Friday, 10 May 2013

Grains of Truth

Chandra X-ray Observatory image of Cassiopeia A,
a 300-year-old supernova remnant.
It must be awful being a Creationist these days with so much information available on the Internet and having to be ignored or explained away and with so many new discoveries being made available to a mass audience and having to be avoided. At times it must be a bit like walking about in a rain storm whilst telling yourself there is no such thing as rain.

Take, for example, this article by Maria Cruz which appeared in Science last week. It concerned a paper published in the Journal of Astrophysics by Haenecour et al. (Astrophys. J. 768, L17 (2013)) which reported on the discovery of grains of material that pre-date the formation of the solar system. These grains were part of the molecular cloud out of which the solar system formed and which subsequently became incorporated into solid accretions.

These presolar grains can be identified by their unusual isotopic composition which can only have been formed outside the solar system. The team used sophisticated techniques called 'nano secondary ion mass spectrometry' (NanoSIMS) and 'Auger electron spectroscopy', to identify silica (SiO2)grains in two meteorites. The isotopic composition of the oxygen atoms in the silica suggests that they were formed in the core collapse of an earlier supernova - an exploding star in which heavier elements are formed out of helium by nuclear fusion under intense pressure and heat.

This reaction creates such a violent release of energy that it overcomes gravity and causes the star to explode, creating the nebulae in which new stars form. Unlike the first generation stars which formed out of collapsing molecular clouds of almost pure hydrogen, second and subsequent generation stars form from collapsing clouds which include these heavier elements, the so-called stardust. As the cloud collapses under gravity, the heat and gravity causes the fusion of hydrogen nuclei to form helium to start up. The release of energy causes the heavier elements to be thrown out to form an accretion disk out of which planets form around stable orbital centres. This is how we know that our sun is at least a second-generation star.

The problem for Creationist loons and the professional liars who promote Creationism as an alternative science, is that their preferred fairytale version of the creation of the Universe says that everything was created together in a single day, so there would never have been a presolar time or first and second generation stars. The existence of presolar grains will either have to be ignored altogether, or some other traditional coping strategy will need to be called into play, such as attacking the scientists or dismissing science as 'scientism', in order to handle the painful cognitive dissonance without incorporating this new information into their fairytale.

Reference: Supernova Grains Identified in the Lab, Maria Cruz,
Science 3 May 2013: 340 (6132), 526. [DOI:10.1126/science.340.6132.526-a]

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  1. On a theological level, I do not agree with what you said, that the Bible teaches that the universe was created in a single day. There are young earth creationists who uncompromisingly hold to that, but I do not think it properly reflects a literal Genesis account of creation.

    In fact it was not even as popular as it has become until James Ussher declared the exact date and time of the creation of the universe (sometime in 4004 BC) in the 1600's. Since then, and especially in recent decades, young earth creationism and a focus on 144 hour Genesis 1 week has spread like a rash.

    So I say again, theirs is not a proper representation of Christian theology. What we often do not realize is that Hebrew has only 4000 words, compared to English, which has billions. So we could say that Genesis 1 could have used a different phrase to express a long but finite period of time, but in truth it could not. "Yom" has three definitions, namely a 24 hour period, a period less than 24 hours and a long but finite period of time. It is therefore an appropriate word to apply.

    We identify which of these definitions is being applied by the context. In Hebrew literature, it would say "Morning to morning" or "Evening to evening" when indicating a 24 hour period. But in Genesis 1, it says "Morning to evening," and in fact that the evening and the morning were the ENTIRE day. This suggests to me that they are using the third definition of "yom".

    Also in the very next chapter, in Genesis 2:4, the entire creation week is referred to as a day (For further reading on this, the book A Matter Of Days by the astronomer Dr Hugh Ross is very good, exegetically).

    Now I am not sure if this was exclusively for young earth creationists. But either way, great article, it certainly serves as a piece of evidence against young earth creationism.

    1. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

    2. I typically reply that the significance here is not an identical 144 hours in both cases - the significance is 6 and 7, in one case referring to the creation week of many long but finite periods of time, and in the other, referring to a seven day week. "Day" I think is applied here with two of its' different definitions which we can discover when we looking at the context of the passages to which it refers. There are other occurrences of this, such as when God commanded the Israelites the work the agricultural land for 6 years, and rest on the seventh year.

      But as a consequence of understanding Hebrew literature, (along with the many other creation accounts in the Bible) I do not think that Genesis 1 describes a 144 hour period.

    3. The thing that puzzles me is why any god would hide the real meaning of what it was saying inside misleading metaphors. Why didn't it just come out with the truth if it wanted us to know it? Instead, if we take your view, we have to believe it requires ingenious, and often highly convoluted, human interpretations - a method which seems singularly inept and designed for disagreement, confusion and conflict. But one which plays neatly into the hands of charlatans, snake-oil salesmen and dishonest clerics - who just seem to abound in religious circles, often making the genuine ones obscure and hard to find.

      And just coincidentally never seeming to understand science or to have a technology any more advanced than the people who happened to write it down.

      In all, a rather strange sort of omniscient, omnipotent omni-benevolence, really.

  2. Hi Rosa:

    Thanks for the reference; sounds like a very interesting finding. And, your first paragraph is wonderful!

  3. @Mr. Bushey:

    "On a theological level, I do not agree with what you said..."

    You have one interpretation; Rosa has another; a third one might be found in the Koran. Question for you: what sort of objective test, experiment or deduction would (or could) you offer to adjudicate between the three interpretations, with a view to determining which, if any, of them is true?

    I trust you recognize this as a subset of the larger question: What evidence would you offer, that would be convincing to and accepted by impartial students desirous of learning the truth, that your theology is not just something completely made up, a specimen, as it were, of religious fiction? Or, alternatively, that it represents nothing more than the highly inaccurate philosophical musings of a pre-scientific, iron age mind?

  4. Rosa, for some reason your reply button was not working this morning. Hopefully writing it as a new comment will though.

    In response I would just say that I can understand how you would think that on a superficial level. However I say again, I do not think this passage is a metaphor. I think it is to be taken literally, just in the context of Hebrew literature. I think the teaching that the earth is much older than 6000 years is the plain reading of the text.

    It not the usual understanding because of the historical development of this doctrine. But long before modern science, theologians held to the interpretation that I described, including even Augustine.

    1. Are you saying now that your reading of the Bible tells you that Hebrews and early Christian knew full well that Earth was billions of years old?

      Wouldn't that mean that sometime between then and the 19th century, mankind just forgot that information until it was re-discovered by geologists?

    2. And in order to do THAT, they have to invent the polarizing filter, the microscope, and some sort of adequate ocean-going ship. The latter is required so they could travel to an area (such as Australia) where they can study stromatolites.

      Oh, and don't forget they have to invent modern chemistry and nuclear theory so they can build machines to do radiometric dating.

      Oh, forgot! They'll need a power source (Leyden jars don't work, as they don't supply a constant supply of electricity) to power their machines.


  5. But don't you know satan put it

    I think that is most likely the answer that will come up, after all denial is the only game you can play when the evidence gets so strong. I will take a look at this article it looks interesting.


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