments that had been deposited millions of years earlier, and buried the survivors under "new" sediment. This is why creationists see "gaps" between "layers." The gaps are often real. Real geologists discover them. Creationists like Olson simply ignore the reason they exist- one fully known for over 200 years.

A cluster of errors are deposited in Olson remarks on the Grand Canyon. First,
between the Upper Cambrian ~505 ma and the Lower Mississippian ~360 ma is the
Devonian, ~408-360 ma. The Devonian era sediments in the Grand Canyon sequence
are a widely deposited sedimentary material called the Temple Butte Formation.

This is a series of submarine dolomites, sandstone, mudstone, and limestone from
the Middle to Late Devonian - 385 million years ago. The so-called "blending"
mentioned by Olson were in truth deep canyons cut into the older Cambrian rock
while exposed to air. These were eventually filled with Devonian strata of the
Temple Butte as the region once again subsided into a then shallow ocean. The
same erosion removed Ordovician, and Silurian deposits provided they had even
formed, since the entire area remained above water for many millions of years.
Olson's empty assertions that the Cambrian deposits had to "remain soft for 200
million years," or that a magical "flood" caused daily "tidal waves sweeping
over the entire globe" can only come from an imagination not limited by reality.

Olson makes too many errors, and misrepresentations to be responded to in
the 4125 character Commentary limit, and they must wait for a third post.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Ross S. Olson, Creationist Pediatrician

Ross S. Olson wrote a creationist screed, The evolution of a Creationist. It was a through and through piece of creatocrap. I have started a reply. The first installment is as follows;

Famous creationist Duane Gish developed the debate technique of spewing so many falsehoods in just a few minutes that his opponents were left wondering where to begin. The "Gish Gallop" was used by pediatrician Ross Olson in his recent commentary "The Evolution of a Creationist." Several of the remarks following Olson's article demanded that the gross errors by Olson be individually exposed. The following is merely a start.

Wilder-Smith's book cited by Olson was published in 1970, and reissued 1981 by the Institute for Creation Research. This was when scientific origin of life research was in its earliest years- even before the discovery of ribozymes. These are the bridge between primitive nucleic acids and later peptides, and still later proteins acting as enzymes. It would be magic for proteins to spring out of nothing. Instead, we know that they too were a product of a long evolutionary history. For modern studies, see Professor David W. Deamer's book, “First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began” (2011 University of California Press). Scientists make the effort every day to inform the public. Why hasn't Olson got the news? I hope he isn't treating children with 40 year old medicine.

Olson next moved to archaeology. In the 16th, and 17th centuries arrowheads were thought to be magical. When stone age technologies were rediscovered in North and South America, it was slowly admitted that Europe, and the Near East had had an ancient prehistory not recorded in the Bible. I was a professional archaeologist and museum curator for many years. I was brought hundreds of "arrowheads" by amateurs. Nearly all were just rocks. We differentiate the real from the fake by how they were built, chip by chip. The creative physical process of manufacturing and reshaping is how objects can be determined as human artifacts. We archaeologists can even identify individuals by their personal style. In the 2005 Dover, Pa "Intelligent Design" trial, creationist Michael Behe was forced to admit under oath that ID creationism and archaeology were totally unrelated. For more details, read the Trial Transcript for Day 12, PM, or "Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism" (Matt Young, Taner Edis Editors, 2004 Rutgers University Press). What no creationist can show is how their magical origin story left any physical evidence. When pressed for real evidence, Discovery Institute creationist William Dembski insisted, "ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots." "Connecting the dots" is why scientists can develop new medicines, crops, and technologies while creationists whine about how they should get to teach nonsense in our schools.

Olson's next gross errors are about geology, and paleontology. For example, clams nearly all live bedded into mud, or fine sand. When they die inside their burrows, the surrounding sediment holds their shells closed. That will be how they fossilize. This position is their common undisturbed fossil form. Oysters, and scallops have very different lives, and leave very different fossils. Clams that live in the shallow surf zone, like species of the genus Donax, are rarely ever found fossilized closed. Only one situation can easily do this, when the mouth of a lagoon is closed by sand build up during a drought. Drought- not a flood. Olson's creationist claim that "closed clam shells" implies "rapid burial" can be refuted by anyone at a clam bed with a shovel and a working brain. Yet, this is offered as "science" by Ross Olson who thinks being wrong "proves" a recent, and magic creation.

There are too many remaining errors, and misrepresentations to be responded to in the 4125 character Commentary limit, and they must wait for a second post.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Creationist physicist Nathan Aviezer

Physicist Nathan_Aviezer has recently replied to a critical review of his work on creationism written 13 years ago by Mark Perakh.

Perakh devoted a page or two to the "paradox of the origin of life" as proposed by Aviezer. Specifically, he quoted Aviezer "...the(sic) life could not develop from inanimate matter because inanimate matter contains neither proteins nor nucleic acids." In his reply to Perakh, Aviezer reiterates this "paradox" writing, "My second example concerns the chicken-and-egg paradox relating to the origin of life. I explained (p. 68, In the Beginning) that all living cells contain both nucleic acids and proteins and that life is quite impossible without both. The paradox lies in the fact that proteins are produced only by nucleic acids and that nucleic acids can exist only in the presence of proteins. Since neither molecule can exist without the other, there is a paradox: how did nucleic acids and proteins come into existence? This paradox is often compared to the famous “chicken-and-egg paradox.” Since chicken eggs come only from chickens and chickens come only from chicken eggs, how did chickens and chicken eggs come into existence?"

Aviezer insisted his superficial treatment of the origin of life was drawn from "leading scientists" (emphasis in the original). His cited experts were David G. Smith, editor-in-chief of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences (1981), Professor Frank Shu of the University of California, and Professor Jean Audouze, General Editor of "The Cambridge Atlas of Astronomy" (1982). Aviezer then hides behind these "authorities" accusing Perakh of "calling “absurd” the discussion of respected men of science." This is a fraud that should be addressed prior to exploding Aviezer's scientific claims about the origin of life.

