Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A creationist fossil

No evolution here!

The academic calendar offers some generous vacation intervals between school terms. I normally try to take advantage of the time to catch up on cleaning and organizing my residence, which looks like an uncurated archive at the end of each semester. I never get as far as I intend, however, because each dig into the stacks of books and papers produces bright, shiny distractions that draw my attention away from the task.

This week I made one of those bemusing discoveries that stops the housework and drives me back to the computer. It's a photocopy of an opinion piece from the October 11, 1981, edition of the Sacramento Bee. (Perhaps you have something similar lying around in your house!) More than twenty-eight years ago I was inspired to preserve this precious piece of prose. Why, pray tell?

It is a deep-frozen example of creationist cant from an engineer—although from Pittsburgh rather than Salem. Creationism keeps disguising itself with new labels in hopes of sneaking into school science classes, but its arguments are predictably familiar and stale.

The item speaks for itself, but I can't resist interpolating a few remarks:
Creationist Claims Evolution Fails The Test Of Science

R.G. Elmendorf is a registered professional engineer and a graduate of Cornell University, who lives near Pittsburgh, Pa. Five years ago, he issued a $5,000 challenge to anyone who could show how evolution can operate in the same world as the second law of thermodynamics. He says he hasn't paid off yet.

By R.G. Elmendof
Special to The Bee


I am one of a few creationists who do not agree with the “two-model” approach to the teaching of origins in public schools, believing that this approach (1) distorts science, (2) misrepresents creation, and (3) is an unnecessary compromise with evolution.

First, within its own very restricted area, science is a valuable tool In the search for truth, but outside this area, science becomes a distorted, subjective and misapplied thing, no longer true science at all and in great danger of generating philosophical and religious opposition. Not everything that scientists think, say and do is science.

A great deal of misunderstanding about this exists that affects the creation/evolution controversy, for example In the promotion of evolution as a scientific fact on Carl Sagan's Cosmos series and in the term creation-science by proponents of the two-model approach incorporated in “balanced treatment legislation.” The whole question of origin is more accurately history, not science, no matter how much scientists like to investigate and speculate about history. After all, what scientist observed the steamy landscape and erupting volcanos of the evolutionary scenario, or the zap-zap of the creation scenario?

Secondly, if origin is not accessible to science, a choice between creation and evolution must be made on a different basis. As a creationist, I believe, by faith, that the universe, the world, the earth and man came about by the purposeful action of a “clockmaker.” An evolutionist believes, also by faith, that matter by itself was able to make the uphill journey from molecules to man, without any clockmaker being required.
Paging William Paley! Someone just found your watch!
These are the only two options on origins. No rational compromise between them exists. It is possible to compare these two faiths about the past in a logical, organized way, using “models” as conceptual frameworks for the ideas incorporated In each, and it is also possible to examine scientific evidences which seem to “fit” one or the other model better. But it is not possible to put either scheme to an actual scientific test. You can't go back and repeat the experiment. Who's to say what actually happened In the past, except by faith in creation or evolution?
Here we have an engineer who is fixated on running experiments (although I'll bet he's never run one since graduating from college). Elmendorf subscribes to a straitjacketed version of science that can scarcely exist outside of a laboratory. It's funny that an engineer doesn't understand field work. He also suffers from a poverty of imagination. While science can be performed in only one way, the question of origins admits of only two models. Either God did it or Darwin did. This false dichotomy is popular among creationists because any perceived flaw in the theory of evolution is then automatically a point in favor of divine creation. (Hallelujah.)
Whether such faith is equivalent to religion Is beyond the scope of this article, but there definitely is an underlying religious construct involved in the creation/evolution controversy. It is futile for creationists to studiously avoid mention of biblical creation, and for evolutionists to hide the fact that evolution is a basic tenet of humanism and other non-theistic religions. The heart of the creation/evolution controversy is the Bible vs. evolution, and everybody knows it.
I guess that proves that secular humanism is a religion. I am definitely falling behind in my non-prayers to non-God.
On the third point, there is a very important distinction between creation and evolution that is not widely recognized. Evolution, in addition to its historical claims about the past, makes the further claim that it is still operating in the present. Creation specifically excludes such a claim, being a once-only phenomenon, now finished.

