Tag Archives: Astronomy

Creationist Hides Behind Boy Genius

First, a cutesy news story appears about an autistic boy genius named Jacob Barnett, who possesses a precocious knowledge of mathematics and who disagrees with aspects of the Big Bang Theory.  Then, Glenn Beck latched on to him like he’s a sign from god. In turn, a website — The New American— parasitically clings to the story in a way only a conservative rag could –it declares that Jacob’s work is somehow going to prove Biblical creation by disproving the Big Bang. And apparently, there’s no need for writer Raven Clabough to check her facts as to who first proposed the idea for an expanding universe. She just likes to shoot from the hip.

Christians worldwide should applaud Jacob’s intent to disprove one of the many theories put forth by atheists to explain away the Biblical creation. According to astronomer Paul Steidl, “The big bang was invented specifically for the purpose of doing away with the creation event. An astronomer would laugh at the naivety of anyone who chose to equate the two events.” [my emphasis]

I think Monsignor George Lemaitre, the Catholic priest and astrophysicist who first put forth the “hypothesis of the primeval atom”, which became the Big Bang Theory, would disagree about atheism’s contribution. And Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who gave the Big Bang its pejorative name, would also have to object on the grounds that one of the reasons he and some of his colleagues disliked the Big Bang Theory was because it sounded too much like a creation myth.

(And I was unable to find any source for an astronomer named Paul Steidl. I did, however, find the name linked with The Creation Research Society and its numerous, pseudo-scientific booklets on why astrophysics “supports” Biblical creation.)

A creationist like Raven Clabough pinning her hopes on a child by twisting his words and misinterpreting his intentions is pretty pathetic. A creationist having to rewrite history to do it makes it doubly so. And she shouldn’t bank on Jacob disproving the Big Bang just yet. In his own words he makes an obvious error:

“Otherwise, the carbon would have to be coming out of the stars and hence the Earth, made mostly of carbon, we wouldn’t be here. So I calculated, the time it would take to create 2 percent of the carbon in the universe, it would actually have to be several micro-seconds. Or a couple of nano-seconds, or something like that. An extremely small period of time. Like faster than a snap. That isn’t gonna happen.” [my emphasis]

If I remember correctly, less than one tenth of a percent of the Earth’s crust is carbon. Sorry, but as brainy as Jacob is, his parents should know better than to place this kind of pressure on him or to let him be around creeps like Glenn Beck.  They should take a lesson from Fleischmann and Pons, the two chemists who prematurely announced to the world in 1989 their “discovery of cold fusion.” Boasting before the evidence is in equals colossal embarrassment.

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Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Creationist Of The Month Club

The Universe, Religion, and Radio Signals

If you haven’t heard Paul Harvey or Paul Harvey Jr. on the radio, then I envy you your ignorant bliss, for they both sound like a drunken Jimmy Stewart from the movie Harvey. The father and son “newsmen” do a short, cornball show covering the gamut, from world politics to folksy stories of small town America. The Harvey’s “reporting” style is reminiscent of old-time radio; imagine a man wearing a fedora, with one hand clasped over an ear, speaking into a enormous, chrome plated microphone. During their syndicated broadcast they shift seamlessly from important news stories to sales pitches for delicious buttery spreads to tales of conservative family values. I think Dude Lebowski might say the Harvey’s are out of their element, by about five decades.

Well, Thursday morning I woke up to Paul Harvey Jr. talking complete gobbledygook about the latest astrophysics and why it reestablishes the earth as unique in the universe. Have a listen, at least to the first 3 minutes.

Science texts for four centuries have insisted that the earth is nothing special in the universe“. No. Copernicus’ heliocentric model was just a technical detail about earth’s position in the solar system. It didn’t say anything about its status or importance in the universe. Although, based on a lack of distinguishing features, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that our solar system isn’t particularly special. After all, there are billions of galaxies each with billions of stars, as Carl Sagan might point out. But that’s not going to stop a theist from grasping at straws.

