Nova: Origins

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A late notice:

After the successful series on ‘Evolution’, PBS has started airing another excellent miniseries, this time on Origins. (Origins will appear on PBS on Sept. 28-29 at 8:00 p.m. EDT. (Check local listings).)

See Nova Origins website

This series documents in detail the historical trail allowing science to understand the historical links between the Big Bang all the way to our existence.

The website provides a wealth of resources, additional links and interviews.

Some noticable interviews:

Paleontologist Peter Ward says that as intelligent creatures, we humans are probably not alone in the universe, just very lonely.

Some noticable events

The Seattle Pacific Science Center (remember my posting about the controversial Privileged Planet’s presentation by Gonzalez and Richards) links to origins.

From the Teacher’s guide:

  • chronicles the formation of Earth from solar system dust particles that coalesced and became one of the four rocky planets closest to the sun.
  • shows how scientists examine meteorites to determine the chemical composition of the dust grains that helped build Earth.
  • explains that scientists estimate Earth to be about 4.6 billion years old, the average age of most meteorites discovered.
  • describes the theory of the Iron Catastrophe, thought to have occurred almost 50 million years after Earth’s formation, when internal heat from trapped radioactive elements and external heat from surface collisions caused the planet’s iron to melt, sink, and form Earth’s core.
  • tells how convection currents in Earth’s core generate the planet’s magnetic field and relates the migration of Earth’s magnetic north pole.
  • looks at one theory of how the moon formed–a massive collision of Earth with a Mars-sized planetesimal produced debris that combined to form the moon some 50,000 years after Earth formed.
  • reveals the finding that water may have been present about 200,000 years after Earth formed and details one theory that Earth’s water came from comets.
  • shows how scientists have tried to verify this theory through spectroscopy by examining and comparing the water in passing comets with that of Earth’s water.

20 Comments

You’ve got to give the guys at Answers in Genesis their due–no attempts to hide their religious agenda during their critique of the show:

But the Bible is the ultimate authority on these matters. The Word of God gives us the foundation to answer questions about extra-terrestrials, the origin of all things and how the universe came to be the way it is today.

Almost refreshing after all the inuendoes and obfuscations of the DI!

On more careful reading, AiG provides some useful insights into the creationist thought process, which speak directly to nearly all the issues this blog grapples with:

I would add that biblical creationists do indeed know how life was started, and what course it took, because we accept the written record of the Creator. When the evidence is examined, it is consistent with what God has said in His Word. And how could it be any other way? God understands the evidence very well; He created the universe! This is why we can have such confidence in the authority of the Bible.

It’s hard to explain the inability of “evolutionists” to penetrate the Believer’s mindset, much more clearly than that. God (and therefore God’s Word) is infallible. The objective universe is what it is. God outright TELLS us how it works. Any apparent disagreement must necessarily be a matter of misinterpretation. God’s word is not subject to misinterpretation (by definition), thus evolutionists must be misreading God’s creation. This misreading is easily explained - they have fallen victim to secular humanism, which has blinded them to God’s truth.

How utterly baffling it is, that we already have the answers science seeks, we were given the answers in so many words, and yet there are those who WILL not hear. WHY do they continue to seek, and multiply such error? As AiG says, “how could it be any other way?” Properly examined, the evidence MUST be consistent with the Word. God wouldn’t lie to us. Conflict can only be explained by IMproper examination of evidence.

Of all the attributes one might value, there are many who have placed ironclad certainty at the top of the list, and second place is distant. The true enemy isn’t ignorance, but doubt.

Flint, you’re not some sort of a Trojan Horse, are you? You almost make their perspective reasonable. (Smiley face inserted here) :^}

Another illuminating post. Well done.

