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    This evening was Juliet's annual Hanukkah dinner.  It was the first time in some months I've seen the crowd together and that was nice.  As usual, the dinner was excellent and many thanks to Juliet for feeding us all.

December 14, 2006

Debunking creationist claims

    I've been having somewhat regular visits by Jehovah Witnesses lately.  This time, they left me with a book called "Life- How did it get here?  By evolution or by creation?".  As one might expect, it's not a neutral investigation into the question.  I'm always interested in seeing the "proof" for creation, so I've started into the book.  I didn't get very far before glaring errors started showing up. Let me make a quote:
"The [Genesis] account lists 10 major stages in this order: (1) a beginning; (2) a primitive earth in darkness and enshrouded in heavy gases and water; (3) light; (4) an expanse or atmosphere; (5) large areas of dry land; (6) land plants; (7) sun, moon and stars discernible in the expanse, and seasons beginning; (8) sea monsters and flying creatures; (9) wild and tame beasts, mammals; (10) man.  Science agrees that these stages occurred in this general order. " Life—How did it get here?, page 37
    The book then continues to argue the odds of these 10 stages coincidently lining up with the scientific stages.  Well, maybe if you never learned anything from your basic science classes and never read the first part of the book of Genesis in the Bible, you might be inclined to believe this claim.  Read for yourself the book of Genesis, in any version of the Bible you like.  The biblical events don't happen like this.  Now, go to the public library and pick up some books on the solar system and evolution in the children's section.  Try to find something a little more recent then 1950 and you should be able to follow along. 
    We'll start right off with step 1, a beginning. 
"So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be." -- Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time. pp. 140-141
    So science doesn't  necessarily subscribe to "a beginning".  Alright, so that won't be in your children's books.  But this might be...
    Step 2. primitive earth in darkness, heavy gases and water.  Well, Earth was probably formed with the rest of the solar system, including the sun.  So it's possible the sun hadn't yet started nuclear fusion, in which case it wouldn't really be creating much light.  There was, however, light.  Billions of stars surrounded our young solar system as they do today.  Also, the "enshrouded in heavy gases and water" is way off.  Nebula, where stars form, are mostly made of hydrogen and helium—the two lightest gases.  There was water, or more accurately ice, frozen in minerals.  But there were no oceans and there wasn't enough ice to make the oceans yet-- that would come latter.  This step comes from Genesis 1:2.  The verse is so ambiguous, it's hard to make anything useful from it.  But to suggest this means "a primitive earth in darkness and enshrouded in heavy gases and water" is a far stretch.  There is water, but where did the heavy gases come from?  Even reading the "New World Translation" (the Witnesses version of the Bible), I see no indications pointing to heavy gases.
    Step 3. light.  At some point the sun did enter the stage of a T Tauri stars, in which Lithium burning could take place.  But as mentioned before, there was already light from other stars.  There was probably already visible light from the sun anyway, as even before starting nuclear fusion, the gas was very hot.  This step is Genesis 1:3, which everyone knows the "Let there be light" part.  To suggest that young Earth was dark from cloud cover still isn't accurate—the whole planet was molten and would have been glowing hot.
    Step 4, atmosphere.  There was an atmosphere around young Earth before the sun lit off.  Reading Genesis 1:6-8, actually gives an account of how the heavens (sky or "atmosphere" is this book claims) were created using water.  Maybe the writers at the time, observing the blue sky, assumed it was made of water—don't know, just speculation.  Perhaps atmosphere is referring to a more modern atmosphere in which life could evolve, or the blue sky we see today.  This still doesn't work if step 5 is in the right order.
    Step 5, dry land.  At this point, we have to assume oceans already exist.  In the early Hadean eon (the first state of Earth's formation), the entire planet was molten.  But after it cooled a bit, it formed the crust.  This was before there were any oceans, the entire planet was dry land (less molten rock from volcanic activity)—very dry and very hot.  If you read Genesis, you will see that water seemed to exist from the moment Earth was created (Genesis 1:1-2), presumably without land, since it's not until Genesis 1:9 that land is created.  One might say "dry land" refers to the land after the planet cooled enough to create a crust over the magma.  That can't work, because Genesis specifically says "water".
    Step 6, land plants.  More specifically, according to Genesis 1:11-12, plants with seeds and fruit.  Well, you do need all these previous stages before this can happen.  However, it's out of sequence with the next steps.
    Step 7, seasons begin.  Read Genesis 1:14-17, which is what they are referring to.  The wording of this step seems purposely to have been written vague.  It does suggest, however, this is when seasons began (in agreement with Genesis).  Genesis states this was also the time when the moon and stars were created (for the purpose of marking seasons, years and day).  One popular hypothesis about the origins of the moon have a young Earth colliding with an other planet about the size of Mars.  This knocked out a chuck of Earth, forming the moon.  It may also have been responsible for Earth's 23.5° axial tilt, thus causing our seasons.  This is proposed to have happened before the Earth solidified, thus before "dry land".  Even if the moon wasn't responsible for the axial tilt, the tilt would have been present before living land plants from step 7.  Simply using the Genesis account, light and dark periods on the Earth existed before there was a sun, since it wasn't until this point the sun was assigned the function of daylight.  This might be understandable at the time the book of Genesis was written.  If the Earth was flat then the twilight hours at dusk and dawn, when the sun isn't visible, can make it seem as if the lighting of the Earth was independent of the sun—but that's purely speculation on my part.  The term "discernible" perhaps suggests you couldn't see the sun, moon and stars, perhaps being obscured by thick clouds or something.  That's just silly, since there are now fruit baring plants at this point.  Nothing in the scientific record suggests the Earth was overcast continuously by the time fruit baring trees were growing.  Nor does Genesis say you simply couldn't see the sun, moon and stars.
    Step 8, sea life and birds.  Sea life, or water life, is the oldest life, existing before any other—including the seed baring plants from step 6.  Again, referring to Genesis 20-21, a clearer picture of what is meant begins to appear.  The term "sea creatures" perhaps only refers to large, multicellular organisms like fish and whales.  Apparently, these would develop the same time as birds.  Keep that in mind for future steps.
    Step 9, mammals and other beasts.  This is Genesis 1:25, and includes all animals that move along the ground (those that "creepeth" according to the King James version).  We assume this excludes birds and whales, since they would have already existed from step 8.  Whales are believed to have been land animals (like most mammals) that entered the water around 50 million years ago.  So science disagrees with this step.  Also, reptiles would come before birds in evolutionary progression.  Reptiles would presumably have been created in this step, since they move along the ground, (many) don't live exclusively in water and they are not birds—thus conflicting with step 8.
   Step 10: man.  Well, at least they got one right—man did evolve after the rest of these steps.  Luckily, Genesis leaves the order of creation there, so there are no more steps to debunk this last one.
    What I find odd is that this chapter of  "Life- How did it get here?  By evolution or by creation?" is saying science agrees with the Bible and by doing so (despite being mistaken of their order), excepting some of the steps of macro evolution.  The book attacks macro evolution throughout.  So what is the importance of something you don't believe lining up with something you do?  Clearly it offers some importance, because the book then argues how improbable the odds of these "facts" happening to align are.

