The Varves Cry Out

The Varves Cry Out June 28, 2019

I had the pleasure of meeting Ken Wolgemuth when he visited Indianapolis for the Geological Society of America conference last year. It was a cool experience and I shared photos on social media at that time, noting that NASA doesn’t have a booth at the conferences I attend.

His booth at the conference focused on addressing the claims of young-earth creationists about geology. He was particularly excited about work that he had been doing on varves. What are varves, you might ask, and what do they have to do with decisively disproving young-earth creationism? Take a look at this article Ken wrote with Gregg Davidson, and you’ll learn the answer, and much more. Here’s a snippet from the conclusion to whet your appetite:

Contrary to young-earth claims that historical science is not real science because it cannot be tested,
God has given us amazing tools for testing hypotheses and assumptions about the unobserved past.
Tree-ring growth, atmospheric carbon-14 production, radiometric decay rates, sediment couplets,
and ash chemistry are all independent phenomena. Combining these independent measurements
allows a rigorous comparison of conventional and young-earth models. The data, in total, fit
amazingly well with conventional geologic understanding, requiring no disruptions of natural
laws or unfathomably improbable alignment of unrelated processes. Even accurate biblical dates
of artifacts are possible with conventional understanding. In contrast, the young-earth model can
explain the data only by calling upon a host of unrelated processes aligning in perfect synchronization to coincidentally match conventional expectations. It requires supernatural manipulation of nature with no apparent purpose other than to mislead.

Click through to read the rest.

Here is a round up of other things that have appeared in the blogosphere in recent months related to young-earth creationism and other forms of science denial:

Can we trust radiocarbon dating? Update; full paper available

Weird Worldview Warriors take on 350 years of geology.

Christian belief in Creation in relation to Geology

I Watched an Entire Flat Earth Convention — Here’s What I Learned

Answers in Genesis Adds an (Impossible) Ice Age to the Bible

Pi, climate change denial and creationism

Darwinian existentialism: The history — and evolution — of the meaning of life

Creationists Are Mocking Flat Earthers for Not Understanding Science

Where is the Next Generation of Creation Scientists?

The National Center for Science Education always has a ton of interesting and useful resources that is ever-expanding through their blog.

Fine-Tuning and the Sharp-Shooter Fallacy

Denis Alexander on purpose in biology

The warfare myth continues to get attention

Theology More Than History? (RJS)

Michael Roberts gets hung, drawn and quartered by Australian Creationists!! the final fatal blows

Mike Beidler is blogging again!

Seeing Evolution Through New Covenant Eyes

Q&A with the Evolutionary Creationist

Former Creation Museum Staffer Exposes “Toxic Culture” of Ken Ham’s Empire

A Documentary Film About Ark Encounter Just Premiered at a Film Festival

Only the Literal Meaning? (RJS)

Augustine and the “Literal” Interpretation of Genesis (RJS)

It All Adds Up – The Earth is Old (RJS)

Guest Post: Being a Christian in Science

How Life Began

Ex Nihilo! (RJS)

Creation is Much More! (RJS)

Nature’s Witness (RJS)

N.T. Wright, Darrell Bock and Richard Averbeck on Adam and Eve

More Evidence that Young Earth Creationism Is Literally Unfalsifiable

(See as well, however, “Why Falsificationism is False.”)

Young Earth Creationists and the Flat Earth Conspiracy

Creationism, Noah’s Flood, and Race

Myth, History, Genesis, and Noah’s Ark

BioLogos and Francis Collins

See too the response of the BioLogos Institute to survey results.

Evangelicals and the creation accounts; 3 diverse views

Ken Ham Declares Scientific Mystery “Solved”

Faith Across the Multiverse, Parables from Modern Science- Part 4, The Language of Computer Science, Chapters 12- Mutatis Mutandis By Andy Walsh

God’s Good Earth: The Case for an Unfallen Creation, by Jon Garvey, Chapter 3 – Other Red Herrings

God’s Good Earth: The Case for an Unfallen Creation, by Jon Garvey, Chapter 4 – When “Very Good” Isn’t Good Enough

Philip Jenkins quoted Philip Ball on the myth of the warfare between religion and science:

Historians of science oscillate between exasperation and resignation at the fact that nothing they say seems able to dislodge these convictions. They can point out that Copernicus’ book, published in 1543, elicited little more than mild disapproval from the Church for almost a century before Galileo’s trial. They can explain that [Giordano] Bruno’s cosmological ideas constituted a rather minor part of the heretical charges made against him. They can showthat it was Galileo’s provocative style and personality – his readiness to lampoon the Pope, say – that landed him in trouble, and that he was wrong anyway in some of his astronomical theories and disputes with clerics (on tides and comets, for example). They can reveal that the conventional narrative of science versus the Church was largely the polemical invention of John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White in the late nineteenth century. It makes no difference. In the “battle for reason”, science must have its heroic martyrs.