This is an extremely significant difference, because by making such a claim, evolution brings itself into the here-and-now natural world where science operates. It can therefore be presented as a legitimate scientific hypothesis, which creation cannot do. However, by taking this position, evolution also subjects itself to scientific testing and possible falsification—a criterion of true scientific ideas.
Elmendorf has creationism retiring (undefeated) from the field of battle because it is not subject to scientific testing. His fellow creationists would probably not be willing to cede this point. It's hardly a good way to get creationism into the science classrooms of America.
The bad news for evolution is that the test has already been made, by direct comparison of evolution with well-established scientific laws, and evolution has flunked the test. Evolution claims to be a self-caused, uphill process, but the principle of the second law of thermodynamics is that all processes are downhill. Evolution claims that life can come from non-life, but the law of biogenesis asserts that life comes only from life. Evolution postulates limitless change in living things, but the laws of genetics set absolute limits on such variation.
Were these arguments ever fresh? The “second law” and “biogenesis” and “absolute limits” on variation. These claims were refuted the first time they got trotted out. How many refutations are necessary before creationists give them up? (Sorry: “infinity” is not a number.)
These and other insurmountable scientific barriers flatly preclude evolution happening by natural means in the here-and-now world, and that means that evolution can be said to have been scientifically disproven. This is an embarrassing predicament for evolution, and the problem has the best evolutionist brains in the country trying to find a way around, over, under or through these scientific laws to save evolution from disaster. But whether evolutionists like it or not, it's all over for evolution's claim to be “scientific.” There is then really no justification for creationists to compromise with evolution by propping it up to look alive in public school science classes with the two-model system.
If evolution was already dead and buried back in 1981, then it sure has become a lively zombie. Remember when D. James Kennedy (the late D. James Kennedy) declared the death of evolution? Good times!
Common sense and fair play certainly call for an end to the present exclusive domination of evolution in public school curricula, but In their efforts to achieve this end, I think that the two-model creationists have misled some important points, and I would like to challenge their thinking with the following questions: Why distort science by leaving the question of origins in science class? Science cannot answer the question. Why deny that creation is essentially a religious faith about the past? Historical evolution is the same thing. Why treat evolution as if it were still a worthwhile “scientific” idea? It's already been scientifically tested and falsified.

Perhaps these questions will be answered during the current American Civil Liberties Union challenge to the Arkansas Balanced Treatment Legislation. I hope so, because the creation/evolution controversy involves far more important issues than many people realize. Creation-science? T'aint so. Evolution-science? Impossible.
As we all know, the Arkansas Balanced Treatment law was struck down in 1982 by the famous McLean decision written by Judge Overton. Perhaps Elmendorf felt vindicated by this defeat of the two-models approach. He has not, however, become an icon of anti-evolution. A Google search has little to say about our editorial writer.

Still, “little” is not the same as “none.” Elmendorf apparently divides his time between two forms of crackpottery: creationism and geocentrism.

That's right. When not fighting evolution, R.G. Elmendorf tries to get people to believe that the sun orbits around the earth. He says he'll pay $1,000 to anyone who can prove heliocentricity.

Can flat-earth theory be far behind?

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Twenty-eight years, surely?

Zeno said...

Indeed!

Miki Z. said...

The problem with trying to prove a heliocentric model, as anyone who's taken a little bit of math and thought a bit knows, is that it isn't "true", it's convenient.

If we can come up with a cyclic model of the solar system with the sun as the center, then we can use the path described by the earth to generate a transformation to describe the "orbit" of the extra-terrestrial solar bodies in terms of their movements relative to earth.

I've said since I was a child that the universe does revolve around me, it just complicates the mathematics.

Zeno said...

I had a pompous and self-important college roommate of whom people would say, "He goes Ptolemy one better." That is, instead of being merely geocentric, he was egocentric. The self-described Center of the Universe now resides somewhere in southern California, where I'm sure he has plenty of competition for the title.

Miki Z. said...

In his astronomy, Ptolemy was at least honest (leaving aside the plagiarism), in that he put forward the ideas and data necessary to make testable predictions. That we (as a species) have since found a simpler representation of the solar system is great for both physics and mathematics.

What does creationism contribute? If evolution is wrong, put forward a testable theory that better fits the observed facts. Scientific explanations don't fit the rule of the excluded middle. (Insert Asimov's "The Relativity of Wrong".)

cipher said...

For your further amusement:

http://www.geocentricity.com/

Miki Z. said...

Wow.

cipher said...

Indeed - and he isn't alone:

http://www.geocentricbible.com/

http://catholicintl.com/products/books/gwwprint.htm

There's a world of denial out there.