1 comment has been made.

From Nathan


December 15, 2006 at 5:22 PM

that stuff really gets you going, doesn't it? Well, I can't blame you, I probably just wouldn't spend as much time on it. Well done.
   We went to school today to attended the drama club meeting.  After the meeting, I was invited to observe a lab in which they were going to create a tornado.  They was done using dry-ice in boiling water in a room with a strong exhaust fan.  Tables were setup around an area that was boxed off, and several box fans were on to make a rotating mass of air.  All of this resulted in a fair large rotating column of air that once made visible by water vapor was pretty neat.


   So today was the finial for Art History class, and much to my delight, it was an open book/open note test.  Crystal and I, who have the class together, got together and assembled a massive packet of information on every painting the test was to cover.  It totaled about 45 pages.  When it was time to play "name that painting" on the test, it was pretty much a no-brainer.  In all honesty, I think it makes more sense to have tests done in this manner-- life is an open book/open note situation.


   Today, my kitchen mixer arrived. This was my xmass present to myself and something I wanted to assist in making bread. I spent most of the day cooking. Started with some pancakes, just to see the mixer work. Then, I started a loaf of French bread to give the mixer a real test. That went really well. The dough hook slapped the flower, water and yeast around and turned it into a nice ball of dough. With the kneading done by mixer, I decided I needed something else to do with my time. So, I decided to bake lasagna. I've never made it before, but the other night I bought a good pan for baking lasagna, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  A quick look at some recipes on the net, and assembled something I liked.  I probably doubled the cheese called for, but I like cheese.  I ended up with a very tasty result :)  Also gave me something to freeze and cart to school for lunch that wasn't setting new records for sodium content.


    In my pre-calculus class, we're working with logarithms. I have the habit of using a spreadsheet to assist in doing my math homework. Simply punch in the numbers, and it cranks out the answer. This isn't the first time I've used my computer to help with math homework. I recall back sometime back around 1992, I wrote a program to solve problems for an algebra assignment, including printing out the steps to obtain the answerer. Using a spreadsheet makes me feel a little lazy, so I decided to prove to myself I understood the assignment well enough to produce this:
Principal (P): P = Tert
% Rate (p): p = ln( T / P ) / t
Years (t): t = ln( T / P ) / r
Total (T): T = Pert
This little javascript works with compounding interest. Fill in the fields you know and hit "calculate" next to the field you want to compute. You can compute any of the fields provided you know the other 3. I've worked with logarithms in the past on various projects, but never with much of a background on them. I've had to convert natural log (log base e) to common log (log base 10), but that was really about the extent of their use to me.