I don’t think Answers in Genesis quite gets science Pt. 3 (of 3)

ChipmunkwtfIn part 1 and part 2, I currently addressing this article from Answers in Genesis. I’m not too happy how part 2 came out. I was mostly grinding through dumb stuff, but this next part, which I’ve been itching to get to, has some interesting (to me, at least) topics. I probably should have just skipped right to this part.

What if light travels infinitely fast?” – How AiG doesn’t get science.

Let’s finish this up with a kapow.

Don’t get mad, but I’d like to briefly address something that smells like Presuppositionalism that’s actually very important in this discussion. Stay thy pitchforks and torches.

The the last part, I said “Not distant and mutually agreed assumptions – immediate and proximate assumptions.” I was thinking of explaining that previously, but it’ll be more useful here. What do I mean by this?

There’s two aspects to it, which I’ll try to put labels on – “Most Recent Common Assumption” and “Most Recent Foundational Demonstration

Most Recent Common Assumption

Shortly put, if one is engaged in a debate, anything before a commonly agreed upon point is irrelevant. For example, if the two parties agree that the logical absolutes exist, and are used as a basis for each’s position, the fact that the two parties have different ideas as to where or how the logical absolutes came to be, doesn’t advance one side or the other, past the other.

This applies to assumptions as well. If both parties agree that nature is by default consistent… that the rules of the universe aren’t going to spontaneously and arbitrarily change on us… the reasons why that might be the case aren’t relevant to the debate.

If we’re arguing about whether someone named Bob murdered Fred, we’re both assuming that Bob is most likely a human. The evidence indicates agency within the criminal, but the idea that the murder was an alien or a malevolent fairy, is too absurd, and we agree on that.

My contention that this person “Bob” was likely an employee of Fred’s restaurant is not rebutted because you point out that I’m assuming that the universe came out of nothing… or that I’m assuming that no god was responsible for the formation of life. It’s not rebutted by the fact that I’m assuming that the consistency of nature doesn’t require a god.

… what would any of that have to do with the debate? It’s irrelevant.

On the flipside, if your contention is that Bob couldn’t have been the murderer, because you’re assuming he lived in China – with no good reason to assume this… that is relevant to the case. It’s immediate and proximate to the debate. In terms of a regression of knowledge, that’s after the commonly agreed upon assumption – that he’s human and not an alien, as opposed to before the commonly agreed upon assumption.

Most Recent Foundational Demonstration

This is similar in nature to the above concept. It just means that if something can be objectively demonstrated, the full regression of knowledge, back to the beginning of time, that leads up to it, is irrelevant.

For a simple example, if we can demonstrate that gasoline burns, and causes gaseous matter to expand, is a sufficient most-recent foundational demonstration for explaining how internal combustion engines work. Our explanation about how it uses igniting gasoline isn’t rebutted because we don’t know how the Big Bang happened. It’s not even rebutted by the fact that we have no idea where our sample of gasoline came from. It’s current existence, and demonstration, is a sufficient starting point.

This is the same reason why the Theory of Evolution is not contingent on Abiogenesis. Both creationists and evolution-accepting folk agree that life started at some point. That’s all that’s needed for evolutionary theory to take over, regardless of how life started.

 

Hopefully the above makes sense, as we plummet into the next bits of the article. The author talks about the light from distant galaxies rebutting the notion that the universe is young.

What we contend is that observational science has many evidences that line up with a young earth or universe but seem contradictory to an old universe.

I’d like to know an example that hasn’t been rebutted so thoroughly that it’s little more than than a smoldering crater in the ground.

We’re ever so close to the crux of the problem. Focus on the ” but seem contradictory to an old universe” bit.

Historical science (creationist or secular) by its very nature is based on a worldview i.e., religion.

Digressing a second – no, no that’s not what “worldview” means. Sheesh.

world·view

: the way someone thinks about the world

Religions are world views. World views re not religions. Dogs have 4 legs, therefore everything with 4 legs is a dog… right?

Continuing…

  • Either the universe started out as a singularity, which billions of years ago exploded and has caused an expanding universe ever since, or God created it ex nihilo.
  • Either life evolved out of non-living chemicals, or aliens seeded the universe (but this only raises the question of how the aliens became alive), or God created life as described in Genesis 1–2.

Digressing again…

Hey, uh, thanks for the false dilemmas. Again, demonstrating that they don’t get how science works.

Science starts with zero knowledge, and looks for evidence, and follows that evidence to conclusions. We don’t start with pre-conceived notions and then try to support them with evidence. That’s what religion does.

Incidentally, that’s why I loathe Sherlock Holme’s “once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” Sure, but the core problem, that we’ve experienced repeatedly in science, is that the actual answer isn’t even on the list that we think the possibilities are. Like in the above options, I may not know what any other possibilities are, but the correct answer could be among the unknown.

Taking that as the core approach to understanding reality is fundamentally flawed. Life isn’t a process of elimination. It needs to be balanced with positive evidence.