I have found over the years that creationists discussing OOL have no idea at all of the available literature. Aviezer is no exception. His citation of the 30 year old work edited by David G. Smith is unimpressive. Further, a literature search shows no original work by DG Smith on the topic. I found the selection of Aviezer's remaining experts rather amusing as like Aviezer and Perakh, they are physicists. Physicists are the smartest of all scientists, and are experts at all things. Just ask Aviezer. (Surgeons have a similarly high opinion of themselves). Frank Shu, a theoretical physicist at Cal Berkeley has a distinguished career spanning over 40 years. But looking at his major interests, such as "SELF-SIMILAR COLLAPSE OF ISOTHERMAL SPHERES AND STAR FORMATION" (1977), or "Planetesimal Formation by Gravitational Instability" (2002), I find nothing on the origin of life. He also conducted research on the formation of chondrites, which in a very abstract way could have relevance to OOL. His 30 year old undergraduate book, "The Physical Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy" (1982) did have a short chapter on origin of life research. And as this was the work cited by Aviezer, we can understand his lack of familiarity with OOL research.

Jean Audouze specialized in stellar nucleosynthesis, the origin of elements heavier than lithium. See for example his, "The First Generation of Stars: First Steps toward Chemical Evolution of Galaxies" 1995. This is at least of some interest to OOL as we need heavy elements to exist as a precursor to any life form. But, it has nothing relevant to any modern study of OOL, or biological evolution.

So, Alviezer lacking any knowledge about origin of life research makes some assertions that insurmountable problems "prove" the existence of the supernatural, and the literal interpretations of various (but not all) biblical texts. A brief review of some recent research debunking Aviezer's claims follows.

The 1970s discovery of ribozymes, small RNAs that are catalytic, a nucleic acid enzyme, resulted in the "RNA world" hypothesis. This proposed that prebiotic RNAs were both metabolic, and a template of molecular memory. Leslie Orgel in 2004 was doubtful about any straight forward solutions, in spite of noting, “The demonstration that ribosomal peptide synthesis is a ribozyme-catalyzed reaction makes it almost certain that there was once an RNA World.” For an early demonstration of spontaneous hypercycles directly related to OOL, see Lee, et al (1997). An exciting RNA example published in 2009 was "Self-sustained replication of an RNA enzyme" (Lincoln et al).

Powner et al (2009) have demonstrated that simple chemical stock when reacted under realistic prebiotic conditions will produce ample activated ribonucleotides. They allowed readily available minerals to react with the organics, in this case the key feature was inorganic phosphorus added to the reaction. The key feature of Powner et al is that they used a more prebiotically natural mixture of organic and inorganic chemistry. This eliminates Aviezer's insistence that only living systems can produce nucleotides. (Actually, his "vitalism" idea was dispensed with by Wöhler in 1828).

Creationists also insist that RNAs must be "highly complex." This "complexity" notion is the core concept of the Intelligent Design creationist argument, and is operationalized as having an exact sequence that cannot have happened randomly. Just two papers are adequate to dismiss this argument; “Isolation of new ribozymes from a large pool of random sequences” and “Structurally complex and highly active RNA ligases derived from random RNA sequences." These papers also expose the foolishness of creationist’s calculations of “probabilities” for the origin of life such as used by Aviezer, and Intelligent Design creationists William Dembski, and Stephen Meyer. We are told by creationists that RNAs must be large to be active. This was known to be false over 13 years ago with the publication of, “A small catalytic RNA motif with Diels-Alderase activity.” It was further refuted two years ago by, “Multiple translational products from a five-nucleotide ribozyme.” We were told by creationists that many nucleotides, in complex patterns were necessary for the origin of life. This was debunked a decade ago by, "A ribozyme composed of only two different nucleotides." However, we can have spontaneous complexity too, as shown by Derr et al (2012).

Ribozymes, can be combined with equally natural lipid vesicles such as those studied by David Deamer of the University of California since the mid 1980s. He found meteoric amphipilic compounds which spontaneously form vesicles similar to phospholipid membranes. This research was reviewed in Deamer et al (2002), and Deamer (2011). Ribozymes, combined with equally natural lipid vesicles are extremely close to life, if in fact not "living" in the modern sense of complex cells. They would be "living" in the sense of a sustainable molecular system capable of Darwinian evolution. There are two major events necessary for the early evolution of modern cells; the shift to DNA as the principle cellular "memory," and the transition to amino acid enzymes rather than ribozymes. This goes well beyond the scope of this comment, but readers might be interested in Trifonov 2004, and Woese 2002.

For additional information on OOL research, see my "Short Outline of the Origin of Life.

Bartel, DP, JW Szostak,
1993 “Isolation of new ribozymes from a large pool of random sequences” Science 10 September 1993: Vol. 261 no. 5127 pp. 1411-1418
DOI: 10.1126/science.7690155

Burckhard Seelig and Andres Jgschke
1999 “A small catalytic RNA motif with Diels-Alderase activity” Chemistry & Biology Vol 6 No 3

2002 “The First Cell Membrane” ASTROBIOLOGY Volume 2, Number 4, 371-381

Derr, Julien, Michael L. Manapat, Sudha Rajamani, Kevin Leu, Ramon Xulvi-Brunet, Isaac Joseph, Martin A. Nowak, Irene A. Chen
2012 “Prebiotically plausible mechanisms increase compositional diversity of nucleic acid sequences” Nucl. Acids Res. (2012) doi: 10.1093/nar/gks065

Ekland, EH, JW Szostak, and DP Bartel
1995 "Structurally complex and highly active RNA ligases derived from random RNA sequences" Science 21 July 1995: Vol. 269. no. 5222, pp. 364 - 370

