Wednesday, 18 April 2012

How Creationists Lie To Us - 7

Continuing a chapter by chapter look at the creationist book, It's A Young World After All by assistant professor of psychology (and definitely not a research scientist) Dr Paul D. Ackerman, PhD.

Chapter 6 - Is the Sun Shrinking?

True to form, Ackerman seems to have developed amnesia and forgotten all the science of the intervening years - or maybe he's just never learnt it - and starts off with:

"Around the turn of the century, the famous scientist Lord Kelvin created difficulties for evolutionists by presenting a number of powerful arguments against the long ages needed by their theory. In a widely heralded debate with the famous evolutionist Thomas Huxley, Lord Kelvin tore the evolutionists' position to shreds with simple and straightforward physical arguments that the earth and solar system were not old enough for life to have arisen by Darwin's proposed evolutionary process. Among Lord Kelvin's arguments on the age issue was the time factor for the sun's survival based upon Helmholtz's accepted model of gravitational collapse. Lord Kelvin had the theory of evolution on the ropes and had seemingly dealt the knockout blow."

Totally irrelevant of course because, as we now know, Kelvin's calculation of the age of the sun was based on the assumption that its heat was produced by a combustion process and/or gravitational collapse. Kelvin knew nothing of nuclear reactions and in particular nuclear fusion reactions when he did his sums. Nor did Kelvin know anything of Relativity and how mass and energy are one and the same thing, as Einstein showed. Having got the science wrong, not surprisingly he got the wrong answer. It's basically the same error as Ackerman himself made in Chapter 4 when he compared a hot celestial body with a burning cigar, assuming they were the same thing. Kelvin of course did not have the benefit of a further 100 years of science as Ackerman did, so his mistake is quite understandable.

Of course, one way to look at this is that, when physics seemed to disagree with Darwinian evolution, it was Darwinian evolution which turned out to be correct and the physicists who had to revise their theories.

You might be surprised to see a 115 year-old theory being waved as though it were current science, especially one which was falsified 82 years ago, but we are dealing with a creationist writing books for a credulous, mostly ignorant and decidedly gullible market. Isn't it strange how keen creationists are to use a scientific theory, not matter how dubious, out of date, or long-abandoned the theory is, if they think it supports them in their attack on scientific theories? No double standards there, obviously.

To make matters worse for himself, our intrepid psychologist ploughs on undeterred by mere facts. He grudgingly acknowledges that Hans Bethe introduced the idea of nuclear fusion in 1930 but only to dismiss it on the grounds that the neutrinos it should produce have not been 'captured'. In full chortle he declares:

From a creationist point of view, the results of the neutrino-capture experiments are very exciting, for they indicate that the thermonuclear-fusion theory of solar radiation may be entirely wrong. The sun is not emitting the necessary neutrinos. (My emphasis)

So, it looks like Kelvin was right then, eh?

Oops! What's this we find tucked away at the foot of the page?

More recently, scientists associated with the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada report that the long-sought missing neutrinos, discussed at the beginning of this chapter, have now been found.

Wow! So physics has made a prediction and the prediction has been confirmed! This is generally taken to indicate that the theory is a fairy close approximation to the truth. So that's Ackerman's argument disposed of then.

What any self-respecting scientist would do when his claims have been refuted with this standard of evidence would be to publicly withdraw it and, when it's been published in a book, either withdraw the book from sale or publish a new edition correcting the error. Not so a creation 'scientist' it seems.

Having tried to use a falsified theory to support his evidence-free notion that earth is only a few thousand years old because pre-wheel Bronze Age nomadic pastoralists thought is was, he then tries to present another theory as having been falsified, only to find it's now been confirmed. What is especially amusing and revealing here is how eager Ackerman was to claim the absence of evidence (in this case the absence of neutrinos) refuted the nuclear fusion theory. I wonder if he is so keen to use the absence of any evidence for his creator god to refute the theory that it exists? Any bets?

When it comes to a contest between science and theology one can only pity the poor theologians.

And what does Ackerman do having had his evidence destroyed? Instead of withdrawing the book, or even putting a correction at the top of the page, Ackerman tucks it away at the bottom. I wonder how many of his readers bother to actually read that far?

To quote one Dr Paul D. Ackerman:

One characteristic common to all people is the tendency to notice and accept information that supports their own beliefs, values, biases, and so on.

Well quite. But no point in wasting a good market when there's good money to be made in supplying information which supports the beliefs, values and biases of credulous creationists, for the mere consideration of personal integrity and self-respect, eh?

It's not until we manage to get about two-thirds of the way through the chapter though that we actually get to the point the chapter heading suggests is the main point:

Is the Sun Shrinking?

Major newspapers across the country bannered this headline: "The Sun Is Shrinking." The March 1980 Associated Press news story by Kevin McKean reported the results of research studies by solar specialist Jack Eddy of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the National Center for Atmospheric Research and mathematician Aram Boornazian. Through examination of records kept by the British Royal Observatory since 1750, Eddy and Boornazian concluded that the sun appears to be shrinking at a rate of about one-tenth of a percent per century.

I'll not go into this in detail because I could come no where near to refuting it so comprehensively as does Mark C. Chu-Carroll in an article entitled Shrinking Sun (Part 1). His conclusion is:

So, is the sun shrinking? According to all of the data we have, examined carefully with good math, the answer is almost certainly not. There's some noise in the data that makes it less than 100% certain, but I wouldn't recommend gambling against it. When you add in the other data we have, such as the shape and stability of the orbits of the planets in the solar system, the geological records of earth, and the correlation between known solar patterns and geological records, it becomes absolutely certain that while there may be some variation in the size of the sun, it's nothing like the constant linear decrease in size required by the creationist argument.

So, I wonder what else Dr Paul D. Ackerman, PhD. will reveal about the sorry state of creation 'science' in Chapter 7.

You know, I'm beginning to wonder if the creation industry needs to use a psychologist to write about science because few self-respecting real scientists would destroy their credibility by coming up with the answers required by the publishers of this stuff.

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