Still digressing (sorry, I just can’t let these things go):

Neither theory is provable (testable, repeatable, etc.). That’s why you’ll often see our articles state something like, “We trust the Word of God who was there” or “We accept God’s Word as a true testimony.”

No no no no. I mean, yes. That’s what you do, but we do not.

Again, evolution is “provable” in the only way that’s relevant to science – demonstration beyond a reasonable doubt. We don’t just “trust that evolution is true“. It’s evidently true, so therefore, we accept it.

I’m still not sure why the author thinks that our processes are the same, when clearly they’re polar opposites.

 

Here we go. I’m getting goosebumps.

In the example of distant starlight, we see that their model is based on observational science—measurements of light and calculations of how far from earth the stars and galaxies are based on the speed of light.

Do you remember last time how I was agreeing with them that nature is consistent? Now we’re going to apply it. Except, we’ll see that they don’t apply it, even if they think we’re stealing it from them (which makes it hard to pin down what their argument’s premises are, exactly).

I agree with the above statement. The speed of light is heavily researched and empirically measured. Since we’re blithely borrowing the consistency of nature from the Christian worldview, we can both agree that the incoming light – the same type of phenomenon we can experiment with ourselves – from distant galaxies will also consistently hold to these observations.

Right?

Creationist astronomers would rightly point out that the one way speed of light may be instantaneous, so this would nullify the billions of years light travel assumption.

What! Come on – I thought we were on the same page with this!

How do you figure that they’re “rightly” pointing it out? Here’s (the above and the below) the central core of how they’re so far away from practicing “science” the same we do, that they’re practically in another dimension.

What we should (and I would contend that we do) point out is that even the observational science methods are flawed because of assumptions, unreliable dating methods, unwarranted speculations, etc.

I agree – observational methods of science are flawed, which is why science has a massive infrastructure to account and mitigate those flaws. This is why “observation” is more about the empirical measurements, and not about the mere fact that a person saw it.

I won’t dive into the “unreliable dating methods” bit, because that’s a long, dry topic (and this isn’t), for another day.

Last time, I brought up another phrase, “concordance with the preponderance of evidence“. What do I mean by that?

Puzzles.

One of the most significant ways we know that our assertions and contentions are accurate, are by how well they fit with the rest of scientific knowledge. You think it’s possible that Bob, who has a valid alibi somewhere else on the planet, could have been been the murderer, because he could have gotten from where he was, to where Fred was located… but it would have required Bob to travel faster than the speed of light... there’s something wrong with your assertion.

To just arbitrarily throw out a law of physics because it’d make your assertion possible is not scientific.

This isn’t a question of world views, or assumptions, or preferences or opinions. When we look back at the long history of scientific investigation, we note two very consistent occurrences.

  1. Assertions that are not concordant with the preponderance of evidence tend to be wrong.
  2. Assertions that are concordant with the preponderance of evidence tend to be right…. or at least, in the ballpark.

You are assembling a 500-piece puzzle – that will ultimately form the image of a cat, of course, but you don’t know that yet. There’s a gap in the puzzle that you’re trying to figure out how to fill. The available puzzle pieces fall into of three categories:

  1. Fits in snugly, matching the adjacent pieces’ pattern
  2. One side seems to fit, but not the others
  3. Doesn’t fit into the slot at all – pattern doesn’t match

Anything that’s not #1 is a problem. Dammit Worldpress, stop switching over to divs every time I do an ordered list. It screws up the formatting.

It’s a beautiful and satisfying thing, when the puzzle piece snaps right into place, meshing seamlessly with the others, beam of light shooting up into the ceiling.

The creationist, on the other hand, has decided ahead of time that it’s a picture of Jesus, and is trying to force pieces to go together, mashing and breaking the interlocking bits, to achieve this goal… regardless of whether the pieces fit together or not.

Scientific facts do not exist in a vacuum. They’re not disparate. They’re not disconnected and ramification-free when they change. It’s the opposite. That puzzle piece that fit right into place compliments the adjacent puzzle pieces, which mesh together and compliment with their respective adjacent puzzle pieces, which mesh together and compliment their respective adjacent pieces … and so on.

Conversely, if a puzzle piece is wrong, there’s a cascade of invalidation.

Group Project

Everyone awkwardly split up into pairs with the people around you, who you don’t know, and end up being the odd person out, and work alone in the corner, probably the way you would have preferred it, anyway. If there’s any physics-minded people in the room, I have a question for you.

If the light specifically from stars/galaxies were to propagate instantaneously across the universe, what else in physics would that conflict with? What problems would arise for other fields or phenomenon?

I’m no physicist myself, but I can scrounge up a few examples (let me know if I get any parts of these wrong).