Lee DH, Severin K, Yokobayashi Y, and Ghadiri MR,
1997 “Emergence of symbiosis in peptide self-replication through a hypercyclic network.” Nature, 390: 591-4

Lincoln et al.
2009 Self-Sustained Replication of an RNA Enzyme. Science, Jan 8, 2009 Vol. 323 no. 5918 pp 1229-1232; DOI: 10.1126/science.1167856

Orgel LE.
2004 “Prebiotic chemistry and the origin of the RNA world” Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. Mar-Apr; 39(2):99-123. DOI: 10.1080/10409230490460765

Powner, Matthew W., Be´atrice Gerland & John D. Sutherland
2009 “Synthesis of activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides in prebiotically plausible conditions” Nature Vol; 459, 239-242 doi:10.1038/nature08013
102. Reader, J. S. and G. F. Joyce
2002 "A ribozyme composed of only two different nucleotides." Nature vol 420, pp 841-844.

Trifonov, Edward N.
2004 "The Triplet Code From First Principles" Journal of Biomolecular Structure &
Dynamics, ISSN 0739-1102 Volume 22, Issue Number 1, (2004)

Turk, Rebecca M., Natayliya V. Chumachenko, Michael Yarus
2010 “Multiple translational products from a five-nucleotide ribozyme” PNAS vol. 107 no. 10 4585-4589

Woese, Carl
2002 “On the evolution of Cells” PNAS Vol. 99 13:8742-8747, June 25

Wöhler, F.
Annalen der Physik und Chemie, 88, Leipzig

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rabbi Adam Jacobs, July 2012 in Algemeiner

As of Sunday the 22, Algemeiner has blocked the rest of my comments from appearing.

After about 16 hours, this post was finally seen. There was typically stupid reply which I appended below with my response.

I judge the quality of someone's thinking partly by how well they can handle the simple facts they use to build their argument. These minor features, rather than being trivial reflect the care and grounding of an argument. Adam Jacobs stumbles at the starting line.

With the title, Intelligent Design In Language," my BS detector was in high from the start. When Jacobs wrote, "Isaac Mozeson, a Ph.D. in linguistics from NYU," my first thought was, "If he was From NYY, Where did he go?" A simple Google check revealed that Dr. Mozeson A) never received a doctorate in linguistics, B) he never held an academic appointment in linguistics, C) he never published in a professional linguistics journal. He is a promoter of biblical literalism, and claims to have "discovered" that all human languages derive from what he has variously termed Hebrew, biblical Hebrew, proto-Hebrew, pre-Hebrew, and most recently "Edenic." For a direct example of his thinking see, "COULD PRE-HEBREW BE THE SAFA AHAT OF GENESIS 11:1 ?"

In that essay, the core failure of Mozeson's reasoning is exposed- he assumes from biblical arguments that all languages, and all humanity originated as presented in Genesis. Any counter evidence is to be disregarded as the result of magical intervention given in Gen. 11:6, 9.

But, lets return to Rabbi Jacobs. He wrote, "Ever wonder where the name gopher came from? No one seems to know, but we do know the quality of the creature – he’s a digger, and as it happens, the Edenic word for digging is “khofer.” This raised some serious issues about Jacobs' education. I should have thought a Rabbi should know that "khofer" does not mean "to dig." I had supposed that a Rabbi would know the Hebrew verb pronounced "ko fer" כפר in the Bible, eg the Leningrad Codex, meant "to cover" (see Gen. 6:14). But, let's leave Hebrew for the moment. The third gross error by Jacobs is that "No one seems to know (the origin of the name gopher given in North America to small burrowing rodents). This showed that Rabbi Jacobs was at best very lazy, too lazy to use the Oxford English Dictionary, or the Webster's Unabridged. (The origin of this particular use of the phoneme "go fer" comes from the French word for "honeycomb" first used in English for a fried bread now popularly called a "waffle." Early Francophone settlers called the intricate shallow burrows made by Geomys sp., and Thomomys sp. "gophers."

Three strikes. Yer out!

Added July 22, 2012

Aharon Ben David
July 22, 2012
12:09 am

I might suggest that you judge the quality of an argument, by the argument (and not by the relatively extraneous points you take issue with). Whatever Mozeson assumes and whatever his degree do not have any direct impact on the quality of the argument presented here.

You have, therefore, only offered one potentially valuable critique re: the word Gopher. “Khofer” does however mean dig (chet, pey, reish)as I just checked in the Reuben Alcalay dictionary. The French waffle connection seems like a stretch to me. Khofer/digger seems much more direct and accurate.

Reply, so far blocked by Algemeiner;

Aharon Ben David, Your comment is a perfect example of why those uneducated in linguistics should not attempt linguistic analysis. My point regarding the Isaac Mozeson's literature degree was that this Rabbi Adam Jacobs is incapable of correctly making even minor points of fact.

This was not your only error.

The Reuben Alcalay dictionary was intentionally limited to the modern Hebrew language decided upon by the Hebrew Language Academy, plus new words invented by the Hebrew language popular press principally from Israel in just the last 60 years. It is absurd to claim that this dictionary is of help understanding 3 to 4 thousand year old lexicons. It is this arrogant ignorance that is central to Isaac Mozeson's effort.

Read this out loud;

He was a janglere and a goliardeys,

And that was moost of synne and harlotries.

Wel koude he stelen corn, and tollen thries;

And yet he hadde a thombe of gold, pardee.

A whit cote and a blew hood wered he.

A baggepipe wel koude he blowe and sowne,

And therwithal he broghte us out of towne.