Bob Maurus,

The point I have been trying to make (and I’m sure many here have made it much better; I just got here) is that their perspective is entirely reasonable, and indeed inevitable, given their axioms and requirements. Personally, I think all the scientists here look rather foolish in persistently approaching creationists as bad (or dishonest) scientists. And granted, the creationists look equally silly treating the scientists as worshippers of a false god. But creationists are better politicians; they know that the battle is for (young) hearts and minds, because the battlefield is not logic or evidence, but priorities. And the priorities that shape our lives are set early.

Most studies I’ve read say that the US is becoming more religious than ever (as measured by polls about belief, church attendance and budgets, etc.) and that US school performance in science is reaching third world levels of ignorance. This situation need not obtain for too very long before the graduates of those schools are all we have to populate our courts, legislatures, school boards and teaching positions. The battle is being won; we’re not the winners.

Flint Wrote:

God’s word is not subject to misinterpretation (by definition), thus evolutionists must be misreading God’s creation.

Hmmm not subject to misinterpretation aye?

Why then are there so many versions of the bible? Each version interprets the bible slightly differently from older texts (note there is not an “Original Bible” but a number of texts in various languages including Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew.

The King James Bible was translated in the early 1600s long before texts like the Dead Sea Scrolls where found. This bible was translated with much bias and political pressure. Most bibles you find in hotels are of this version.

Some other more loosely translated bibles include The living bible, the New International Version, and “The Book”

The most accurate translation today is probably the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) because it took into account many different source texts like the Dead Sea Scrolls and was translated by a number of scholars from different faiths.

Lets looks at just a few differences

First is the “Virgin Birth” prophecy

Isaiah 7:14 KJV Wrote:

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

From the Massoretic Text the Hebrew word almah was wrongly translated as “Virgin” when in actuality is means a young woman of age to be married. The Hebrew word for “Virgin” is bethulah.

Now Matthew 1:22-1:23 used the Greek Septuagint translation where it was translated to “parthenos” and not “neanis” which it should have been.

The Massoretic text is deemed more authentic because the purpose of the translation from older Babylonian and Palestinian text was to reproduce the original Hebrew text without intention to interpret the meaning of the scripture much like the New Revised Standard Version attempts to do. Great care was taken to achieve this. The massoretic text points out unusual spelling and grammar. The text also includes numbers for verses, words and letters and included the indications of where the centre of the text was for more accurate translation in future generations.

Many don’t like the Massoretic translation because they disagree with their version but in actuality while they complain about the translation their own translation are far less accurate and biased to their interpretation of the scriptures. I laugh when I read things like this “this Hebrew had been edited, changed, and in some cases rewritten entirely by Talmudic, atheistic, mongrel Jews ? Atheistic, mongrel Jews? Jews are certainly not “atheistic” and Jews as a culture are less “mongrel” then 99% of the Christians out there.

Anyway the NRSV reads like this

Isaiah 7:14 NRSV Wrote:

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name name Immanuel.

Now this is a bit benign compared to some of the other problems with some of the different versions.

Lets look at the following

II Kings 2:23-2:24 KJV Wrote:

And he went up from thence unto Bethlehem and he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

II Kings 2:23-2:24 NRSV Wrote:

He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!” When he turned around and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. The two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

II Kings 2:23-2:24 Good News Bible Wrote:

Elisha left Jericho to go to Bethel, and on the way some boys came out of a town and made fun of him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they shouted. Elisha turned round, glared at them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys to pieces.

II Kings 2:23-2:24 NIV Wrote:

Elisha left Jericho to go to Bethel, and on the way some boys came out of a town and made fun of him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they shouted. Elisha turned round, glared at them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys to pieces.

We see that to various degrees the text has been altered to become more tolerable. Who wants to think that God’s power was used to viciously kill small children that are making fun of someone?

Lets look at

II Kings 24:8 NIV Wrote:

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became King and he reigned in Jerusalem for three months.

II Chronicles 36:9 NIV Wrote:

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign and he reigned in Jerusalem for three months and ten days.

Now the funny thing is the NIV version even admits that of all the texts they used to translate these verses only 1 refers to Jehoiachin’s age as 18 while all the others translate to 8 yet they still used it.

