Report on the 2005 Creation Mega Conference, Conclusion

| 85 Comments

Tuesday, July 19. Afternoon.

With the remains of a once magnificent fajita burrito residing comfortably in my stomach, I faced the afternoon with confidence. My choices were “How Our Textbooks Mislead Us: An Expose of Error and Fraud” in the basic track and “Hubble, Bubble, Big Bang in Trouble” in the Advanced track. Figuring that I had a pretty good sense of what creationists think of modern biology textbooks, I chose the Big Bang.

The talk was delivered by John Hartnett, another in the large Australian contingent at the conference. It was his task to persuade us that the Big Bang was a lot of hooey. Which is interesting, since in other contexts creationists love the Big Bang. It allows them to claim that the universe had a definite beginning in time. (Don't trouble them with details like the fact that time itself apparently came into existence at the Big Bang). Since everything that had a beginning must have had a cause....you fill in the rest.

Anyway, the part of the Big Bang they don't like is the implication that it happened billions of years ago. Now, of the various branches of science that come up in this discussion, cosmology is probably the one I know the least about. What little I know about it comes mostly from Brian Greene's excellent books. So I will try to present a straight-up version of what Hartnett said. Perhaps someone reading this more knowledgeable on the subject than I will leave some interesting comments.

Hartnett began with a reasonable description of what the Big Bang theory actually says. He showed some 10-day photos from the Hubble telescope that showed large numbers of galaxies in what was once thought to be empty space. He said that astronomers only have light to work with (which doesn't seem quite right, since they also make frequent use of radio waves) and gave a description of the connection between distance and red shift. He talked a bit about the Doppler Effect, and mentioned that according to relativity theory time and length are affected by speed and gravity. Relativity is real science by the way.

Next he talked a bit about Hubble's law; that the velocity at which a galaxy is moving is proportional to its distance away from us. He described the standard idea that it is the expansion of the universe that leads to the observations of red shifts in the light received from distant galaxies. In particular, astronomers use red shift data to measure distance. He described the “inflating balloon” model of the Big Bang.

Then he described recent data that the explansion of the universe is accelerating, and that the universe is apparently flat. In another strange moment, the flatness of the universe was offered up as a refutation of the inflating balloon model of the universe. This seemed odd, since I've always thought of the inflating balloon as simply a way of illustrating how it's possible for every galaxy to be receding from every other galaxy at the same time. I don't think it was intended as an actual model of the universe.

At this point he returned to the Big Bang and suggested that the apparent absence of anti-matter in our universe is a strike aganist standard Big Bang cosmology. Then he suggested that no one has any idea how stars and glaxies form, suggesting that this was another defect in the theory.

Then he got down to business. He recounted the sad tale of astronomer Halton Arp, who, in Hartnett's telling, was demonized by the repressive American astronomy establishment for his views against the Big Bang. Eventually he ended up at the Max Planck Institute. The centerpiece of Hatnett's case against the Big Bang was Arp's alleged discovery of galaxies with anomalous red shifts. The claim is that there are galaxies with wildly different red shifts that are nonetheless connected by “bridges” of dust and debris. Under the standard model this should not be possible. If red shift is correlated with distance then these sorts of paired galaxies should have the same red shifts. He also pointed out that the bridge itself contains high red shift objects.

He then cited a photo from a 2003 issue of Astronomy (I didn't manage to jot down the date of the issue, but apparently it was on page 13 of that issue) that was supposed to refute Arp by showing that galaxies Arp said were connected in reality were not. But then Hartnett produced another photo, allegedly of the same galaxies, to show that they were.

From here the discussion turned to quasars. He provided something he claimed was evidence for the proposition that quasars are not as distant as commonly thought. Unfortunatly, this went by too quickly for me to jot it down. He then argued that quasars are found across paired galaxies, and concluded from this that quasars are actually being ejected out of galactic activity.

All of this was said to challenge the Big Bang for two reasons: (1) All of our distance estimates based on red shifts are now suspect and (2) Matter is constantly being created from the center of galaxies (so that it is not true that all matter was created at the Big Bang).

From here he suggested that in seeing quasars created from the center of galaxies, we are actually looking back in time 6000 years and watching creation as it happens. Then he recommended Arp's book and called it a day.