That is in English a mere 600 years ago. Mozeson claims to have reconstructed a proto-Hebrew he calls "Edenic" that is the mother tongue of all human language well over 10,000 years old. My specific example of this incompetence, "ko fer," was selected by Rabbi Jacobs. He made the error that an early biblical attested meaning of "כפר" was "digging" and that this was in anyway related to the modern English meaning of "Gopher" referring to members of the genus Thomomys. For the truthful derivation of this in English, I directed you to the Oxford English Dictionary, or Webster's Unabridged. You obviously ignored the obvious. As for the actual biblical meaning of "כפר" you should start with the older bits of the Torah. And if you do, you will find that "dig" isn't in the ancient biblical lexicon.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I have rarely ever seen a worse mess

My news feeder came up with this the other day, "Darwin's Evolution theory obsolete?", hosted by "Allvoices" which calls itself, "the world's premier platform for citizen journalism."

It is such a crow's nest of paranoid right-wing fanaticism, and creationist twaddle that I won't even begin to try and untangle it. I know that clicking on the page feeds a fraction of a penny to the lunatic who wrote it, but it is such a freak show that I posted the link anyway. There is probably something I should say about the quality of "information" on the internet, but it seems inadequate.

In other news, local fishing remains slow, and my attempts to make anything clear to creationists on The Nation's Creationism and education thread have come to naught.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I found an excellent pro-science site

"Letters to Creationists" I was serching around for material to use in a debunking of some bullshit about the Grand Canyon by Andrew Snelling. This was as good, or better, than what I would have done.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Just a brief up date, June 29.

The local near-shore fishing has been very dependent on the prevailing winds. For example, 9 days ago I had easily caught over 10 legal (over 12 inch) calico bass, and 3, +28 inch barracuda on a 5 hour trip. However, that afternoon the northwest winds kicked up, and shifted to WNW by Friday. They blew at ~15 knots until Sunday. The water temperature dropped, and the fishing dropped with it. Yesterday the wind shifted to the South and the shallows ( <7 fathoms) warmed to ~65 F. I still had to work to scratch 3 legal bass. The Joker in the Pack is that there are some really good size (20-30 lb) yellowtail, and halibut that moved in, are still lurking in the kelp beds. My article for the Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings intended to rebut the creationist stupidity of Joe Kuhn was a "go" on Friday May 25th, and killed on the following Monday. Somebody got to somebody over the weekend. One of the BS criticisms was I had posted a few early comments to this blog. But, never start a large project without a backup plan. The National Center for Science Education will carry the article in their Reports from the NCSE. There are some rather time wasting changes to the overall format. More significantly, I don't need to "play nice" with the Baylor editors any more about why they published Kuhn's piece of crap in the first place. I have distracted myself with some newspaper rants against creationists. I have particularly had fun with the comments on a Nation article, "What's the Matter With Creationism," and more recently comments following a creationist Letter to the Editor. Each had some points of interest.

Mrs. Chatman has posted more cretocrap, but I cannot be bothered until the Kuhn article is reformatted, and revised.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I don't want to get sucked into the Global Warming issue

But, it could happen. I have read a lot about methane chemistry since it is realted to the origin of life in the late Hadean.

I just wrote what was to be a short comment on the marine retention, and recyling of carbon. It was kicked out by the Real Climate nannybot as "spam." While Real Climate seems to me to be one of the best climate blogs, their nannybot is a piece of shit.

I'll just post here, and use a link at Real Climate.

Several comments in this thread have been related to ocean retention of volatiles, and ocean mixing times. In coastal archaeology we have a problem radiocarbon dating materials derived from marine carbon. Marine upwelling brings sequestered carbon in the form of carbonate, and CO2 which is incorporated into littoral fish and especially mollusk shells. We can even see a difference in contemporaneous shells from brackish water and open shore habitats. For example, Mytilus and Chione can significantly vary. When contrasted with softwood charcoal, or collagen from terrestrial animals, upwelling carbon from southern California is about 450 RC years old.

Ocean/atmospheric equilibrium of carbon 14 generated in atmospheric atomic weapons tests demonstrated a rapid mixing of surface waters of just a few years. This gives an estimate of the mixing, and retention time for the Humboldt, and California currents. Marine releases of methane might leave sooner as CO2, and carbonate are obviously heavier, and could have even undergone repeated cycles of consumption and decay.

The potential significance of marine methane releases is obviously moderated by carbon retention times. A fairly simple experiment would be to measure the C14 in modern open-coast organisms (eg Mytilus sp.), and grasses, or non-riparian soft-wood species just slightly in-land.

Friday, June 22, 2012

We're doomed- Doomed I say!!!111!!

Or so says Guy McPherson, professor emeritus in the Departments of Natural Resources, and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. Actually, he said, We're Done.

For those not inclined to wander over to read his blog, he maintains that due to global climate change, humanity will be extinct. Soon. He predicts, " ... the near-term demise of Homo sapiens," adding that "I’d give us until 2020 at the latest." Personally, I cannot think of any professional biologist that I have had at least one beer with who thought we could sustain our current civilization for long. I am classically ambivalent. Is there an eminent breakthrough in nano-technology that will make energy "free," or chemosynthesis trivial? Will we soon design genes wholesale?

I doubt it. But, I'd like to be wrong.

While I agree the methane has hit the fan, I must point out that Prof. McPherson is wrong. And I am not being an optimist.

We are well and truly screwed. But, we have been here before. There have been several radical climate events in our human evolution as dire as the one we face. From genetic data, we know that humanity experienced at least one "recent" severe population bottleneck event about 70,000 years ago. Modern humans carry a small number of genes that were "salvaged"* from two Hominid populations, the Neanderthals, and the Denisovans which are now long extinct.