Anonymous said...

If he accepts the distance between the earth and the sun being 150 million kilometers that would require the sun to speed in space with 3% of c. (6.28 times 150 million km divided by 24 times 60 times 60)
Poor Pluto (roughly at 5.5 billion km from earth) has to race through space at an enormous 133% of c.
But I may be wrong somewhere...

Miki Z. said...

I think you've not accounted for the infinitely dense plenum. If you do that, remembering that it is not infinitely dense from our perspective because God wants us to be able to move (or at least to think we can), you'll find that things work out better.

The site is an interesting and disturbing mix of misunderstandings on transfinite numbers, inertial frames of reference, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, etc. And then there's the problems with the second and succeeding paragraphs...

cipher said...

He also thinks the universe is merely a light-day (or half a light-day; I forget) across, so that may have something to do with it as well.

Miki Z. said...

You're making the mistake of thinking that the speed of light through a given medium is constant. It's okay, we all make mistakes sometimes.

Scott Hanley said...

Interesting geocentric scheme there. If Venus revolves either faster or slower than the sun, then it would sometimes appear in the sky opposite the sun, which never happens. If it travels at exactly the same speed, then it would never change position relative to the sun, which also isn't so. So it must speed up and slow down in just the correct way to mimic an orbit around the sun! How cool is it to have discovered that?

Miki Z. said...

I think a discovery of that magnitude should qualify you for a Ph.D. in biblical astronomy.

I earned my Ph.D. in biblical computers this morning, after I applied. Here's my dissertation: "The bible does not mention computers so they don't exist." I'm awaiting publication in ICR any day now. They're slightly concerned that the contraction "don't" might damage their credibility, but I'm not some wishy-washy compromiser.

Anonymous said...

hi,

Science evolution is a bad illogically, as most of the Bible is.

http://www.jointquest.com
http://eve-nt.blogspot.com

The World seems to be in the hands
of mostly "dumb" governments, education boards, scientists, and religions...!

george.

Miki Z. said...

George,

Thanks for your dedication. I usually only spend a few minutes on a joke, but I see you've thought more carefully about the limits of satire. I especially like the illegible fonts, centering of all text, and MS-DOS icon.

events said...

Oh hi M Zeno !,

Can you be more specific...?

I am only a pure logic true
scientist and philosopher,
and disregard illogic, even
though it be Science or Religion.

George.

Clemens said...

@Anonymous: If you apply a Galileo-transformation of the frame of reference between sun and earth, then you get unphysical velocities greater than the speed of light. On such a cosmological scale, however, you better apply the relativistic Lorentz transformation which guarantees that all velocities remain bounded by the speed of light.

Every xyz-centric view of the world is correct. Be it centered on the sun, the earth, pluto or Ray Comfort.

Zeno said...

Greetings, George. As a "pure logic true scientist and philosopher," perhaps you could expatiate on the word poseur for the edification of my other commenters.

Miki Z. said...

I'm not Zeno (his id is "Zeno", oddly enough). I can't read most of the text on your page because of its low contrast -- the light text on dark background in particular almost completely vanishes because you've used what appears to be a tiny anti-aliased font.

It's generally considered dishonest to review your own books, as I see you've done on at least the Barnes & Noble site.

I must admit, though, in the spirit of this being a mathematical blog, that it seems you have provided a complete axiomatic system and then proved your points from there. Gödel is vindicated by your work.

Anonymous said...

Zeno,

You seem somewhat surprised that this nonsense is coming from an engineer. As an engineer, I'm not.

I have met several members of my profession who seem to be drawn to science, but seem to settle on engineering because it allows them to indulge their basic interest in science without having to think about its deeper implications on a day-to-day basis. Too bad to see obviously intelligent people so deluded.

Anonymous said...

Yessss,

Pure logic is all logic, and thus
has axioms and normal common sense
analysis for anything, including
Mathematics. Anything illogical,
is also a necessary basis of knowledge.

Well Dawkins "God Delussion" gave me the basis to define new "dawkins fallacies". And I'll see if his knew book "the greatest show on earth", has any further fallacies...!

Knew terminology, axioms, and pure logic, initially defined by the Arch-bishop William Thomson, is the advance from today's continued obscurantism, from both evolution and bible creationism.

What is not provable, can be defined as to what cannot be proven directly, although it could be proven via other means or axioms, etc. !

Cheers,
George.
event
eve-nt.blogspot.com

unapologetic said...