On the potential for creation and science to co-exist.

Award-Winning Physicist: Science Doesn’t Support Atheism

Galileo and the Harmony of Faith and Science

Boole, Science, and Faith

Noah did everything just as God commanded him

Is Life Inevitable?

God has a divine sense of humor

The Arguments for Creationism and the Arguments for Evolution A Study in Contrasts

On Darwin sometimes devolving

John Walton’s Finest?

Does the punctuated equilibrium theory refute evolution?

Lost World of John Walton –

Book Preview: A Reckless God?

Ken Ham: Schools Violate the Law By Not Taking Field Trips to Ark Encounter

Creationists Mock Flat Earthers: Where’s The Science?

See also the New Yorker article on theories of everything.

In Seven Days (RJS)

The Eighth Day (RJS)

Science and Religion: The Casualties of an Unnecessary War

Details about a conference on the subject of Christian creation care.

La scienza dice che la terra è tonda

Babbage and the miracle problem


On the God of the Gaps and the most recent observations of the universe

Reports from the field on science and theological education

Creation care in the Christian Century

Sandra Richter – Ecology and the Bible

Il racconto della creazione nella Bibbia

The founder of the “Biblical Flat Earth Society” made the news

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  • John MacDonald

    Combining these independent measurements allows a rigorous comparison of conventional and young-earth models.

    I wonder if this is true in historical Jesus studies methodology? For instance, the prohibition against divorce hits multiple times in the different criteria of authenticity.

  • arcseconds


    I just thought I’d make it clear to you and your readers that there’s a filter been established on Patheos that is rather too aggressive in what it flags for moderation.

    A word list is circulating that apparently has been leaked by a Patheos blogger. There are thousands of words on the list, and while a lot of it is kind of obscene or offensive, there’s enough innoccous material to stifle mature conversations.

    It includes for example:

    *) common Islamic terms, like ‘Islam’, ‘Allah’, ‘Qu’ran’, and ‘Mohammed’ (ironic for a pan-religious site with an Islam channel).
    *) ‘hell’ (ditto)
    *) terms that one would expect to be used in serious discussions about politics and history, like ‘Nazi’, ‘Hilter’, and ‘slave’
    *) words referring to minority sexual orientations and gender identities, e.g. ‘lesbian’, ‘homosexual’. ‘transsexual’
    *) extremely mild profanity like ‘crappy’
    *) Apple products: ‘ipad’ and ‘iphone’. Also ‘dell’.
    *) totally ordinary vocabulary items like ‘target’, ‘monkey’, ‘beer’
    *) HTTP — I had no idea that internet protocols were potentially inflammatory!

    The list looks like it’s been cobbled together from several lists, and is targetting spam as well as trolls.

    I have not tested every single one of these words on its own, but I have tested it enough to assure myself that the list seems to be real.

    It isn’t feasible to avoid these words in ordinary conversation (at least not without electronic assistance), and I avow that filtering words referring to a major world religion, and marginalized people such as lesbians and transsexuals, is in itself offensive.

    I suppose this might be defended by saying it just means someone like you needs to approve them.

    This appears to work OK here as you typically don’t get a large number of comments, and you approve things quickly, and most of the time the discussion is slow-paced, but it is not working on Slacktivist, which gets hundreds of comments per post. Fred has for a long time had a very hands-off approach, which I think he can be criticised for, but in this case it’s not hard to believe he simply doesn’t have time to approve tens of comments a day, so a lot of stuff just doesn’t show up. People are leaving in disgust and frustration.

    I believe other Patheos forums are similarly finding it frustrating.

    I understand the problem has been raised to Patheos administration by bloggers (and users), but nothing seems to have happened about it.

    It is really difficult to believe the cure is better than whatever disease it’s supposedly alleviating.

    I would appreciate it if you’d add your voice to the chorus. It might not make a difference, but if they hear it from a large proportion of their content-producers they may eventually get the message.

    • Yes, Disqus’ new filter words are a problem for a religion-focused site like Patheos, and the higher ups at Patheos are working to get things changed.