J. R. Stewart, B. Stringer
"Human Evolution Out of Africa: The Role of Refugia and Climate Change" Science 16 March 2012: Vol. 335 no. 6074 pp. 1317-1321

W. Amos, J. I. Hoffman
"Evidence that two main bottleneck events shaped modern human genetic diversity" Proc. R. Soc. B 7 January 2010 vol. 277 no. 1678 131-137

There is the possibility that few species not currently domesticated will have a "favored" position on Earth. There will soon be hundreds of millions of humans in forced migration. They will encounter people already in place, and unwilling to share. There is an ethnographic study of how people behave under highly stressed conditions; Colin M. Turnbull's "The Mountain People." This is the advantage that an anthropologist, and archaeologist has over a biologist. We recognize that humans are very nasty, and tenacious.

PS: Someone missed my point. Hundreds of millions of people will be slamming into hundreds of millions of other people. They will slaughter each other. The chaos of war favors the spread of chaos, and disease. Additional hundreds of millions of more people will be killing each other just in reaction, plus hundreds of millions more will die from famine and disease. Humanity, in a genetic sense, will be just fine with a mere few hundred thousand survivors.

*Salvaged might mean kidnapped and raped.

"No evidence of Neandertal admixture in the mitochondrial genomes of early European modern humans and contemporary Europeans" AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 146:242–252 (2011)

Post Script: One of Guy McPherson's blog fans wanted to know why I did not mention being a chemist in my blog profile. I was a paperboy, a janitor, and forklift driver too. I felt like focusing on my academic jobs for my blog profile.

Two good methane chemistry articles are;

R. J. Ciceron, R. S. Oreroland

Donald J. Wuebbles, Katharine Hayhoe
2002 “Atmospheric methane and global change”
Earth-Science Reviews 57 177–210

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On Reading a Graph

Long ago, I taught a course on statistics, and math modeling to medical students and faculty (the faculty refused to do their homework). One lecture set was on "how to read a graph." This is apparently still a mystery to many people.

In the Gallop poll data, the number of people who could be broadly called creationists were about 82% in 1982. This includes nearly anyone religious who thought that God either created Adam and Eve less than 10,000 years ago, or that God allowed/directed evolution to do the work. That year, only 9% accepted the fact of human evolution without any divine intervention. This left 9% undecided. The data are remarkably stable until 2000. Then, a trend lasting until today appeared. In 2001, about 3% of the "undecided" became acceptors of evolutionary biology regarding the origin of humanity. Was this a "post millennial" bounce for rationality? The number of creationists did not increase. From 2001 to 2006, the undecided fraction shifted another 1% to the evolution column. More significantly, from 2007 until today, there has been a decline in the percentage of creationists, and an increase in the number of Americans who agree that, "humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process." The number of "undecideds" dropped, but the deficit also went to the creationists, particularly those who believed that, "God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years." This was clarified in the 2008 data which showed a restoration of the "undecided" percentage, and continued decline in creationists.

In the most recent Gallop poll, 78% of respondents could be said to be creationists, at the extremely broad criteria used earlier, and 7% are undecided. A mere 1% (within polling error) of "evolutionists" has shifted to "undecided." The only striking observation is that the "creationists"- most loosely defined- have not increased! In fact, there is a 4% deficit from the ~82% which had been essentially stable from 1982 until 2007, and additional weakness since 2008. On the other hand, the ~6% increase in pro-science thinking seems stable.

The question then arises, "Should theistic evolutionists be lumped with the young earth creationists?" I'll argue the negative in a new post.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mrs. Chatman swings from the stars for a Big Bang.

Mrs. Chatman made a post asserting there were 6 "kinds" of evolution, and that the first 5 had no empirical support. Her exact words were, "It is all opinion, theory, and hypothesis from scientists who believe in evolution."

She has repeated a very common creationist lie. I have found it in Seventh Day Adventist tracts, creatocrap from the Institute for Creation Research, and in Jack Chick's "Big Daddy." So, I invested far too much effort writing a rebuttal.

Big Daddy Frame 10- Blackboard with 6 kinds of evolution

1. Cosmic Evolution - Big Bang makes hydrogen
2. Chemical Evolution - higher elements evolve
3. Planetary Evolution, i.e. evolution of stars and planets from gas
4. Organic Evolution - life from rocks
5. Macroevolution - changes between kinds of plants and animals
6. Microevolution - changes within kinds

1. Cosmic Evolution, which tries to explain the origin of time, space, and matter.

Creationists like to exploit the different meanings of the word “evolution” as seen in this “list of kinds of evolution.” And to be fair, there are scientists who use the word “evolution” to mean a process of transformation. Recently, Harvard University has used this sense of “evolution” to organize a brief science curriculum covering topics from the origin of the universe, to the origin of new biological species today. I find it amusing that they are unknowingly following a pattern laid down first by creationists. But, it does make it much easier to debunk the main lie told about these “kinds of evolution,” of course this is that there is a lack of evidence for these events to have occurred, and be still occurring today.

The first of Mrs. Chatman’s “kinds” was “Cosmic Evolution, which tries to explain the origin of time, space, and matter.” This is properly known as Cosmology. The Belgian priest, Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître, was also an accomplished astronomer, and professor of physics. He proposed in 1927 that the Universe was expanding based on Einstein’s General Relativity, and then four years later that the Universe had had a discrete beginning. The direct observations by Edwin Hubble at the Mt. Wilson observatory lead to the discovery in 1929 that that Lemaître was in fact correct. So, the expanding universe and Big Bang origin of the universe has had direct observational support for over 80 years.

The data do not stop there. One implication of the Big Bang theory was that there must be a fading background “glow” which should be everywhere in the universe. Calculations by Ralph Alpher, Robert Herman, and George Gamow in 1948 indicated that this radiation should be in the microwave frequencies generated from an energy of about 3 degrees Kelvin. This was detected accidentally in 1965 by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Labs. A team of researchers at nearby Princeton University led by Robert Dicke realized what Penzias and Wilson had detected. The NASA Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) (launched in 2001) has completed a map of tiny temperature variations in this cosmic background which corresponds with the formation of the first galaxies in the universe. The project has also refined the age of the universe to 13.7 ± 0.13 billion years.