Inexplicable phenomenon“, “Dark energy“, “Dark matter“, “Dark flow“, and “Confounded. Leave it to a gullible fool like Harvey Jr. to invoke the god-of-the- gaps argument; if scientists don’t understand something then it must be supernatural. i.e. I don’t know how David Copperfield did an illusion, therefore it’s must be real magic.

Those dark forces… the infinitely vast reality that exists beyond it [the universe]“. Harvey Jr. thinks dark energy and dark matter exist beyond the universe. I didn’t know science could see that far.

Accepted without question“. Scientists interrogate each other into submission because science is a method of investigation, which cannot be done without asking questions. Religious faith is loyalty to an idea regardless of the evidence. Don’t theists typically balk at Q&A sessions?

The earth alone exists in a cosmic bubble“. Give a layman a little physics and he’ll twist and turn it into an Easter pretzel. It’s Harvey Jr. who exists in a intellectual bubble.

My advice is not to get your science news from giant invisible white rabbits named Harvey or credulous radio personalities.

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The Lone Skeptic

Watch the video and try to spot the skeptic.

America has decayed into a state of gullibility. Example, CNN’s Larry King now dedicates many of his shows to subjects like the paranormal and UFO’s. Recently, he interviewed half a dozen UFO “witnesses” and “experts”, and one lone skeptic, Dr. Seth Shostak, an astronomer from SETI. For most of the show, Larry King followed his standard format; he asked a softball question and then allowed the guests to ramble on, except the skeptic, who was kept in reserve most of the time. Also, the show was an hour long, but Dr. Seth Shostak was only on for the first thirty minutes. Of course, CNN has a history of stupidity.

I remember once when that Southern dumbell Nancy Grace (Headline News) sat in for Larry King. Her topic was ghosts and spirits. What particularlly disturbed me was when she grasped for the word “skeptic” but instead came out with the word “cynic”. Is anyone who withholds their approval or questions the validity of something being cynical? Sadly, Nancy Grace is not the only one to conflate the meaning of the two words. Overall this phenomena has the stench of religion behind it. In a nation slathered in syrupy Christianity, how can believers not project their hostility on to non-believers, be they atheists or skeptics.

Cable television is drowning in shows that require one to believe and not to think: Ghost Hunters (Sci Fi Channel), Paranormal State (A&E Television), Psychic Kids (A&E), A Haunting (Discovery Channel), MonsterQuest (The History Channel), etc. The History Channel, in particular, is a flagrant offender with shows covering everything from the Loch Ness Monster and Nostradamus to the psychology of Batman and the mythology of Star Wars. For many years, at Easter time, the History Channel actually aired the mini-series Jesus of Nazareth. It also aired Planet of the Apes as a Saturday night movie. How is any of this history or science?

I couldn’t help laughing at a recent MonsterQuest episode about Bigfoot. A member of an all female expedition actually said that Bigfoot prefers woman over men because of their softer more lyrical voices. I say Bigfoot prefers not to watch television.

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The Discovery Institute’s Hoopla Machine

Casey Luskin insists the Discovery Institute is a secular think tank. And he says it with a straight face.

What is it about the spreading of pseudo-science that makes reasonable people cringe and gag? One characteristic is surely the introduction of religious / political thinking into discussions of fact. The natural world simply is. If it upsets our human sensibilities, too freaking bad for us. When a bull shark bites a potential food item (a human leg, perhaps), it is being neither good nor evil; it’s simply hungry and inquisitive. It’s nothing personal. Thus, describing the natural world is best accomplished through observations of what is, not through contemplation of how things should be. Blaming Darwinism for the Holocaust, communism, capitalism, rock ‘n roll music, abortion, racism, moral relativism, and the general decay of Western society is irrelevant to the scientific question of whether or not evolution by natural selection is a valid explanation for observed evolutionary change on planet Earth. What is and what ought to be are two distinct questions.

But throw a rock at the Discovery Institute and you’re more likely to hit a lobbyist or a lawyer than an actual scientist. For example, Casey Luskin, an attorney with the DI, blogs to his fellow intelligent designers about the “it’s just a theory” argument.