As I said, I have no particular knowledge of any of this. I didn't find much on the internet discussing these points, but what little I did find suggests that most astronomers are very skpetical of the claim that the galaxies Arp says are connected are, in fact, connected.

Mostly what I was thinking about at this point was just how much science you need to know to debate these people effectively. This was something many of Duane Gish's debate opponents discovered to their chagrin in the 1970's. Since creationists do not believe it is important to know something about a subject before discussing it, they are free to whip out factoids from whatever branch of science it amuses them to cite. That is why one minute they will be talking about mathematics, then suddenly switch to biology, then thermodynamics, then cosmology, all without missing a step. Real scientists are painfully aware of what they know and what they don't know, and feel uncomfortable discussing things too far removed from their area of expertise. All through the conference speakers were whipping out arguments based on areas of science I know a lot about. In those cases it was easy for me to see why their arguments were incorrect. Then suddenly here's one where I have no foundation for assessing their claims. I noticed that another talk at the conference bore the title “Our Created Moon: Origin, Creation Evidences.” I suspect I would have had little to say after that one as well.

Happily, things returned to their proper state of brain-dead insanity any jaw-dropping ignorance in the next talk: Carl Kerby's, “Evolution and Pop Culture.” His competition in the advanced track was “Creation and Cosmology.” Not a hard decision.

Kerby's talk was mostly a series of clips from various movies and television programs that made references to evolution, the ancient age of the Earth, or, occasionally, homosexuality. Kerby would say something like, “How many of you saw the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? A number of hands would go up. And then Kerby would ask, “Did you catch the evolution?” (Apparently there was a scene in the movie where one character turns to another of a different ethnicity and says something like, “My people were producing great music and art while yours were still swinging in trees.&rdquo) The list of nasty television shows included episodes from Bugs Bunny, the Three Stooges, the 1960's Batman series, an episode of CSI (something about a trans-genedered oyster) and Sponge Bob. One theme that cropped up was that any reference to something being “prehistoric” was considered offensive. Why? Because history began on Day One of Creation Week. There is no prehistory.

Of course, it's not all bad news. There are shows like Gilligan's Island and the Flintstones tha depict humans and dinosaurs living simultaneously. Evolutionists hate those shows, I'm told.

Turning to movies we have Fantasia (by the way, never trust Disney), the Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Ice Age, Lilo and Stitch, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Spider-Man. You might enjoy renting those movies and trying to find the evolution for yourself.

The refernce to Ice Age was particularly revealing. For those of you who haven't seen it, Ice Age is an animated movie about a sloth, a mammoth, and a saber-tooth tiger who end up caring for a human infant who was abandoned when the baby's mother was killed by other saber-tooth tigers. The unlikely trio is trying to catch up with a tribe of humans to return the baby. It's a very good movie, both funny and touching.

Kerby showed two clips from this movie, one that he liked and one that he didn't. The clip he liked came from an early scene in the film. We see a large herd of animals migrating South to avoid the advancing ice. We zoom in on two armidillo-like creatures. One says to the other, “Have you seen John?” (I don't actually remember the charcter's name, so I am calling him John). The second one replies in a snide tone, “The last time I saw him he said he was on the verge of some great evolutionary leap.” Just as she finishes saying that, we a third armidillo-like creature in the distance running off a cliff. As he jumps he yells, “I'm flyyyyyyyiiiiiinnnnng....” followed by a Thud as he crashes into the ground. Kerby liked that. Shows the problems that would be faced by creatures possessing only sme incipient stage of a complex system.

But things took a nasty turn later in the film. Seeking a short-cut, our noble trio walk through an ice cave. Frozen into the ice walls of the cave are various other animals who apparently got trapped there. At one point we see the sloth walking through a lengthy corridor. He is on the far right side of the screen from our perspective. Frozen in the ice to his right are three other animals. The camera fixes on this scene for a moment and we see all four animals (the three in the ice and the sloth) lined-up in a row. They form a linear evolutionary sequence from a primitive looking creature on the far right to the modern sloth on the left.

I think it's obious why Kerby wouldn't like that. The interesting part, though, was what he said next. He said something like, “They were trying to indoctrinate your kids, they were trying to show evolution, but they failed. You know why they failed?” Silence from the puzzled audience. “Because they show all four of those animals existing at the same time. That's not evolution!” Cheers from the delighted audience, coupled with the thud of my jaw hitting the desk.