The third test of the Big Bang origin of the universe is the distribution, and abundances of atoms of different elements. I’ll leave this to a later comment. The trigger of the Big Bang is still under study. Two recent books which summarize our current understanding are;
Krauss, Lawrence
2012 “A Universe From Nothing” New York: Free Press

Susskind, Leonard
2005 "The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design" New York: Little and Brown Publishers

Helpful websites are;

2. Chemical evolution, which tries to explain the elements.
3. Stellar and planetary evolution, which tries to explain the universe.

Part 1.

The “kinds” of evolution under items 2, and 3 are convoluted in the minds of creationists everywhere. The questions, and answers are also complex because we have to refer back and forth between experimental laboratory results here on earth, and astronomical studies from the deepest reaches of space.

By knowing the age and background temperature of the Universe today, we can calculate the approximate temperature at the Big Bang. This was an extraordinary 10^30 degrees Kelvin. At that temperature normal matter, baryonic matter, cannot even exist and all the physical forces with the exception of gravity are mashed into a single unified force. As the universe expanded it cooled, and below 10^28 degrees Kelvin the first ordinary matter condensed, and the weak, strong, and electromagnetic forces began to separate. Atoms could not have existed yet, and didn’t emerge until the temperatures dropped to an average of around 10^6 degrees Kelvin, or about the temperature of the stars seen today. The cosmic microwave background radiation is a remnant of this era around 300 to 500 thousand years after the Big Bang. But long before this, neutrons and protons could exist, and to a limited extent interact forming nucleons.

So what were these first atomic nuclei, and how can we study them? In the 1920s, chemical elements were proven to be built from three subatomic particles, neutrons, protons and electrons. Mass is the main property of neutrons and protons, and electric charge is carried by protons (+) and electrons (-). The easiest of these particles to form, and therefore the first, is the neutron. Neutrons decay into a proton, an electron and a neutrino. The simplest atom is Hydrogen with just a proton and an electron. Adding a neutron generates Deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen. Smashing two protons together with a combined energy of about 10^7 degrees overcomes the electromagnetic force, and binds then together with the strong nuclear force creating Helium. This process, called nuclear fusion, is what powers nuclear bombs, and stars. It is easier to form helium by fusing two nuclei of deuterium than by bare protons, and makes helium isotopes with mass 3, and 4. Only tiny traces of Lithium (3 protons) could have been formed just after the Big Bang and before the first stars. The next heaviest nuclei are Beryllium (4 protons, with 3 to 6 neutrons). This could not form just by the addition of protons to existing nuclei because the extremely short half life of Be-8 blocks this route, and only extremely small amounts of Be-7, and Be-9 could have formed. So, the Big Bang theory predicts that about 75% of the early mass of the universe was hydrogen, just under 25% was helium, 0.01% deuterium, and less than a millionth of one percent lithium, and beryllium.

How have we tested all this? The nuclear physics is tested in accelerators. The next big results will be from the European CERN experiments since we Americans have dropped out of “big science.” The development of space telescopes coupled with spectrographs allows the direct measurement of the atomic composition of extremely distant stars, and interstellar gasses. We find that the proportion of atomic nuclei is exactly as predicted by Big Bang nucleosynthesis.

The CERN Large Hadron Collider will smash pairs of lead nucleons, each with an energy of 5.75 X 10^14 electron volts. The collision energies will be well over 10^20 eV. This is still well below the energies of the Big Bang, but it is expected to generate quark-gluon storms similar to the post-inflation period just before the emergence of the first neutrons.

2. Chemical evolution, which tries to explain the elements.
3. Stellar and planetary evolution, which tries to explain the universe.

Part 2.

The Big Bang creation of atoms was limited to 75% hydrogen, just under 25% helium, 0.01% deuterium, and tiny traces of lithium, and beryllium. The physical forces were all fixed, and the weakest and most profound force was gravity. It was gravity that controlled the next stage in atom building. As hydrogen, and helium were swept together by gravity the density, or pressure of the gas increased. This heats the gasses. The deeper the gravity well, the greater the pressure, and the greater the heating. Stars are masses of hydrogen and helium that have heated by gravitational collapse to temperatures high enough to trigger fusion. This starts at about 15 million degrees, or 1.3 thousand electron volts per nucleon resulting in the simplest fusion path of 3 hydrogen nuclei fusing into one helium. The larger the mass of gasses condensing, the faster the temperature raises and the sooner fusion begins. The heat released by hydrogen fusion is what powers a thermonuclear bomb. What keeps stars from exploding is their deep gravity well. But, the heat of fusion does act against gravity, stopping the increasing pressure from gravitational collapse.

The maximum temperature in the interior of a star depends on how much gas was available to collapse to build it. Basically, the larger the star the hotter the maximum core temperature. As the size and core temperature of a star increases, different fusion pathways from hydrogen to helium take over, and release even more energy as heat, and as neutrinos. But, there is no way to go simply from hydrogen to the heavy elements. I mentioned this earlier. What stops the reaction is the extreme instability of Berylium-8 which decays into helium in less than a trillionth of a second. This problem was solved theoretically by Fred Hoyle in the 1950s. He proposed that three helium nuclei (alpha particles) could fuse essentially instantly in the core of a large enough, and hot enough star to form the stable carbon-12 nucleon (6 protons and 6 neutrons). This “triple alpha” process was shown observationally/experimentally to occur in 1957 by William A. Fowler who received the 1983 Nobel Prize for this work. In spite of the fact that this reaction is rare even under the best of conditions, nearly all the carbon in the universe formed this way.

Once carbon is formed, other higher elements follow by the addition of more alpha particles, or protons. There are other pathways also opened once the Be-8 barrier is overcome, particularly the formation of elements by Beta decay which removes one proton from a heavier element converting it into a lighter one. As the concentration of heavier elements increased, they also undergo fusion reactions, for example two carbon-12 nuclei fuse to make either a Neon-20 + Helium, or a Sodium-23 + Hydrogen. These are called s-reactions because they are all slow.

