Sarfati's YEC Nonsense

Sarfati's YEC Nonsense September 8, 2011

Someone sent me a link to this interview with young earth creationist Jonathan Sarfati, which is full of the kind egregious crap we’ve grown accustomed to from YECs like him.

Tulsa World: How strong is the scientific evidence for classical Darwinian evolution?

Sarfati: You can’t make a good argument for it. Even going back in history, most of Darwin’s criticism from his contemporaries came from other scientists. A lot of his support came from the clergy, which is the reverse of what people usually think.

The last two sentences are both wrong and irrelevant. The first is simply idiocy. With a straight face, he actually says that you can’t make a good argument for a theory accepted by virtually every single scientist in the relevant fields for nearly 150 years. Utterly ridiculous. So is his attempt to explain away that consensus:

If belief in evolution is not scientifically defensible, why is it so widely held in the scientific community?

Evolutionists have their own bias, and their bias is a materialistic world view. We have admissions from (some of them) who said they have to accept the view, no matter how counter-intuitive because they have a commitment to materialism.

Really? Tell that to Ken Miller. He certainly doesn’t have any bias toward materialism. Nor do the thousands and thousands of other evolutionary scientists who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or the like. This isn’t an argument, it’s an attempt to avoid one.

What about the contrary evidence from scientific dating methods?

There are always assumptions behind dating methods. They’re not infallible. They can be made to point to a young Earth, as well as an old Earth.

This is a neat rhetorical trick. He uses the term “assumptions” to refer to a set of claims that are entirely testable. We don’t have to assume, for example, the decay rates of radioisotopes; we can test that rate of decay. Nor do we have to assume that those decay rates are not affected by a wide range of conditions because we can test that too — and we have.

The evidence is not what people think. For example, people think that carbon 14 dating proves millions of years, but carbon 14 dating itself argues against millions of years.

One would have to be an ignoramus to believe that carbon dating either proves or disproves millions of years, since it can’t be used on anything near that old. It can only be used on organic samples that are younger than about 60,000 years because the half-life is only 5730 years. Sarfati knows this, of course, but he also knows his followers do not.

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  • Chiroptera

    There are always assumptions behind dating methods.

    Like the assumption that there is a real world outside of our minds, and that the properties of that real world is independent of how individuals think about it?

    That our senses can provide data about what the real world is like?

    That not all possible scenarios are consistent with the data we have about the real world, and so scenarios can be eliminated, and others can be favored?

    What creationists always say when they talk about “biases” and “assumptions,” even if they don’t realize they’re saying is, is that we can all decide what we want to believe, that we can always interpret data to support whatever our preferred beliefs are.

    And yet, they are always railing against “postmodernism” and the relativity that it implies, even though their own arguments support the very caricature of postmodernism that they claim to despise.

  • As I’ve noted before, let me know when someone makes a regular profit by finding natural resources using “Flood Geology”.

  • Artor

    Scientists operate from the assumption that the universe is not a huge practical joke designed specifically to trick them. I know, it’s a stretch, but they assume that evidence actually means something, and that logic can deduce actual conclusions. Isn’t that quaint?

  • Larry

    Sarfati knows this, of course, but he also knows his followers do not.

    That, in a nutshell, is why YECC and related carnival sideshows are still around. They can lie and misrepresent to their heart’s content, knowing that those who listen to them are, for a depressingly large part, incurious, lazy, or are just plain too stupid to do any investigating of claims. All that you need to do is throw out a few “god sez” and the rubes come running.

  • Michael Heath

    I’m disappointed this paper had their religion writer, Bill Sherman, do the interview rather than their science reporter (bet they don’t even have one). You get gems like this from this article:

    Nearly all scientists and academics believe the Earth is much older than that, some 4.5 billion years old, an age necessary for the slow progression of developing life required by the theory of evolution.

    Well no Mr. Wright, it’s not mere belief, it’s instead about the evidence. And scientists don’t “believe” the earth is old because that’s required to explain evolution, but instead all the evidence convincingly points to an old earth with all claims of a young earth being convincingly falsified (except Thursdayism which by its very nature requires us to reject creationism and stick with applied science and the scientific process for research).

    I get that my response requires one to slightly misread Mr. Wright’s assertion; but I think his framing leads general readers to the assumption that science believes in an old earth because it wants evolution to be true, i.e., it’s an article faith equivalent to religious faith. Not knowing Mr. Sherman I don’t assume he’s being disingenuous, but instead reporting from the point of view of someone steeped in religionist thinking rather than someone literate in scientific methodology whose also capable of employing critical thinking skills to inform the reader.

  • Aquaria

    They can lie and misrepresent to their heart’s content, knowing that those who listen to them are, for a depressingly large part, incurious, lazy, or are just plain too stupid to do any investigating of claims. eager to have someone, anyone, tell them that they are right to believe nonsense.

    FTFY

  • Aquaria

    Let’s try it again, since it looks like I left off something in the strikethrough:

    They can lie and misrepresent to their heart’s content, knowing that those who listen to them are, for a depressingly large part, incurious, lazy, or are just plain too stupid to do any investigating of claims. eager to have someone, anyone, tell them that they are right to believe nonsense.