That's about as stupid as it gets when you're discussing evolution. That's up there with the old saw, “If humans evolved from apes, why do we still have apes?” Since I don't think anyone in the room believed that parents wink out of existence the moment their children are born, I think that the contempt and derision I've been heaping upon these people is entirely justified.

There was one other part of Kerby's talk worth commenting on. He showed a clip of a study that was done in which small children were shown pictures of various famous people and were asked if they recognized them. Nearly all of the children recognized Ronald McDonald, and Wendy (as in the Wendy's chain of fast-food restaurants), some even knew George Washington.

Then they were shown one more picture. The scene was shot in a way so that we could not see who the picture was of. One child after another shrugged his shoulders. One finally guessed George W. Bush. The experimenter told him that was a good guess, but not correct. (!!)

Have you guessed yet who was in the picture? It was Jesus! Surprise! The audience was stunned. Shocked. Dismayed. There were gasps and groans aplenty.

For Kerby and the others in the audience there was little doubt that the frequent, casual references to evolution and “millions of years” were part of an orchestrated plot to make evolutionary thinking acceptable by making it so familiar. Kerby encouraged the audience to take advantage of these teachable moments to make sure their kids were sensitive to these attacks on their faith.

Incidentally, for another creationist presentation about evolution and Hollywood, see my description of Jack Cashill's talk from an ID conference I attended a while back

After the not obviously insane talk about the Big Bang, it was nice to get back to creationism as I know it. I left the classroom in a pretty good mood, took another browse through the bookstore, and then headed back to my hotel. The evening line-up was “Distant Starlight: Not a Problem for a Young Earth, the aforemtioned talk about our created moon, and Image of God or Planet of the Apes? I managed to find better entertainment for the evening (as I recall, HBO had a Jeff Speakman movie on that night.)

Wednesday, July 20. Morning.

The morning devotional was given by Charles Ware. It was a standard revival meeting sermon about how he came to know the Lord. Familiar stuff, though offred with enough enthusiasm to make you forget it was eight in the morning.

But the real action for the morning, and the reason I didn't return to Harrisonburg on Tuesday night, was the talk given by Georgia Purdom: The Intelligent Design Movement; How Intelligent is it? Dr. Purdom was one of only two women speaking at the conference. She was the only woman to give a science-based talk.

I almost fell out of my seat when she opened her talk by observing that in the war for the truth about origins, they are winning on the science but losing the propaganda battle. Ahem. The real situation is exactly the reverse.

Her exposure to the ID movement came from reading Behe's Darwin's Black Box. She was concerned that ID did not lead people to Christ. God said He created in six days and that was good enough for her. She realized that the evolution/creation battle was all about our presuppositions - do you look at the world through the Bible or through man's theories. Everything in the Bible dovetails nicely into one consistent account.

She then argued that ID poses grave problems for Christians. She showed the Discovery Institute's definition of ID:

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

Only certain features? Please. And who's the designer?

From here she discussed some history. She began with the natural theology of the eighteenth and nineteeneth century. She discussed Paley, and pointed out the natural theologians were arguing that we could have knowledge of God apart from the Bible. It was a response to the “higher criticism” of the Bible that became popular during the late 1700's. She argued that while God is certainly revealed through his works, special revelation was more important than the study of nature.

Then she jumped to the 1970's and the current ID movement. She mentioned Charles Thaxton, Phillip Johnson and Michael Denton. Oddly, she made no mention of the hostile court decisions that plagued the YEC's during this time period.

After this she launched into a description of ID reasoning, and that's where things started getting weird. She described “Irreducible complexity&rdquo and “Specified complexity” as two different terms for the same thing. They are not, though Dembski does make a point of describing irreducible complexity as a special case of specified complexity. In reality the only connection between them is that both are worthless notions.

She described the mousetrap analogy. She fretted that the analogy was too simplistic and that people on my side of this have a good time tearing it apart. Her feeling is that we can have the mousetrp, but actual biological systems - like the blood clotting cascade - are vastly more complex.

She was really impressed with blood clotting, and gushed about how a system lacking any of the relevant clotting factors will not function. There's no simpler system for clotting blood, she mused. I'm sure that will come as news to the lobsters residing at the local fish store. In fact, she never got around to mentioning that, as described by Ken Miller and others, the evolution of the blood clotting cascade is not that hard to understand.