But another roadblock appears due to the extreme stability of the iron nucleus. Elements formed with atomic mass higher than iron are less stable, and the end result is that iron cores begin to form in massive active stars. (There are still stars today a million times larger than the sun, and these were much more common in the early universe). There is no further nuclear synthesis in the iron core, and the star acquires a stratified structure with most of the active nuclear fusion happening away from the core. This is leading to the collapse of the star, and a Super Nova.

Experimental evidence:

C. W. Cook, W. A. Fowler, C. C. Lauritsen, and T. Lauritsen
1957 “B12, C12, and the Red Giants” Phys. Rev. 107, 508–515

I received my first Isotope Producer License when I was about 20 years old. I used thermal neutrons generated in a TRIGA Mark IV nuclear reactor to produce radioactive isotopes. Beta decay is accompanied by the emission of a gamma ray, and the energy of the radiation indicates the mass of the nucleus. This kind of research is called Neutron Activation Analysis. It was quite new back then.

Suggested reading;

Dickin, Alan P.
2000 “Radiogenic Isotope Geology” Cambridge University Press

Helpful websites;

2. Chemical evolution, which tries to explain the elements.
3. Stellar and planetary evolution, which tries to explain the universe.

Part 3.

Rapid nucleosynthesis in Novas and Super Novas.

The origin of elements (nucleosynthesis) in Part 2 was limited by the stability of the iron nucleus which blocked the formation of heavier elements. The sequence of reactions in the s-process are hydrogen (H) transmutes (or evolves, if you insist) to helium (He), He to carbon (C), C to neon (Ne), Ne to oxygen (O), O to silicon (Si), and Si to iron (Fe). Each of these reactions released energy in the form of heat which keeps the star from totally collapsing. As this happens, the star is being organized into layers of nucleons, with the lighter ones towards the surface and iron at the center.

Without the radiated heat from nuclear fusion in the iron core, the star begins to collapse again. This gravitational collapse increases the core temperature. If the star was large enough, the core temperature gets high enough to force iron fusion. Because iron is so stable, this reaction absorbs energy without releasing any back. The result is even more gravitational collapse, and higher temperatures until the iron nucleons are broken down into He, H, and neutrons which stream out toward the surface. At the same time, the outer shells of the star are falling inward towards the core, increasing pressure and temperature. They cannot fall forever, and will “bounce” from the core back out to the surface again.

This process cannot last long. The neutrons streaming out from the core are absorbed by the in-falling nuclei raising them to higher atomic mass by Beta decay. The recoil from the collapse will blast the star, and the newly formed heavy elements into space. These are called Super Novas. Next, gravity eventually will collect them back into new stars where the entire sequences repeats. These next generation stars will start with an enriched chemistry of heavy nuclei. The consequence is that they generate even heavier elements in the next nova.

Experimental/Observational evidence; With the invention of space telescopes, and charge coupled detectors, we can now observe these events directly. Particularly important are the gamma ray studies showing us the existence of newly formed radioactive isotopes. A review of these discoveries as of 1997 is cited below.

David Arnett and Grant Bazan 1997 “Nucleosynthesis in Stars: Recent Developments” Science Vol. 276 no. 5317 pp. 1359-1362
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5317.1359

Two specific examples are discussed here;

Roger A. Chevalier 1997 “Type II Supernovae SN 1987A and SN 1993J” Science Vol. 276 no. 5317 pp. 1374-1378
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5317.1374

Helpful Websites;

“Kinds” of evolution 1,2,3 a summary and extension

The origin of the elements following the Big Bang origin of the universe is neither a mystery nor unsupported by direct scientific evidence. There is still much to be learned, but we can dispense with the lie that they are without clear and obvious evidence. The energy released in the Big Bang, regardless of source, cooled and this resulted in the formation of neutrons from a quark, and gluon storm of tremendous heat and pressure. The continued cooling provided conditions where neutrons decayed to protons, electrons, and neutrinos. Protons found electrons becoming hydrogen. Accelerated protons found each other becoming helium. Neutrons continued to add themselves forming the isotopes of deuterium, and helium 3, and 4. Traces of lithium were made, but the Big Bang nucleosynthesis process was blocked at beryllium-8 due to its nearly instant self destruction back into helium.

Gravity came to be the most important force in the next step, the formation of stars. The earliest stars were mostly huge things, millions of times larger than our sun. They quickly (in universal time scales) generated the elemental nuclei up to iron’s 26 protons via the “slow” process . Again the process was blocked, but this time by the stability of the iron nucleus. That very stability, ironically, lead to the greatest explosions observed in the universe today, the super nova. Those events generated the rest of the heavy elements to uranium (and maybe higher). Once there were ample amounts of heavy elements, other more interesting things do start to appear - planets.

This is, step by step, observed and verified scientific fact. Naturally creationists denied it could ever be true.

In the creationist’s freakish version of reality, planets just spring into existence by magic. For many decades, all leading creationist “thinkers” insisted that there were no planets other than those around the Earth. Henry Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research, was still trying to deny that science could discover extra-solar planets, or even the origin of the moon in the late 1990s. See for example his nonsense published as “The Stardust Trail.”

Duane Gish claiming that the non-existence of extra-solar planets was important to Christian faith wrote, “Our faith is based on the certainty of eyewitness accounts, not the uncertainty of the wobble of stars.”

"As far as distant stars and galaxies are concerned, there is no evidence either in science or Scripture, that any of them have planets." Henry Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids: Bier Book House, 1984) p. 244.