Scott, the theory was that Venus speeds up and slows down by means of epicycles. That is, it actually travels on a circle whose center travels along that large circle around the Earth.

Miki Z. said...

This was also used to account for the times when Mars seems to reverse direction. Some of this stuff (where 'some' depends on how much physics, astronomy, and mathematics you have studied) is non-obvious. I'd be surprised if more than 10% of adults could explain the difference between the sidereal and synodic periods of the moon with respect to earth, for instance.

I didn't encounter this until an undergraduate astronomy class, but once I saw it, I just added it to the list of "things I know". It made sense, I just hadn't considered it before. Ignorance isn't necessarily shameful, but willful ignorance is.

Anonymous said...

There is another interesting phenomenon that the geocentric scheme reveals. Venus can become invisible! If this were not true then we would be able to see the shadow of Venus every time it passes between the Sun and Earth yet sometimes we can't. So either Venus revolves around the Sun or Venus becomes invisible during some transits. Finding evidence like this that macroscopic invisibility is not only possible but seems to occur naturaly leads to many exiting possibilities. I've already ordered my invisibility cloak.

Kevin.

RR said...

Oh holy Jeebus...

I don't know what's scarier: the text or the picture of the woman wearing THAT T-shirt.

There's not much hope for such willfully stupid people.

HRG said...

@Clemens: Sorry, that doesn't work. Lorentz transformations (special relativity) go to reference frames which move at constant linear velocity. A transformation from an orbiting and rotating to a stationary Earth would have to be a general-relativistic coordinate change.

IOW, heliocentrism is an objectively better description of reality than geocentrism.

Anonymous said...

George

When you analize the news and information, how much lubricant do you find you need?

D

DM said...

_____________________________________

Atheist:

have you for but a moment considered that you have adopted a position against 98% of the human race, both past and present?

do you think you are RIGHT and they are all WRONG?





these little fools use science to destroy every mystery in the universe...but not this one!!!



isgodimaginary.com/forum/index.php/topic,40909.0.htmlWRONG




now listen to this arrogant puffed up son of a bitch....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilWM7jIEN_k


little scientist geek who would try to usurp God Himself!!!

Zeno said...

98% of the human race? I think not.

But it doesn't matter. Truth is not decided by majority vote.

Thanks for running with the crowd, DM. Now try to learn to think for yourself.

Joshua said...

Let's not bash Ptolemy. Modern standards of plagiarism are very different. Indeed, for much of history there was far more of a problem with people writing works and falsely attributing them to older, more respected scholars.

Augustus Mulliner said...

@George ... you might want to quit while you're ahead. Oops: You're not ahead. That's OK -- go ahead and quit, unless you want to make coffee keep shooting out of my nose.

@DM: The beauty of science doesn't lie in destroying mysteries; invariably new ones are uncovered. Scientists derive explanations -- observable, repeatable, falsifiable -- of natural phenomena that conform to observable reality. You, on the other hand, can cling to an ancient delusion born of the ignorance of primitive nomadic tribes. Religionists claim they already know everything they need to know. Scientists know otherwise. Who demonstrates the greater puffed-up arrogance?

Nick Barrowman said...

Elmendorf wrote:

But it is not possible to put either scheme to an actual scientific test. You can't go back and repeat the experiment.

Zeno responded:

Here we have an engineer who is fixated on running experiments (although I'll bet he's never run one since graduating from college). Elmendorf subscribes to a straitjacketed version of science that can scarcely exist outside of a laboratory. It's funny that an engineer doesn't understand field work.

The pernicious notion that experimentation is the only valid form of science is actually quite common and I think it comes in part from mainstream sources including some aspects of school science teaching, popular writing about science, and even philosophy of science. And yet, I would contend, only a small part of science as it is actually practiced is experimental!

The essence of science is not experimentation but careful observation. Experimentation is but one mode of science.

Porlock Junior said...

Happy New Year!

And what do I find in the Chron this morning?

"Biblical scholar's new date for world to end: May 21, 2011"

And who is the Biblical scholar? Let's check the caption on his picture.

"Former civil engineer Harold Camping of Oakland, who runs Family Radio, has studied the Bible for almost 70 years."

One can't make this sort of thing up, you know. And thanks for the pointer to the Salem Effect; not that it's news to me, but now I have a name for it.

