F Rosa Rubicondior: How Creationists Lie To Us - 10

Thursday 19 April 2012

How Creationists Lie To Us - 10

This is the ninth in the series looking at the creationist book, It's A Young World After All, by creationist assistant professor of psychology, Dr Paul D. Ackerman, PhD. As readers of my earlier blogs will know, Dr Ackerman writes about science; a subject about which he seems to be singularly unqualified to write. Consequently his book is littered with school-boy howlers, bad science and falsehoods which he could easily have checked but apparently did not think fit to do so. He also shows a remarkable propensity to be taken in by obvious deceptions. Chapter 9 is no exception.

Chapter 9 - Back Down To Earth.

This chapter starts off badly and just gets worse. By the end of it you are left wondering if there is anything Dr Paul D. Ackerman, PhD., won't believe if it supports his creationist agenda. There is no evidence whatsoever of any critical thinking. The bait is just swallowed and regurgitated as 'science' to be served up to his credulous readership who seem to buy this stuff under the mistaken impression that it is science written by a scientist.

Take this:

The Problems with Radioactive Clocks

As was seen in the previous chapter, however, the startling discovery that the speed of light has been slowing down through history changes the whole picture regarding radioactive clocks. It can now be seen that they do not indicate vast ages as formerly thought, since—as physicists well know— the speed at which a radioactive decay clock runs is directly related to the speed at which light travels.

Er... except that the 'startling discovery that the speed of light has been slowing down' was a piece of creationist nonsense as we saw in Chapter 8 and which any real physicist would have seen through in an instant. So, this plank of the edifice Ackerman is trying to erect has no support.

Having blundered into the trap of using bad science to build yet more bad science, Dr Ackerman turns his attention to a curious tale from California. He calls it A Whale On Its Tail.

Briefly, he tells the story of the fossilised skeleton of a baleen whale being found standing on its tail in a sedimentary deposit in a quarry in Lompoc, California and says that this could only happen if the sediment and the whale had all been deposited quickly in a catastrophic event like a flood.

Here is a picture of what Dr Ackerman seems to think the skeleton of such a baleen whale would look like in a quarry. Note the depth of his knowledge of the process of fossilisation and of baleen whale anatomy. (Don't laugh. It's not nice!)

Yes, indeed. Such a find would indeed be a problem for geologists because it is difficult to imagine how else a whale could stand on it's tail for the thousands or millions of years it would take for the sediment to build up around them although Dr Ackerman seems to have over-looked the little fact that catastrophic floods do occur frequently in coastal areas; they're called tsunami.

But there is an even bigger problem with this story - it is not true. In fact, it's a lie.

Here is how Talkorigins.org deals with it:

Had anybody taken the time and trouble to check the facts, they would have found that the story by Russel (1976) took some liberty with the facts and lacked very important information. First, the skeleton was not found in a vertical position, but was lying at an angle 50 to 40 degrees from horizontal. Finally, although at this angle, the whale skeleton lay parallel to the bedding of strata which at one time was the sea floor on which the dead whale fell after its death. These facts were confirmed by inquiring with the people at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History who excavated the whale. Although nothing had been published on the whale, Russel (1976) clearly identified the staff who excavated the skeleton and they could have been easily called at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles, California.

The strata containing the whale consists of diatomites that accumulated within deep bays and basins that lay along the Pacific coastline during Miocene times. As a result of folding and tectonics associated with the formation of the Transverse Ranges, the strata containing the enclosed skeleton has been tilted into a less-than vertical position. These sediments lack any sedimentary structures that would indicate catastrophic deposition. Rather, the strata exhibit laminations indicative of slow accumulation on an anoxic bay bottom. Within the adjacent strata, several hardgrounds occurs. A hardground is a distinctive cemented layer of sedimentary rock that forms when the lack of sediments being deposited over a very long period of time on the sea bottom allows the surface sediments to become cemented (Isaac 1981, Garrison and Foellmi 1988). In fact, identical sediments are currently accumulating without the involvement of a Noachian-like flood within parts of the Gulf of California (Curray et al. 1992; Schrader et al. 1982).

Furthermore, a partially buried, articulated whale skeleton slowly being covered by sedimentation in the deep ocean off the coast of California was observed by oceanographers diving in submersibles. It is an excellent modern analogue of how this particular whale fossil was created without the need of a Noachian Flood (Allison et al. 1990; Smith et al. 1989).

The geology of these quarries is documented by publications of the California Division of Mines and Geology (Dibblee 1950, 1982) United States Geological Survey geological maps (Dibblee, 1988a, 1988b), graduate students at University of California, Los Angeles (Grivetti 1982), and field trip guidebooks (Isaacs 1981). The other whale skeletons which have been found in these quarries lie parallel to the bedding and owe their modern attitude to tectonics rather then some mythical catastrophe. The written documentation for the attitude of the whale skeletons is contained within field notes and locality records of the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles, California.

As Darby South of talkorigins.org says:

It appears the creationists repeating this whale-of-a-tale, (including the editors of Creation Ex Nihilo) either failed to check their facts or didn't want a good story to be ruined by the facts. In either case, none of these people apparently took the time and trouble to find out what the facts were before putting pen to paper. What they claim to be God's truth is nothing more than an urban folktale used to validate personal religious beliefs.

What was found to be most disturbing was the tendency for creationists to deliberately omit specific locational data and references. Thus, they made it as difficult as possible for a person to independently confirm the data on which they offered as proof of a Biblical world-wide flood. As a result, only someone who had come across Corliss (1980) and Mr. Ginenthal's article could track down Russel (1976) and by comparing descriptions of this fossil whale to Anonymous (1988) and other places where it was used evidence by creationists determine the source of the claims about a 80-ft fossil whale having been found in California buried in a vertical position. It almost seems that the people making the claims about this whale being evidence for a catastrophic or Noachian Flood wanted the reader take their claims taken as a matter of faith as being true and make it impossible for anybody to check the veracity of the story. This is propaganda, not science in the form of paragraph- to page-size versions of media sound-bites.

Curious indeed that creationists should be so coy about this astounding piece of evidence for creationism. You would have thought they would have been advertising it world-wide and arranging for millions of visitors to come and see their evidence.

I think that just about says everything that needs to be said about this chapter. Let's hope subsequent chapters are not quite so obviously scraping the bottom of the barrel to find something to fill the pages as was this sorry effort.

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