At this point she launched into an exlplanation of Dembski's explanatory filter, and rattled off the usual examples about SETI, archaeology, and forensic science. She gave a bizarre example about a student who fails every one of her midterm exams but then aces the final. Apparently this would trigger the inference that the student had cheated in some way.

I had to laugh. You see, I did precisely that in a freshman economics class I took in college. I failed the first exam because I had been goofing off in the first part of the semester. I started studying at that point, but failed the second midterm on account of the fact that I deluded myself into thinking I actually understood what was going on. At that point I hunkered down for a full month of real studying, and pulled off an A on the final. Yay me! (Still got a C in the class, though).

Then she talked about the example from the movie Contact. Recall that this was the one where a team of astronomers receive a message from space in which the prime numbers have been encoded. As a mathematician I had to laugh when she said, “These were the primes! It wasn't just evens and odds, it was a particular set!” Ugh. The evens and odds are particular sets, my dear.

She went on in this vein a little longer before coming to the problems with ID. She argued that natural theology backfired, because it led to deism. By divorcing the creator from the creation, they lulled people into thinking that it was enough just to acknowledge the designer, rather than believe specific things about His atttributes. ID is the same as natural theology in this sense. She is concerned that with the ID people saying over and over again that their ideas do not lead to any specific view of the creator, it becomes more difficult for Christians to spread the Gospel. The public will feel deceived if they are told on the one hand that science points to a nebulous designer, but on the other that they have to accept Christianity.

It was at this point that she said the single most insightful thing I heard at the entire conference. She argued that another problem with ID is that it provides no account of dysteleology. She pointed to pathogenic microbes, carniverous animals, and viruses. She said that ID makes God Himself, and not man's sin, the author of evil.

Yes, YES a thousand times YES!!! That's exactly right. I've made precisely that point many times at my blog. Once you have God intervening in the world to tinker with his design to bring good things, like blood clotting cascades and immune systems, into being, then he is also responsible for all the bad things. It's inescapable. The YEC's can get around this point by blaming human sin. They're perfectly happy to cite scripture in defense of their views. But the ID folks are running around pretending to be scientists. The second they talk about natural history being influenced by human sin is the day they blow their cover. But this leaves them with no effective answer at all. Usually they just argue lamely that what we perceive as bad design might actually have some hidden purpose. Sorry guys. No one's buying that.

But there was something else weird about this. Note the use of “carniverous animals” as an example of evil. Ken Ham had said the same thing in a previous talk. In discussing what happened as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, he said that before the fall all animals were vegetarians.

I find this mystifying. These are precisely the sort of right-wing nits who usually ridicule vegetarians for their beliefs. But apparently vegetarianism was part of God's plan from the start. Whatever.

The final problem with ID is that it emphasizes God as creator but says nothing about God as redeemer. She closed with a quote from William Dembski to the effect that while ID may be scientifically unobjectionable, whether it is theologically unobjectionable was a spearate issue.

So what is the solution to the problems with ID that she has identified? Take a wild guess.

And then she uttered the line that I mentioned back in the first installment in this series. “God said it, that settles it.”

Epilogue

I wanted to hang around to ask Ms. Purdom some questions, but I had to scamper if I was going to make it back to the Sleep Inn in time for the 11:00 check-out.

I returned to my room, gathered up my things and went down to the desk. The person behind the counter somehow discerned that I was part of the conference and asked how things went. I muttered that it had been interesting as I signed the credit card slip.

Then he said that apparently the organizers were very disappointed with the turn-out, and that they had been expecting more than 3000 people. He asked me if I had heard anything about how many people were there.

I replied that Mr. Falwell (I heard myself call him that, but I still can't quite believe I actually said it) had claimed 2000 people at the start of the conference. (I notice that the conference blog has revised that figure down to 1800.)

Then he said that there were plans for a Super Creation Conference in October, to try to attract more people.

“Is a Super conference bigger than a Mega conference?” I snarked.

We both laughed.

85 Comments

Thanks so much for these reports, and I hope your return to the reality-based community doesn’t cause a bout of reverse-culture-shock. ;)

Jason,

Motto: Per aburrita, ad astra.

Thanks again for your attending the conference and your excellent posts.

