Tuesday 26 November 2019

Basic Logic for Creationists - Lesson From Pompeii

As a service to creationists, I decided to provide a little explanation, by way of an example, of how deductive logic works.

No doubt, inspired by Ken Ham's stock method for dismissing historical evidence as an explanation for the present, by dismissing anything that hasn't been directly witnessed by the person advancing it with, "Were you there?", one creationist recently made the astonishing claim on Twitter in the tweet below.

"Timothy", known variously as "Dim Tim", "Dimmy" and "Tiny Tim" uses multiple accounts to try to advance creationism, usually making himself a laughing stock in the process. He appears to be a prime example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, being incapable of ever admitting that he could be wrong, no matter how blatantly he is so.

The example I have chosen was in turn inspired by a visit on Sunday to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, which is currently showing an exhibition entitled "Last Supper in Pompeii". The exhibition tells the story of food production and preparation leading up to the city's destruction in 79 CE by a cataclysmic eruption of nearby Vesuvius. Very much worth the entry fee.

We visited Pompeii five years ago and I was struck then by how much can be told from a simple observation by deductive logic. Bearing in mind "Dimmy's" assertion that if the knife can't be found the person could not have been stabbed - presumably, he would also conclude either that the stab wounds would not be there or can somehow be made without a weapon - look at the above photograph of a typical Pompeian street.

Three things stand out in the photograph:
  1. The street is below pavement level.
  2. There are raised 'stepping stones' at the place where people would have crossed.
  3. The worn grooves leading up to and between these 'stepping stones'.
Firstly, why is the street below pavement level?

This can only be to retain whatever is in the street and prevent it spilling onto the pavement. This could be water of course, but the streets would not have been normally flowing with water unless briefly, following heavy rain. It is much more likely to have been the result of horse/donkey-drawn carts and rubbish being thrown into the street. Whatever it was, and the latter is highly likely, it was something people did not want to walk through, hence the raised 'stepping stones'.

Secondly, why the worn grooves? This is self-evidently because cartwheels would all need to pass between the 'stepping stones', so every wheel of every cart that travelled along this street would need to follow the same track, concentrating all the wear at those points. Evidently, this street had been in use for some considerable time for that amount of wear. Incidentally, these grooves would have held the cartwheel 'on track', so gradually extending them over time for some distance from the 'stepping stones' - an inevitable emergent feature, not requiring design or even intent; simply the product of a natural process.

To pass along the streets and between the stones, carts would all have needed to have the same axle width, rather like modern railways need a standard gauge. They would also need to have a large enough diameter to pass over the 'stepping stones'.

And that brings us to the first real piece of deductive logic:

A standard for both street and cart design had been imposed. In order to have clean walkways, despite the accumulation of animal manure and rubbish in the street, there was a standard for both the construction of streets and the construction of carts. This strongly indicates political control over the city.

We can also conclude that this standard was made necessary because of the accumulation of waste - both animal and human - because there was no systematic, regular street cleaning. It is characteristic of cities that materials tend to travel into them, but not out. Almost all food, both animal and human, needs to be brought in, yet there is no easy mechanism for removing the result of it. Modern sewerage systems were unknown in earlier times. Heavy rain mush have been a boon to the inhabitants.

So, the existence of grooves ("Dimmy's" equivalent of the stab wounds) enables us to make some logical deductions about life and political organization in Pompeii in 79 CE without needing to have been there and without needing to see a cart or any written edict proclaiming standards for cart and street design.

These conclusions can be deduced from the historical evidence, just as we can draw conclusions from the evidence of Earth's geological and biological history. It is, of course, in the interest of creationist frauds, that their dupes learn to avoid this perfectly sensible method for drawing conclusions about history from the evidence.

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1 comment :

  1. wow, Tim isn't bright. It amuses me when someone tries this nonsense and is unable to realize it applies to his religious nonsnse.


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