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.