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

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