One thing you have to understand is that the bible was written by and translated by man from many older texts and not the “word of god”

Don’t even get me started about Noah and how the earliest version of the story in Hebrew text is dates to 650bc but there is strong evidence that it was derived from an earlier Babylonian story of the epic of Gilgamesh. The Epic of Gilgamesh: A Great Flood

This story predates the earliest known biblical recording of the great flood by close to 2,000 years and you can see where the story of Noah came from. That Nuah is one of the major deities of the time “the king of the humid principle, the Spirit moving on the waters. But no this can’t be true because the bible says so.

Wayne Francis:

You do an excellent job of explaining why there are more than 10,000 Christian sects. Religious people have different approaches to knowing; they prefer definition to observation. These sects all define one another as wrong.

By implication, then, what is inerrant is not the Bible itself, but rather an agreed-on interpretation of it. The creationist worships his own absolute interpretation, which he defines as right. Your scholarship shows only that *everyone else* misinterprets scripture; there is only one TRUE reading, which is mine! I SAID so. All else is apostasy.

Once again, you are attempting to build an argument through the accumulation and analysis of evidence. I have, also once again, failed to communicate that definitions are not based on evidence, but on preference. Your approach, far from dispelling doubt, actually increases it. So it’s rejected. But a religious person probably wouldn’t appreciate that their rejection was motivated by fear of doubt; they’d be more likely to attribute your error to Satan (or atheism).

It’s not by accident that creationists are always quoting some Biblical verse to the effect that faith is the evidence of things for which there is no evidence, or some such. TRUE faith means believing in the absence or defiance of evidence, as God (in my interpretation) wills. Can you understand that only circular reasoning is airtight? Evidence-based reasoning can never be certain, the worst sin possible.

Most studies I’ve read say that the US is becoming more religious than ever (as measured by polls about belief, church attendance and budgets, etc.)

This might be true, I don’t know. The US has had several broad religious revivals. And this is important. But temper your distress with the positive development that religious people in the US are generally, and I mean like 100 year long-term-trend, moving to a christianity with more secular values, which takes things more figuratively, and tries to just believe the stuff that people know via secular ethics is right. For instance, the number of people who believed in a literal reading of the bible seems to have gone from 65% to 35% in about 50 years. So if they’re going to be religious, watered-down religion is the way you want them to go. You won’t find so many religious people who have the christian ethic of killing gays, they’ve mostly adopted a secular ethic of tolerance.

Yes Flint sorry I didn’t read you right. I have friends that in one breath say the bible can’t be wrong but then say in the next that they don’t take xxx in their bible as fact. Strangly I was dating one of these for many years. She was even a programer/BA but could not see the contradiction in logic of her own statement.

I’m sorry for misunderstanding you.

Steve.…I hope you are right. Tolerance is what America was built on in my view and this is not what I see coming down the line.

I’ve wanted to see this NOVA thing, but haven’t yet been able. Too busy. Has anyone seen it? Was it good? I saw an article about it, and NdGT was saying some cool things, so I have high hopes.

I’ve wanted to see this NOVA thing, but haven’t yet been able. Too busy. Has anyone seen it? Was it good? I saw an article about it, and NdGT was saying some cool things, so I have high hopes.

I went to order the DVD but they don’t ship outside of the US.

I grew up just south of Boston and with Nova on channel 2…I emailed WGBH and hopefully they’ll work something out where I can have them shipped to me. $49.95 for the DVD and the book is pretty good IMHO.

Steve:

Like Wayne, I hope you are right. Maybe I get a distorted picture living here in Alabama, where the churches are the largest and most expensive buildings in town, and there’s another one every two blocks, where Judge Roy Moore would be overwhelmingly elected God (junior grade) statewide if there is such a political office. Certainly the gay marriage issue ran into a sizeable national backlash, despite the inability of even the extremists to identify any damage or injury that policy would do to them personally.