Darwinists love to bash Darwin-skeptics who call evolution “just a theory, not a fact.” The truth is that I rarely, if ever, hear people who are closely involved with the ID movement using this line to oppose evolution. The “evolution is just a theory, not a fact” phrase tends to come from the vox populi—intelligent people who studied this issue in their biology class or perhaps have read books like Darwin’s Black Box, Icons of Evolution, or Darwin on Trial, but otherwise don’t follow the issue very closely.

But most creationists do use the argument, endlessly. They also use the “intelligent designer” and “irreducible complexity” arguments. The fact is that intelligent design creationists are a small minority. Polls indicate that most American creationists are of the Old Earth variety. And I think the Discovery Institute knows this full well. Isn’t it really all about talking points, ones the DI can easily disseminate, and ones the general public can easily digest and regurgitate, regardless of the scientific facts?

Casey Luskins also lists his scientific qualifications:

Having taken over a dozen courses covering evolutionary biology at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, I’m a scientific skeptic of neo-Darwinism.

Fine, be a skeptic, Luskin. But are you as skeptical about intelligent design? Have you taken a dozen courses covering intelligent design at the undergraduate and graduate level? No, because intelligent design isn’t a science, and it can be pretty well summed up in a single 15 minute lecture. ID is a vague conclusion, not an explanation. The only thing propping it up is a propaganda machine. And all the whining in the world about “morals”, “culture”, and “academic freedom” isn’t going to polish the ID turd. The Discovery Institute calls itself the “Center for Science and Culture”. But it really should choose one or the other, “science” or “culture”, not both. Let “ought” and “is” be distinct; life works so much better when our desires don’t cloud our judgment of reality.

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Defeating Darwinism In 4 Easy Steps… Not

I enjoy reading PZ Myers’ blog Pharyngula, because he digs up the worst right-wing religious nutbars. And I get to comment on them, too. He found Bryan Fischer, a truly deluded fool. And hungry for more creationist foolery, I sifted through Fischer’s garbage – I mean archive – and went straight for his article on Deafeating Darwinism in 4 Easy Steps. Prepare to gag on the smell:

What follows is a straightforward, 4-step refutation of the theory of evolution. They’re easy to remember, and make a nice little cadence when spoken with a little rhythm: First Law, Second Law, Fossils and Genes. Armed with this truth, go forth and conquer.

Not even an encouragement to read a book or two? Just memorize these 4 things and regurgatate them at anyone who accepts evolution? Sadly, there’s more:

[E]volution teaches that everything that exists is the product of the random collision of atoms, this logically includes the thoughts I am thinking about evolution.

Ah. The ubiquitous “evolution is random argument”, reduced now to the atomic level. Does Fischer even know the difference between biology and physics? Now Fischer’s 4 steps in brief:

First Law of Thermodynamics.This law (note: not a theory but a scientific law) teaches us that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed…. What this means, then, is that science simply has no explanation for the most basic question that could possibly be asked: why is there something rather than nothing? Intelligent Design advocates have an answer to this question; evolutionists do not.

Second Law of Thermodynamics. This law (note: not a theory but a law) teaches us that in every chemical or heat reaction, there is a loss of energy that never again is available for another heat reaction… This law teaches us, then, that the universe is headed toward increasing randomness and decay… But what does the theory of evolution teach us? The exact opposite, that the universe is headed toward increasing complexity and order. You put up a theory against my law, I’m going to settle for the law, thank you very much.

Fossils. What the fossil record teaches us, in contrast to the theory of evolution, is that increasingly complex life forms appear fully formed in the fossil record, just as if they were put there by a Creator…. Evolutionists are at a total loss to explain the Pre-Cambrian Explosion… Thus the fossil record is a powerful argument for the existence of an Intelligent Designer while at the same time being fatal for the theory of evolution…. Intelligent Design theory has an explanation for the fossil record; evolution does not.

Genes. The only mechanism — don’t miss this — the only mechanism evolutionists have to explain the development of increasingly complex life forms is genetic mutation… The problem: naturally occurring genetic mutations are invariably harmful if not fatal to the organism.

