Sunday, 9 April 2017

Layers of Evidence Against Creationism

Stratification in Tibet sediment. Climate variations are reflected in color variations with the red sediment typically indicating a wetter climate and the white indicating a drier climate.
Photo credit: Qingquan Meng
Tibet sediments reveal climate patterns from late Miocene, six million years ago

There is science; and there is creationism. They have nothing in common.

Science looks at evidence and bases its opinions on it. When the evidence changes, science changes its mind. How could it be otherwise when the evidence is in charge? Creationism, on the other hand, starts with opinions as dictated by a holy book and then tries to force-fit the evidence around those opinions so they look sort of sciency to the scientifically illiterate and less like irrational superstitions and magical thinking. When that fails even for the gullible credulity of creationists, the fact are simply ignored and the main problem for creationists becomes how to get away with dismissing what can be plainly seen without looking too dishonest and deluded.

So, it will be interesting to see how creationists dismiss the findings of scientists from the University of Rochester, New York, USA, published open access in Science Advances. This presents compelling evidence that the northern Tibetan Plateau's Qaidam Basin sediments were laid down over more than 6,000,000 years, beginning some 11,000,000 years ago and ending about 5,300,000 years ago. Of course, this is relatively recent in comparison to the scientific evidence that Earth is almost 4 billion years old but to a creationist trying to force-fit evidence round the superstition notion that Earth is a mere 6,000 years old give or take a year or two, this is something of a problem.

And they'll get no help from me to solve it! There isn't a solution. Their daft notion is wrong and that's that. The facts are against it.

Map of the study sites and atmospheric circulation pattern.

Black dashed line depicts the Asian summer monsoon fringes at present. The white dashed circle represents the Siberian High in January. HTTL, Huaitoutala; LX, Linxia; JY, Jingyuan; QA, Qinan; Q, Qaidam Basin; CLP, Chinese Loess Plateau.
East Asian summer monsoon (EASM) precipitation received by northern China over the past 800 thousand years (ky) is characterized by dominant 100-ky periodicity, mainly attributed to CO2 and Northern Hemisphere insolation–driven ice sheet forcing. We established an EASM record in the Late Miocene from lacustrine sediments in the Qaidam Basin, northern China, which appears to exhibit a dominant 100-ky periodicity similar to the EASM records during the Late Quaternary. Because evidence suggests that partial or ephemeral ice existed in the Northern Hemisphere during the Late Miocene, we attribute the 100-ky cycles to CO2 and Southern Hemisphere insolation–driven Antarctic ice sheet forcing. This indicates a >6–million year earlier onset of the dominant 100-ky Asian monsoon and, likely, glacial and CO2 cycles and may indicate dominant forcing of Northern Hemisphere climate by CO2 and Southern Hemisphere ice sheets in a warm world.

Junsheng Nie, Carmala Garzione, Qingda Su, Qingsong Liu, Rui Zhang, David Heslop, Cristian Necula, Shihong Zhang, Yougui Song and Zeng Luo
Dominant 100,000-year precipitation cyclicity in a late Miocene lake from northeast Tibet.
Science Advances, March 2017 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600762

Copyright © 2017, The Authors. Published open access.
Reprinted under terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0).

The significance of these findings for geologists is that it presents evidence that the 100,000 year cycles of glaciation and inter-glacial warming began earlier than was previously thought. Based on ice core and marine sediment records, this 100,000 year cycle was believed to have been established about 800,000 years ago. Prior to that the cycles were believed to be much shorter at 41,000 years. This paper pushes the start of the 100,000 year cycles back more than 6,000,000 years.

Several factors are involved in these cycles, not the least of which is change in ocean currents due to plate tectonics moving continents around, but underlying these are astronomical cycles caused by Earth's orbit around the sun. This produces three major variations that occur simultaneously, known as the Milankovitch Cycles:

  1. Eccentricity: How Earth rotates around the Sun - the shape of Earth's orbit gradually changes from being more oval to more round over a period of 100,000 years.
  2. Axial tilt: Earth tilts toward the Sun at an angle that changes from an approximate 22-degree tilt to a 24.5-degree tilt over a period of 41,000 years.
  3. Precession of equinox: Earth slowly wobbles as it spins, much like a toy top, while at the same time, Earth's rotational axis - the line from the north to south poles - rotates. The interaction of these two processes results in cyclical movement of equinoxes over a period of approximately 23,000 years.

The paper's authors suggest that the dominant factor controlling these cycles of climate change are not just sunlight but also CO2 levels. For the last million years the waxing and waning of the Arctic ice sheets, mainly over Canada, has controlled these cycles. The Antarctic ice sheets remained more or less stable. Previously it had been changes in the Antarctic ice that had dominated the cycles. Rising levels of atmospheric CO2 could cause the Antarctic to become dominant again.

What creationists are having to put up with is papers such as this, which deal with facts and which do not attempt even to address creationism, never-the-less continue to provide incidental refutation of creationism by producing data which simply proves creationist dogma wrong. Science is not actively trying to refute creationism. Indeed, for serious scientists there is nothing to refute because creationism doesn't even rate as a scientific theory. And yet science is continually refuting creationism quite casually and incidentally on a daily basis. This is because creationism isn't supported by evidence and creationist opinion isn't based on facts.

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