      • arcseconds

        So it’s Disqus, not Patheos? There’s a rumour going around that the word-list is something Patheos put in, although maybe using a feature Disqus provides.

        A downstream user making a poor choice of words to add to a filter is one thing, but a company whose bread-and-butter is programming a system to conduct conversations with producing such a crappy, brain-dead filter beggars belief, and leaving the bad word list untouched after problems have been pointed out with it is extremely negligent. Removing clearly inoffensive words is a no-brainer.

        Intelligent (Bayesian!) spam filters have been around for a couple of decades now! But if you don’t have programmers capable of learning how they work and implementing the ideas, then at the very least a ‘I trust this user’ button seems like a simple way to allow most sites to continue to operate without too much overhead.

        • Can you really imagine a site with an Islam channel restricting words related to Islam?

          Disqus has a trusted user feature. You are one, in case you’re wondering. It doesn’t seem to have priority over the word list filter.

          • arcseconds

            I don’t find that any more difficult to imagine than an organisation running a global chat service that restricts words relating to popular computing hardware and other perfectly ordinary items of vocabulary!

            And I don’t find either particularly difficult to imagine, I’m afraid, because the world seems to be full of dysfunctional institutions failing to do what one might reasonably expect from them at every level of society, as you may have noticed

          • Sure, I didn’t mean to suggest that gross incompetence is ever ruled out, for tech companies or religion websites! 🙂

          • arcseconds

            Somewhere there’s gross incompetence in this case, and I don’t know whom to ascribe it to.

            Other Disqus sites are not having this problem, so there is definitely something Patheos-specific involved. The obvious possibilities revolve around Patheos and Disqus in some sense agreeing to pursue this filter in the form it takes here, and the obvious remedy is to get rid of it until it’s been improved, so someone has either not thought of the obvious or has refused to do it.

            The only thing I can think of that doesn’t involve incompetence (or extremely misaligned priorities, which from our perspective would have to be seen as neglect) is that some part of Patheos is under seige, and the protection the filter offers is worth the pain. But then you have to contend with the fact it shouldn’t be hard to remove some words from it, and we’re back in incomptence territory again.

          • Well, no one I’ve spoken to is happy, and so perhaps there is incompetence all around! But with so many people working on it, I’m pretty sure it will be sorted out soon if incompetence is indeed the only issue…

      • Carstonio

        Secular sites use Disqus and I haven’t heard any complaints from Wonkette, which is known for its liberal use of language, or from Under Consideration.

    • John MacDonald

      The Destruction of Language in Orwell’s 1984 (by Courtneysthoughtcorner)

      In the nation of Oceania, the language that they speak is called Newspeak (as opposed to Old speak). As an editor for the Ministry of Truth, who alters historical records to fit the needs of the part, Winston is charged with rewriting and editing a lot of these records in Newspeak, and often gets in trouble for sneaking in Oldspeak into his work. However, not everyone dislikes this new language as much as Winston does. In fact, his friend Syme, who works as a philologist (a specialist on Newspeak) is radically for the destruction of the language. Syme describes the workings of Newspeak in the following passage:

      “It’s a beautiful thing, the Destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well. It isn’t only the synonyms; there are also the antonyms. After all, what justification is there for a word, which is simply the opposite of some other word? A word contains its opposite in itself. Take ‘good,’ for instance. If you have a word like ‘good,’ what need is there for a word like ‘bad’? ‘Ungood’ will do just as well – better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of ‘good,’ what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like ‘excellent’ and ‘splendid’ and all the rest of them? ‘Plusgood’ covers the meaning or ‘doubleplusgood’ if you want something stronger still. Of course we use those forms already, but in the final version of Newspeak there’ll be nothing else. In the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words – in reality, only one word. Don’t you see the beauty of that, Winston? It was B.B.’s idea originally, of course,” he added as an afterthought” (Orwell 51).

      By controlling the language, Big Brother controls the way that the people think. With a limited vocabulary, the people are limited in how much they can think, as well as, what they think about. In another passage, Syme says to Winston, “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.” (Orwell 52). With the people’s inability to commit thoughtcrime, the hope of the party is that, the people will no longer act out in disruptive or subversive behavior. Big Brother will have complete control of the people in every way, right down to their thoughts, and the people will become, essentially, mindless zombies who are willing to worship and do what they are told with no questions asked. They are able to achieve this by also destroying literature and controlling what the people are able to read. Syme also describe the destruction of literature in the following passage:

      “By 2050, earlier, probably – all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron – they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like ‘freedom is slavery’ when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness” (Orwell 53).