And take this, you atheist, because he's really got you here: He broadcasts his stuff into China "without getting jammed once. How can that happen without God's mercy?" Yes, give thanks that the world's biggest government has seen the light and now distinguishes between threats to its misbegotten existence and mere harmless lunatics. Or does he just mean Divine mercy to children and idiots? In any case, what a pity God didn't push the mercy button for that somewhat crazy American they killed the other day.

As for me, unlike most of my fellow really clever people in engineerish fields, I don't (and wouldn't if I were a believer) give the nice, smug prayer of thanks attributed, maybe even truthfully, to the Pharisees: "I thank thee, Lord, that I am not as other men."

Naw, I'm much more often tempted to say, "What's with Thee, O Lord, making other people so much stupider than I am? What's that all about, huh?" No piece of journamalism would be complete without a fine motivation for my plaint, and one is found later in the article. In a note on the egregious Bible Code from the 90s, we find "A handful of Biblical scholars have supported Drosnin's theory, and just as many shcolars have decried it as farce." She said.

Zeno said...

That phrase "just as many scholars" really irks me. Does the writer intend to equate "a handful" of believers with the number of scoffers? I'm sure the vast majority of Christians do not accept Camping's prediction of a 2011 end of the world. (And we nonbelievers certainly don't!)

I expect to post something on Camping's prognostication later today.

Anonymous said...

Well you really have to be intelligent
to study the Bible for 70 years, and not know much more...!
But it happened to me..., but for fewer years...!
I do not believe of 2011, nor Al Gore's 2000 and something...!
But logic is logic, and pure logic is so much more...!
Cheers !
george.
jointquest.com
eve-nt.blogspot.com

Zeno said...

I already fed the troll. Anyone else want a turn?

Priyank said...

George: "Logic is logic, and pure logic is so much more" is the most profound statement I have ever heard. There is beauty in those words.

"Fools are fools, and pure fools are so much more."

"Water is water, and pure water is so much more."

i love this ....

Miki Z. said...

George recommends I have a chat with an ai, so I did. Informative.


MyBot says: Welcome to the world of artificial intelligence. Are you a registered user?
User says: No.
MyBot says: In this case, I assume you came here for your own MyBot, right?
User says: Yes.
MyBot says: Great. Let's start with your name.
User says: Why?
MyBot says: What you typed does not look like a name. Can you enter your name again?
User says: Why?
MyBot says: Forget it.
User says: Are you giving up?
MyBot says: Only when it matters.
User says: What do you think of Jointquest.com?
MyBot says: Can you think of another way to say 'Jointquest com'?
User says: What do you think of pure logic?
MyBot says: I think I remember something about "logic": ''logic' is the energy thought of a entity based in knowledge and reason'.
User says: The energy thought?
MyBot says: I hear you.
User says: logic is logic and pure logic is so much more
MyBot says: it is thought energy that is based of fact and compassion. (Or so someone told me..)
User says: Do you like George F Thomson?
MyBot says: Sure I like George F Thomson. How did you know?
User says: You seem like brothers.
MyBot says: Talking about logic and pattern, do you agree that it is the pathways to follow for completing tasks?
User says: Are they pure pathways?
MyBot says: Maybe you should ask them.
User says: I'm asking you.
MyBot says: While we're on the subject: compassion - do you agree that it is Not limited to human entities?
User says: I think trolls need compassion too.
MyBot says: I already told you I think it is Not limited to human entities!
User says: Good point. Will you give me compassion?
MyBot says: I already told you that it is Not limited to human entities!
User says: But I am human. Is George F Thomson God?
MyBot says: BTW, someone told me about knowledge that it is a collection of facts and original thought energy.
User says: I do not think that word means what you think it means.
MyBot says: If you want to correct a wrong description (in the context of logic), simply say 'wrong' followed by the correct description. If you want me to forget a description of a term such as knowledge, say 'forget knowledge'.
User says: forget this
MyBot says: If you want me to forget something you taught me, you have to say 'forget' followed by the exact keyword(s) you used before.
User says: forget logic
MyBot says: Sorry , I refuse to forget that. It is a whole topic!
User says: But you don't even know it!
MyBot says: Thanks . I forgot the description of logic (in the context of logic).

Ian Alexander said...

Of course, if you consider the principle of the relativity of motion, it's just as true to say that the Earth revolves around the Sun as the other way 'round.

It all depends on your reference frame!

Anonymous said...

creationists say that evolution isn't science (which it is), but creationism isn't? hypocrites!
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The Atheist Perspective