Tuesday, 17 April 2012

How Creationists Lie To Us - 5

Chapter 4 of Dr Paul D. Ackerman's creationist book, It's A Young World After All, is yet another fine example of how creation 'scientists' mislead their customers with frankly bad science.

Once again I'll leave it to the reader to decide if this is deliberate or merely a consequence of Ackerman's ignorance of the subject upon which he confidently expounds. Should we expect an assistant professor of psychology to know any more about biology and cosmology than this? Would we expect an author to research the subject before he puts pen to paper and writes what is passed off as an authoritative book of science?

It's not at all unusual for the creation 'science' industry to put up someone with a title like 'doctor' or with PhD after his name as an expert scientist, even though the doctorate may have nothing to do with the discipline in which he is being presented as an expert. Simply posing as a scientist is quite sufficient for the creation 'science' industry and it customers it seems.

Enough of that. Now for Chapter 4.

Chapter 4 - Of Smoldering Embers.

Ackerman sets the scene with:

Imagine that you are hiking in a remote wilderness area seldom visited by man. You are making your way through winding forest trails to a secluded cabin owned by a friend back in the city. He has volunteered his cabin as a much-needed vacation spot, assuring you that it is locked up securely and has not been occupied since his last visit over a year ago. You arrive at the cabin, unlock the door, and enter. Although the cabin appears totally empty, on the table in front of you is an ashtray containing a lighted cigar, and the fireplace reveals still-smoldering remnants of an earlier fire.

The simplest and most logical assessment of this situation would be to conclude that your friend is quite mistaken about no one living in his cabin. Someone has most certainly been here, and quite recently at that.

Okay so far. You'd obviously need to be a little slow on the uptake to think a cigar could burn for over a year, unless it was a really big cigar.

Io
Having so set us up, he continues:

Do you remember the news coverage of the two Jupiter explorations by our Voyager space probes in 1979? Among the spectacular scenes of the planet and accompanying satellites was a most amazing sight—a volcano erupting on one of the moons of Jupiter, Io, at the very moment one of the Voyager's television cameras was trained on the satellite during the fly-by. Why was this event the cause of such excitement on the part of the NASA scientists? In their view the moons of Jupiter were formed at the same time as the planet itself and are about 4.5 billion years old. Small bodies such as this particular satellite would be expected to lose the interior heat and dynamism that produces volcanic activity relatively quickly and thus would be expected to have long since become cold and inactive. The occurrence of a volcano, however, tells us that the object is still hot and geologically active in its interior.

After explaining that this was initially a problem for science, and of course neglecting to explain that it is a problem no longer, he delivers what is supposed to be his killer, knock-down argument (worth emphasising, this, because of what it shows of the nature of creation 'science' and the technique used to fool the gullible and ignorant):

How can a moon of Jupiter be so old and still so hot and active? How can a cigar burn for a year? The problem is the same, and so is the solution, however unthinkable to evolutionist scientists. Maybe Io, just like the smoldering cigar, is not so old after all.

But is it the same problem?

A burning cigar is a combustion process requiring fuel (the cigar), air (or more specifically, oxygen) and heat. Chemically, it's a process of destructive oxidation of organic matter. Once lit, the process of oxidation becomes self-sustaining when the exothermic reaction produces enough heat to keep it going. So long as there is fuel (cigar) left and a supply of oxygen the combustion will continue. When the fuel or oxygen is used up, or the reaction fails to produce enough heat to sustain itself, the process stops. The fuel will have been turned into gasses, smoke and ash or into a partly burned cigar.

The processes involved in generating geothermal heat such as in earth's core or, in this case in Io orbiting Jupiter, is not a combustion process. The problem is emphatically not the same one, to say otherwise is, not to put too fine a point on it, a lie. Whether this lie is deliberate or the result of ignorance I'll leave to you to decide. Ackerman seem not to be entirely ignorant of some of the science involved though, because earlier he had said:

Scientists have puzzled over the problem posed by the geologically active Io and have offered some possible solutions, the most favored of which is some form of gravitational "pumping" by Jupiter and its other moons"

only to wave it aside without further ado.

The crass, schoolboy howler of assuming a celestial body such as Io is hot because it is burning is almost beyond parody. If Ackerman expected his readers to fall for it then maybe that tells us something of his regard for them and their credulous naivety.

But, even if we forgive Ackerman this blunder and enter his fantasy world in which celestial bodies actually burn like cigars, there still remains one more failure of basic joined-up thinking. In fact it's so blindingly obvious you've probably got there ahead of me. If Io is still burning because it was set on fire during some recent creation event, why isn't our moon also still burning? Why have Mars and Venus 'gone out'? Why did creation 'scientists' need proper scientists to go to Jupiter to find this 'smoldering ember'?