    FTFY

  • DaveL

    When someone pulls out radiocarbon dating in the context of evidence for the age of the earth, it’s a dead giveaway that you’re listening to a liar and a fool.

  • abb3w

    Where he says, We have admissions from (some of them) (etc), he’s probably to referring to the quote by Lewontin about “Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door”.

    While I would agree with Ed that this is not what I would consider an argument (and would taxonomize it as “Attitude Bolstering”), I would point to the tradition within Christian theology of proof-texting, and note the observation (from Radner and Radner’s Science and Unreason):

    Pseudoscientists often reveal themselves by their handling of the scientific literature. Their idea of doing scientific research is simply to read scientific periodicals and monographs. They focus on words, not on the underlying facts and reasoning. They take science to be all statements by scientists. Science degenerates into a secular substitute for sacred literature. Any statement by any scientist can be cited against any other statement. Every statement counts and every statement is open to interpretation.

    Or in short: it counts as an argument, by the measures that Sarfati is used to, and by the problematic segment of the audience who most agrees with him.

    As to the question of “assumptions”, I’d note that while what he’s referring to are (as Ed suggests) entirely testable and in fact taken as provisional inferences, the basis of testing itself rests on other inferences, which in turn must lead back to some philosophical starting point (or circular reasoning, which is topologically homomorphic). The testing used by science relies, for example, on having two times three equal to six, and thus in turn on the validity of the axioms of set theory that underlies the validity of basic arithmetic. A philosopher willing to reject the validity of ZF and all suitable substitutes can reject the tests of science… although, since they also reject the existence of “2×3=6” as a theorem, tend not to be taken seriously. Ultimately, science effectively relies on the validity of math’s underlying axioms, and math’s ability to describe reality.

    Sarfati and the like seem to prefer to start with the Inerrancy of the Bible as their ultimate premise; they usually are willing to accept the validity of mathematics as an abstract entity, but choke hardest at the notion that it can effectively describe reality. The difficulty that Sarfati and followers fail to grasp is exactly how broad is the range of what mathematics can describe, in part by mistaking the minute scope of “what I can grasp as being described mathematically” with “everything math can describe”.

    However, I’m not sure this observation is useful for illuminating means to convince the stupid.

  • Wes

    Even going back in history, most of Darwin’s criticism from his contemporaries came from other scientists. A lot of his support came from the clergy, which is the reverse of what people usually think.

    The last two sentences are both wrong and irrelevant.

    Actually, he is PARTIALLY correct. This is an example of a religious apologist abusing the history of science (which they do a lot–even the moderate, evolution-accepting religious apologists love to abuse history of science).

    It is true that Darwinism faced A LOT of opposition from other scientists, which is normal whenever a new theory is proposed. Scientific criticism of Darwinism continued into the early 20th century. Darwinism had to run a scientific gauntlet before getting accepted, which is a testament to the strength of the theory.

    And it is also true that there were a lot of clergymen who supported him. There’s a myth that once Darwin published his theory, every church on Earth immediately denounced it, but this isn’t true. Historians like Peter Bowler have shown pretty conclusively that while there was opposition to Darwin in the churches, it wasn’t universal, and there were many religious leaders who accepted, and in some instances even welcomed, his theory. This is part of why historians are skeptical of the claim that there was ever a “war” between science and religion. In actuality, the historical relation between the two has been a lot more complicated than that.

    However, Safarti is misconstruing this to make it sound like evolution succeeded for religious purposes rather than scientific purposes. That’s pure bullshit. The support of the clergy is not what convinced the scientific community.

  • Wes

    Oh, and I also need to add that articles like this are what sometimes make me ashamed to be from Oklahoma. Why the hell would a newspaper give a platform to a crackpot like Sarfati? Ugh.

    At least Oklahoma State is whooping Arizona’s butt right now. That makes me feel better. Go Pokes! 🙂

  • Formerly known as Sadie Morrison

    You’re an Okie, Wes? Ouch. I’m a Kansan, though, and that’s not a whole lot better. The Wichita Eagle’s Opinion Line section is like the creme de la crap of Yahoo comment sections on acid. And the op ed contributors? Truly horrendous.

  • marymallone

    I find it humorous that the preamble to the article sets out to present Sarfati as a prominent intellectual, the implication being that “he is remarkably intelligent, so he is definitely an authority on the matter of evolution.” However, his skills in chess (although they require intelligence, I’m assuming) have little to do with his ability to discuss the technicalities of evolution. I also find it funny that he is marketed as an academic, so that his PhD and papers submitted to secular science journals lend credence to his foolish stances, but his specialty is not in biology, and he has only published six or so articles (all co-authored, although I suppose that’s par for the course in the sciences) – maybe I’m wrong, but six articles does not seem like that large of a number at all in an academic’s career. I remember that for an introductory biology-class lab report, for example, I was hunting down a misplaced article by some author, and when I typed his name into the search engine there was page after page of search results, all papers the same individual had published in peer-reviewed journals.