Science knows, and every American should know that extra-solar planets are common. Science knows, and every American should know that the nebular hypothesis as proposed by Immanuel Kant in 1755 has been proven. (Somewhat to my surprise, the Wikipedia article in this is excellent, and I'll just refer readers there). This does not slow down the creationists who continue to deny reality, for example: "NASA Data Derail Nebular Hypothesis" by Brian Thomas of the ICR.

Two features of the modern nebular hypothesis are that there will be a circumstellar disk which will have remnants following the formation of inner planets. This is called the Kuiper Belt. It was recently decided by astronomers that Pluto was better described as a Kuiper Belt object. There should also be an even more distant, spherical distribution of matter around a star called the Oort Cloud. These two concentrations of matter also have the interesting feature of explaining the origin, and persistence of comets. And this is why creationists hate and deny their very existence. Young Earth Creationists insist that the rather short cometary lives (hundreds to thousands to millions of years) somehow "proves" that the Earth is merely 6,000 years old. This is why we can read such stupidity as, “This imaginary cloud is called the "Oort Cloud," named after the astronomer who proposed it. The problem is that there is no observational evidence such a cloud exists at all.” “The Stardust Trail” Henry Morris.

Unfortunately for creationists, we have all the data we need. Even better, every feature of the Nebular Hypothesis: circumstellar disks, Kuiper Belts, and Oort Clouds, have been directly observed around other stars. And, how do we know that our solar system was built from earlier generations of stars? The most obvious way is the analysis of extra-solar dust grains still found today. There have been hundreds of scientific publications on these observations in just the last few years. Just use the Google; "extrasolar dust" is a good one. Then, "extrasolar disks" will reveal space telescope images of planet formation recorded for over a decade.

4. Organic evolution, which tries to explain life springing from inanimate matter.

We do no know exactly how life originated on Earth. We do know that it happened at least once at the end of the Hadean era, or about 3.9 billion years ago.* But, recall that the creationists, like Mrs. Chatman or Jack Chick, insist that there is no evidence that this could have occurred at all. Here is just a glimpse at the available evidence.

There are bacteria which "spring from inanimate matter" all the time. At least in the sense that they require absolutely no organic form of nutrition. And we know that "organic" molecules have no particular magic. There was once the thought that the organic "stuff" of life was completely different from "inorganic" or mineral matter. This seems still to be the thought of the ignorant. Known as vitalism, this concept was shown to be false by F. Wöhler, in his 1828 synthesis of urea, a "live" compound, from inorganic stock chemicals ("ON THE ARTIFICIAL PRODUCTION OF UREA" Annalen der Physik und Chemie, 88, Leipzig).

Charles R. Darwin, in a letter to the botanist Joseph Hooker wrote, "It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter." A few years later in 1871, he had observed, "It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are present, which could ever have been present. But if (and Oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, etc., present, that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed. "

The study of the origin of life is actually called abiogenesis. It was, as Darwin noted, nothing but speculation until the 1950s. Then, in 1953 a short paper by Stanley Miller for Science magazine brought origin of life studies into actual experimental research (“A Production of Amino Acids Under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions” Science vol. 117:528-529). What Miller had shown was that a very simple set of starting conditions, common gasses, hot water, and an electric spark would produce many of the chemicals essential to the origin of life. There were many critics, especially creationists. Miller and others repeated his experiment with different gasses, and energy sources. It was so simple to set up even high school chemistry labs could manage. Miller's last paper was published posthumously 55 years later, "A Reassessment of Prebiotic Organic Synthesis in Neutral Planetary Atmospheres" (H. James Cleaves & John H. Chalmers & Antonio Lazcano & Stanley L. Miller & Jeffrey L. Bada 2008 Orig Life Evol Biosph 38:105-115). This group at the University of California's Scripp's Institute demonstrated that under a neutral atmosphere, or even with a trace of free oxygen, ample amino acids could form in the presence of common minerals such as borax, or calcite.

A recent book reviewing the last 58 years of abiogenesis research, and pointing out several still large gaps in our knowledge is;
Deamer, David W.
2011 “First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began” University of California Press

A bit more technical is;
Schopf, William (editor)
2002 "Life's Origin: The Beginnings of Biological Evolution" University of California Press

For some really up-to-the-minute research see;
NASA's Astrobiology Institute website

* Rosing, Minik T. and Robert Frei 2004 U-rich Archaean sea-floor sediments from Greenland – indications of >3700 Ma oxygenic photosynthesis" Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 217 237-244 (online 6 December 03), Oleg Abramov, Stephen J. Mojzsis 2009 “Microbial habitability of the Hadean Earth during the late heavy bombardment” Nature 459, 419-422 (21 May) | doi:10.1038/nature08015;

5. Macro evolution, which tries to explain one specie evolving into things another specie.
6. Micro evolution, which explains variations within a specie.

I was planning to keep to a single 'kind' of evolution per day. But, the local fishing has really improved the last few days, and I want to get back out tomorrow. And, the notion that we have some sort of problem demonstrating 'macro' evolution is a joke. 'Macro' evolution is merely 'micro' evolution across long periods of time. Science professionals not actually specialists might read;

Carroll, Robert L.
1998 'Patterns and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution' New York: Cambridge University Press,


Valentine, James W.
2005 On the Origin of Phyla University of Chicago Press (Professor Valentine's book is probably the best study of the pre-Cambrian, and Cambrian eras available in English).

For non-scientists I recommend;

Carroll, Sean B.
2005 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful' New York: Norton


Shubin, Neal
2008 Your Inner Fish New York: Pantheon Books

One major problem is that few people, especially creationists, even know what a 'species' is. I recommend reading 'What is a Species, and What is Not' by Ernst Mayer

We have obviously observed the emergence of new species, in nature, in experiments, and induced in laboratories. I have compiled a list of dozens of examples ranging from plants, insects, fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Some have been known for over a century. The central strategy used by creationists to deny this reality is to try and change the meaning of 'species,' and to even change the meaning of 'evolve.'