Good work. I’m sure you must’ve felt like you were in some bizarro world.

He said that astronomers only have light to work with (which doesn’t seem quite right, since they also make frequent use of radio waves)

Well, light is sometimes used to mean visible light, and sometimes used to mean EM radiation of any wavelength, which would include radio waves.

Yep. When a physicist says ‘light’, she generally means ‘electromagnetic radiation’, from gamma rays to radio waves.

What I really want to know is, where did Kerby get an actual picture of Jesus? :-)

…in other contexts creationists love the Big Bang. It allows them to claim that the universe had a definite beginning in time. (Don’t trouble them with details like the fact that time itself apparently came into existence at the Big Bang).

This was also the position of St. Augustine, that time came into being when the Universe was created. A lot of Protestants took Augustine’s philosophy and ran with it (he was also a predestinationist), so I would be a little surprised if modern creationists had much problem with that.

I’ll bet that Kerby got his (autographed!) picture of Jesus from Wolfman Jack back when he was hawking them on XEG, Del Rio, Texas! Fifty zillion watts of rock’n’roll three hours a day, and fifty zillion watts of evangelists the other twenty-one!

That really is quite bizarre, asking kids to ID a picture of JC. I wonder if they used a blonde, blue-eyed pic?

Jason - thanks for the reports.

Possibly the reason the big bang talk wasn’t nonsense was because there is a real case to be made against the big bang, new scientist recently had a balanced issue presenting both sides of the debate it was called “The end of the begining.” But it should be noted that rejection of Big Bang cosmology in no way implies creationism.

“They were trying to indoctrinate your kids, they were trying to show evolution, but they failed. You know why they failed?” Silence from the puzzled audience. “Because they show all four of those animals existing at the same time. That’s not evolution!” Cheers from the delighted audience, coupled with the thud of my jaw hitting the desk.

I always thought phrases like ‘stunned speechless’ were figurative, until i came across things like this. Things which are simple and wrong won’t do it. It takes a certain kind of complicatedly, multiply-wrong thing to do it. When I hear things like this, My brain just goes blank, like a test pattern. Some kind of overload.

Thanks for the report. I haven’t had a biology class since my freshman year in college, but even as a fried law student I understand that the concepts these people think rattles the very foundations of science are based on logical falacies. And if they showed a real picture of Jesus every christian in this country would have no idea who it was, and would likely think he was aa Arab terrorist.

It would be interesting to note that while Ms. Purdon’s perspective of Ice Age was poor due to the reference in the ice cave about progressive succession of form (and ignoring living antecedent survival as Jason notes), she ignores that given the biology of the mammals included in the opening sequence, few are actually found in the same area or the same time, spanning the the Miocene through to the Pleistocene, with North American, South American, and even some Indian Ocean animals (dodos) which were picked for being general mammalian prehistoric humor magnets. The armadillos, which were actually rather bulky and huge relatives called glyptodonts, are especially note worthy in that fossils of them do also show a succession of rounder and heavier “chain-mail” armor, fusion of the armor to the pelvis, a shorter and probably trunk-bearing snout, hoof-like feet instead of claws, and a “mace-tail” instead of the armadillo-like tail wrapped in simple ossicles. Noting special reference in a cartoon as an accurate portrayal of evolutionary thinking when someone is trying to make a joke (flying glyptodonts) makes for good laughs and audience fun, not indoctrination. While it’s fun to hear a creationist mock ID, she’s making mostly the wrong arguments, since the crap that comes from ID is not scientific reasoning, but objections to the core, making only one predictive statement that cannot be directly tested: “God did it.”

If they’re willing to answer the contrary evidence of starlight from billions of light-years away by saying it was just fabricated such as to imply erroneous age, why do they bother coming up with any more complicated argument for anything? Why come up with any other arguments at all? “Starlight says billions of years.” “Made to look that way” “Transitional fossils suggest evolution” “Made to look that way” “isotopes suggest the earth’s old.” “Made to look that way” “genetic similarities suggest common descent.” “Made to look that way”

If it works for starlight, why not use it everywhere?

Perhaps next year a bunch of biologists will go, and afterwards publish a comprehensive book “Errors at the 2006 Creation Mega Conference”

She described the mousetrap analogy. She fretted that the analogy was too simplistic and that people on my side of this have a good time tearing it apart. Her feeling is that we can have the mousetrp, but actual biological systems - like the blood clotting cascade - are vastly more complex.