Bryan Fischer repeatedly makes a distinction between a “law” and a “theory”, as he sees it. He thinks a law is somehow superior. He then contradicts himself by proclaiming the power of “Intelligent Design theory”. ID isn’t even worthy of the title of theory. If it is, then every marijuana induced epiphany is a law.

The 1st law of thermodynamics seems to contradict a creator. If matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, then how did a creator create them? How does ID answer this question? Magic? Anyway, it has nothing at all to do with Darwinian Evolution. But in Fischer’s mind there seems to be a connection.

The 2nd law of thermodynamics is an old creationist argument, easily disposed of. Basically, the earth is not a closed system. It receives energy from the sun. And no biologist ever said that the universe is becoming more complex. Fischer is just pulling arguments out of his ass, or someone else’s ass.

What Fischer doesn’t know about the fossil record wouldn’t fit in the Grand Canyon. Creationists never actually discuss the fossil record, they only discuss what they think the fossil record is. The two are light-years apart. Their fossil record is a caricature. Enough said.

Finally, most mutations are completely neutral, not harmful. Except for the ones Fischer’s mother accumulated prior to his birth.

I really do believe that creationist nutbars like Bryan Fischer are deeply afraid of science. It’s the only explanation for their complete ignorance. They stay so far away from it that not even a kernel of truth rubs off on them.

www.TheDarwinReport.com

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Ben Stein – Creationist Of The Month

Ben Stein

I offically declare Ben Stein as May’s creationist of the month. He earns his position for his ignorance and sleazy behavior.

In Expelled: The Movie, Ben Stein attempts to draw a link between Charles Darwin and the Holocaust by misreading a quote from Darwin’s famous book The Descent Of Man. Scientific America Magazine explains with an article:

One of the many egregious moments in the new Ben Stein anti-evolution film “Expelled” is the truncation of a quote from Charles Darwin so that it makes him appear to give philosophical ammunition to the Nazis.

Here is Ben Stein quote-mining Darwin in the movie Expelled:

“With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”

Now here’s is the rest of Charles Darwin’s words, the part Stein conveniently left out:

“The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.

The Descent Of Man is a thick book, perhaps too thick for Ben Stein’s thick head. He might not have had the discipline to read it in full. Or maybe he didn’t edit the quote himself, he could have just read it that way from a script. Either way it looks bad, really bad. Ben Stein is either too lazy to pick up a book, or he’s a prositute-puppet, who says anything for money. Congratulations to Ben Stein for being creationist of the month, he’s earned it.

P.S. I recommend The Descent Of Man to anyone interested in evolution or the history of science. I read it last summer. It’s truly fascinating. The Penguin Classics Edition has a great introduction. Also, check out the complete works of Charles Darwin online.    

www.TheDarwinReport.com 

 

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Stupid Praise for Expelled: The Movie

A lot of criticism has been justly piled onto Expelled:The Movie, the creationist “documentary” starring Ben Stein, which blatantly promotes Intelligent Design. To be contrary, I’ve decided to address some of the comments in favor of the movie and ID. Perhaps, by doing so, we can gain some insight into the creationist mind. But I doubt it.

First, there’s a comment from Steven on blog called www.HeLives.com:

There are insurmountable failures of evolutionary science called Abiogenesis. Life is the product of intelligent contrivance. Thus, apparent design in biology would constitute evidence for a Designer. It is a self-evident and universally recognized truth: concept and design require an intelligent designer. To simply dismiss the concept of a Creator as being unscientific is to “violate the very objectivity of science itself”.

This is the standard argument from ignorant creationists. First, evolutionary biology is about the origin of new species, not life itself. Biochemists, who are the ones who study the question of life’s origins, have many good hypotheses as to how life on earth began. The fact the question has not been answered fully is certainly NOT an argument for a creator. If I lose a sock, does it mean that magical pixies have stolen it? It’s silly to abandon a natural world explanation in favor of a supernatural one, just because the answer is not currently available. This is why scientists do something called research, to answer questions. Second, if a design requires a designer, then who designed the designer? Get back to me on that one, Steven, and then I’ll take you and other creationists seriously. I won’t hold my breath.

www.TheDarwinReport.com

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