And my interpretation of the ID strategy is that it’s calculated to appeal to this 85% who regard themselves as “moderately to highly religious” while lacking both fanatical commitment to religion or useful appreciation of science. ID’s slogan, in essence, is “Science has found god.” At this rarified level, it’s a small minority who would NOT be delighted by this development.

Wayne:

Yes, I work with engineers who apply rigorous logic to all other aspects of their lives, but religion is a true blind spot. You experienced the results of the kind of early training the ID people hope to make universal. Whether or not this is a Good Thing depends on your own training.

Astobiology is really a replacement theology for biblical creation. Astrobiology asks the question “Where do we come from? Are we alone? Where are we going?”

Origins presents a timeline of creation, replacing the genealogies of the Bible.

Instead of Adam, we share atoms. As Jill Tarter of SETI states, “Every atom of iron in our blood was produced in a star that blew up about 10 billion years ago.”

An astronomer in Origins makes it clear, we now have “a new version of Genesis, a new version of the great cosmic myth, only this time it is scientifically based.”

I saw the Nova episode on CODE and WMAP and it was a very good episode which showed how (our knowledge of) cosmology has evolved immensely.

Flint Wrote:

Yes, I work with engineers who apply rigorous logic to all other aspects of their lives, but religion is a true blind spot. You experienced the results of the kind of early training the ID people hope to make universal. Whether or not this is a Good Thing depends on your own training.

Strangely enough she was not brought up with religion. Her father was a school teacher and her mom even said to her something to the effect of “Religion is for the weak”

Maybe part of what she did was rebelion. We still get along extremely well. We just don’t talk about theology. She asked me today who I would vote for presedent and was surprised I said Kerry. I had to explain that I didn’t like Bush’s bias in government policy towards Christianity over the other religions. She didn’t think that it was that big of a deal. For an intelligent person she really doesn’t have much care for the big things happening around the world.

Everyone is different. I respect her views but don’t agree with them. We’ve talked about evolution and she doesn’t want to understand that without teaching evolution you’ll drastically effect industries like Bio-med and people will suffer because of it.

Like you point out, no amount of logic will work with her. Thats is the most frustrating thing I find about her. In strangers it is not so bad but when someone you love is like that it takes on a new level.

Wayne:

Dig it. It’s a topic I avoid in my wonderful marriage, because my wife is a devout believer in supernatural forces, life after death, transmigration of souls or whatever, the validity of astrology etc. I just kind of nod and say “uh huh, uh huh”.

She doesn’t know what evolution is, and doesn’t care. She’s seriously puzzled about why I’m interested (I don’t understand why either, of course), and wonders why a firmware engineer with no background in biology would spend months with a dictionary fighting sentence-by-sentence through Valentine’s Origin of Phyla book, which is clearly well beyond any competence I might have, or why I attend services at all different churches (my favorites are Catholic high mass) when I think those who believe in magic are missing serious marbles.

But maybe this is why I try to see the world at least a little bit through the eyes of a Believer. The origins broadcasts didn’t tell me anything I hadn’t followed in much more detail over the years; the reactions to it are much more interesting to me.

I’m hoping it will be good for my 8 year old. :) I used to love NOVA when I was his age.

I just finished watching an episode of Origins, (excellent, by the way) and I have a question. I would email it to our physicists here on PT, but I can’t seem to find their email addresses.

The show discussed the satellite imagery of cosmic background radiation. The satellites are designed to demonstrate that the radiation is not perfectly even, but is instead lumpy–which therefore would explain how there come to be regions of mass versus regions of void in space today. The satellites go up there, take this picture of the radiation–my question is, how does the satellite filter out modern sources of radiation? Is the background radiation all on a single frequency? It can’t just go up and listen to all the radiation it can hear, because then it would pick up today’s suns and radio stations, rather than the background noise. Anyone have an answer for me?

Was the Peter Ward who appeared on the 3rd or 4th episode the same Peter Ward who co-authored “Rare Earth”?

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on September 30, 2004 10:25 AM.

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