Example 1: Neutrinos and Supernovae

  • We have examples of the neutrinos produced from supernova reaching us before the light does (Wikipedia). If light traveled infinitely fast, that means that neutrinos travel infinitely fast too…otherwise, the multiple times this event has occurred, the different stars from different distances would have to have some calculating mechanism to figure out when, in the distant past, to randomly release a burst of neutrinos so that they always arrive a couple hours before the light does, eons later, when the star finally supernovas.
  • Recent experimentation shows that neutrinos have mass (Wikipedia).
  • Since kinetic energy follows the formula “Ke = 0.5 * m * v^2″, if the neutrinos are travelling infinitely fast, they have infinite kinetic energy. This wreaks havoc with the Law of Conservation (Wikipedia), as now the energy of the universe is shooting through the roof… infinitely.
  • The Mass-energy equivalence equation (E = mc^2) (Wikipedia) would go psycho as well. Whether we look at it in terms of the neutrino’s now infinite energy, or look at them in turns of increasing mass, when approaching the speed of light… not only would we have infinite kinetic energy particles flying around the universe, but they’d be infinite mass black holes too.

Example 2: A new type of light?

  • We’ve discovered 4 basic forces of the universe – strong, weak, gravitational and electromagnetic (Wikipedia).
  • The “light” we can analyze, whether it comes from fire, the sun, stars, lasers, etc, are all electromagnetic waves (and particles, kinda).
  • The spectrography is the same; the wave/particile duality is the same; the behaviors and mechanisms are the same.
  • Spectrometers use prisms (Wikipedia), which separate out the light into colors, many through prisms by slowing down light (Wikipedia) -(why would starlight travel infinitely fast, then suddenly slow down for some glass, but the same way as sunlight?)
  • Yet somehow, this light that comes from separate stars apparently operates on some fundamentally different level – Electromagnetism v2.0, that follows different laws of physics and principles, despite being indistinguishable in every respect to Electromagnetism v1.0.

All of a sudden, the ramifications of infinite-speed light start tearing up large swaths of modern physics. Can you think of any other examples?

Which is more likely: that expansive chunks of physics are wrong, and starlight propagates at the speed of light? Or that the creationists pulled an undemonstrated unevidenced speculative assertion out of the sheer depths of their asses, and are wrong?

In physics,  when something is infinite, that’s typically a red flag. When the implications of a possibility start conflicting with other demonstrable scientific facts… that’s a flagpole-sized red flag. To suggest that light can travel instantaneously from distant galaxies… is a entire galaxy of solar systems of planets, each covered with mountain-sized red flags, pole to pole.

I have to sympathize. They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either their position requires modern physics being thrown into chaos, so that their idea that the universe is young can be preserved… or that they’re wrong about the speed of starlight, and the universe is billions of years old, and young earth creationism is disproven. It’s a colossal exercise in special pleading - a logical fallacy – not science.

I can see why they’re trying to implement a scorched-earth policy on physics.

I should look for a primary source, but I’m sure that Ken Ham has said on occasion that if you reject the Book of Genesis, there’s no reason not to reject the rest of the Bible. In a sense, he’s talking about the same kind of cascade invalidation that I am. In fact, it may seem that I’m engaging in the same process. His saying that Genesis can’t be wrong, else the rest of the Bible would be wrong, is like me saying that the speed of starlight cannot be infinite, because other physics would be wrong.

There’s a key difference. The things I’m saying that would be invalidated, and thrown into chaos, are independently confirmable. It goes back to my analogy to Bob having to travel faster than the speed of light. The speed of light, as well as the other equations surrounding that fact, are empirically confirmable. If the existence of gravity seems to be invalidated by some other ramification, that doesn’t mean that everything on the surface of the planet is suddenly going to fly off into space.

Gravity is still there. It’s still manifesting – demonstrably so.

Therefore, if some other assertion implies that gravity is false… that thing is incorrect.

Science is an intricate and extensive network of substantiated evidenced demonstrated facts cross-supporting other substantiated evidenced demonstrated facts.

Creationism is part of a worldview that’s an intricate and extensive network of unsubstantiated unevidenced undemonstrated “facts” cross-supporting other unsubstantiated unevidenced undemonstrated “facts”… so when one domino falls, they all do.

They’re oblivious… or they don’t care. I think they do get it, actually. For instance, they (creationists in general – I think AiG warns people away from this one) try to disqualify evolution by citing the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics as being violated. They just don’t apply the process to themselves.

Either way, Answers in Genesis is so far out of whack, in terms of understanding how science works, or even the rudimentary basics of its epistemology for understanding how we go about learning about the world in a reliable, effective way, that they don’t have the faintest clue that they’re the picturesque incarnations of Cargo Cult Science.

They dawn the labcoats and use sciencey-sounding jargon without any understanding of what even the basic words mean, or the implications and ramifications of their “methodology”.

…and they have the gall to say that they have the same facts and procedures as real scientists… as opposed to being a complete mockery.

 


If you managed to get this far, congratulations. I geek out over this stuff, but I realize most will achieve unaparalleled levels of boredom. I probably lost 98% of the readers as soon as I uttered the “p-word”.

I learn a lot from others, and my hope here is that the time I’ve spent thinking about these things, and how to address them, can help equip the next generation of counter-apologists.


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