Looks like Dr Ackerman's evidence has just vanished in a puff of cigar smoke!

Ackerman's second schoolboy howler is of course, trying to move from the particular to the general. The fact that Io is different should have been a clue. Io is different because it's situation is unique in the solar system. To draw any fundamental conclusions from it is fundamentally unscientific. It would be like trying to draw a fundamental conclusion about all creation 'scientists' based on an examination of Dr Paul D. Ackerman's writing. Not only invalid but a disservice to other creation 'scientists' who are probably perfectly capable of discrediting themselves.

Ackerman raises a couple of other points in this chapter which can also be quickly and easily debunked.

Short-lived U-236 and Th-230 isotopes found in lunar materials are taken as testimony for youth. If the moon were of great age, the short-lived isotopes would have long since decayed and thus be presently absent. Yet they are not absent, they are in relative abundance. Thus, according to this method, the age of the moon should be spoken of in terms of thousands of years, not millions or billions."

This is a good example of how creation 'scientists' take a truism and either deliberately or through ignorance draw a false conclusion from it. It works especially well on ignorant people over-eager to take whatever one of their 'scientists' says on faith and who lack the necessary critical thinking skills or motivation to see through the subterfuge.

It is perfectly true to say that there should be no trace of the original 'primordial' supply of these isotopes after 4.5 billion years. However, like the janitor's dust in the preceding chapter, they are being continually replaced. Both Thorium 230 and Uranium 236 are produced by the natural radioactive decay of Uranium 238 and the half-life of U-238 is just under 4.5 billion years. U-236 and Th-230 are both of recent origin and are continually replaced. Hence, they are not evidence of a young earth. (See this article on EvoWiki for details)

Saturn's Rings
The last claim made in this chapter concerns Saturn's rings. Ackerman says:

The same situation pertains to our discoveries about the rings of Saturn. Scientists were totally flabbergasted by the appearance of turbulence and instability in these rings. Rings that have stayed in place for 4.5 billion years should be in a very stable condition. Signs of instability and bizarre temporary physical conditions are extremely perplexing and seem to violate known and fully confirmed basic laws of physics. If, on the other hand, the rings are only a few thousand years old, there is no difficulty with known physical laws—just as a cigar that smolders for three or four minutes presents no contradictions to known physical laws.

You can read about Saturn and it's rings here. Maybe we should just credit Ackerman with complete ignorance of chaos theory and have done with it. There is, of course, no problem at all with finding emergent order in chaos. In fact, it would be astonishing if we did not do so. His point here is the equivalent of claiming earth's weather system should be entirely ordered and free from turbulence and chaos. We know the weather is chaotic and hard to forecast with much certainty and yet we can see structures like tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones, clouds and cloud patterns, jet streams, etc emerging from it.

A Hurricane emerging from the chaos of Earth's weather system.
Here is a good article debunking Ackerman's claim. I'll just give one quote from it:

The Voyager visits to Saturn in 1980 and 1981 discovered amongst other things, the shepherd satellites embedded in the ring system (similar satellites were also found by Voyager at Uranus). Those satellites confine the much smaller ring particles, extending the possible dynamic lifetime of Saturn's rings much farther back than 100 million years, probably as far back as the 4.5 billion year age of the solar system.

What this chapter does illustrate is the crying need for peer review of these books to avoid these crass 'errors' getting into print. It's probably not too hard to work out why creation 'science' books are never peer reviewed. Words like 'balderdash', 'rubbish', 'the author appears to be ignorant of his subject - reject', etc, must be disheartening and would reduce the stock of merchandise for sale to virtually zero.


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4 comments :

  1. I like your idea of peer-reviewed books. I wish that such a thing existed for all books that purport to contain facts about the universe we live in.

    I'd love to see a peer review of the Bible. I doubt it would go well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The only problem with peer review is that somebody has to choose the peers. In the case of books like this one, the peers would probably be fellow creationists and that would not help at all. (Incidentally, I feel that this is also a slight weakness in peer review in the 'proper' journals too, but that is a different topic.)

    Books like this need hostile review, and you are doing a splendid job of that. Well done. Every time I think 'Rosa should say . . . ' I read on a few sentences and find that Rosa has said exactly that.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Since the creationist manifesto decree's they have to accept god created the world as PERFECT, and all imperfections are just decay (i.e the devil) then how can he argue that anything in the solar system is in a state of still 'coming to order' (such as Saturn's rings)?

    In other words if god created the world in it's complete and finished state then he can not argue Saturn is 'still in a state of instability' unless he is arguing that the Rings are collapsing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Problem with peer reviewed books, is that publishers want to sell books. They don't care what is printed as long as people buy it.

    ReplyDelete

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