Oh, good luck coming up with this “Extra-Irreducible Complexity”

She gave a bizarre example about a student who fails every one of her midterm exams but then aces the final. Apparently this would trigger the inference that the student had cheated in some way.

I had a D going into the Partial Differential Equations final, and got an A on the final. No cheating, just two weeks of studying. See why ID is hard, Purdom? You can’t massage fallible heuristics into flawless Laws of Nature. That’s why your ID buddies can’t get anywhere. They’re trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

“God said it, that settles it.”

More like

“A book says it, I refuse to question it, that settles it.”

>”God said it, that settles it.”

>>More like”A book says it, I refuse to question it, that settles it.”

I’m sure she feels much safer with her head in the sand. A pity to abuse those poor texts so horribly, though.

Re the “Because they show all four of those animals existing at the same time. That’s not evolution!” comment: I guess Mr. Kerby has never seen a chimpanzee…?

There was one other part of Kerby’s talk worth commenting on. He showed a clip of a study that was done in which small children were shown pictures of various famous people and were asked if they recognized them. Nearly all of the children recognized Ronald McDonald, and Wendy (as in the Wendy’s chain of fast-food restaurants), some even knew George Washington.

Then they were shown one more picture. The scene was shot in a way so that we could not see who the picture was of. One child after another shrugged his shoulders. One finally guessed George W. Bush. The experimenter told him that was a good guess, but not correct. (!!)

Have you guessed yet who was in the picture? It was Jesus! Surprise! The audience was stunned. Shocked. Dismayed. There were gasps and groans aplenty.

Unless I’m mistaken, this is from Morgan Spurlock’s fast food documentary Super Size Me. An excellent movie, if I do say so myself.

She gave a bizarre example about a student who fails every one of her midterm exams but then aces the final.

I had the same experience in the fist philosophy course I ever took. On the first two midterms I had tried to present the arguments presented in lecture and why I thought they failed. For the final exam I merely regurgitated the arguments presented in lecture. I pulled a ‘C’ out of the class and learned a valuable lesson about philosophy.

Sorry, I have to note my massive doubt regarding the existance of a “magnificent fajita burrito” anywhere east of the Mississippy River. (Technically, I doubt any realâ„¢, good© Mexican food northerly of a line from San Francisco to Houston. (Err, maybe Seattle to New Orleans. Well, any place you don’t actually need to order in Spanish).

Grammer errors now and forever are forgiven.

But things took a nasty turn later in the film. Seeking a short-cut, our noble trio walk through an ice cave. Frozen into the ice walls of the cave are various other animals who apparently got trapped there. At one point we see the sloth walking through a lengthy corridor. He is on the far right side of the screen from our perspective. Frozen in the ice to his right are three other animals. The camera fixes on this scene for a moment and we see all four animals (the three in the ice and the sloth) lined-up in a row. They form a linear evolutionary sequence from a primitive looking creature on the far right to the modern sloth on the left.

I think it’s obious why Kerby wouldn’t like that. The interesting part, though, was what he said next. He said something like, “They were trying to indoctrinate your kids, they were trying to show evolution, but they failed. You know why they failed?” Silence from the puzzled audience. “Because they show all four of those animals existing at the same time. That’s not evolution!” Cheers from the delighted audience, coupled with the thud of my jaw hitting the desk.

I’m surprised they didn’t make a bigger deal of the T-rex in the ice in that scene…

or, for that matter, the UFO…

Scott Simmons wrote:

What I really want to know is, where did Kerby get an actual picture of Jesus? :-)

Popular Mechanics published a picture of a guess of what Jesus may have looked like, based on a skull from the same time and place:

http://archives.cnn.com/2002/TECH/s[…]/face.jesus/

Doesn’t look like the pictures from my Sunday School days.

Of course, this picture may be wildly inaccurate, since we don’t know anything about the genetic contribution of his Father. ;-)

I’m no expert, but quasars don’t show matter being created, instead they happen when stars and matter are pulled into the supermassive black hole at the core of a galaxy. The infalling material is pulled apart by tides, heated up by friction and some is spun out again as two jets on opposite sides of the black hole. A quasar is seen when one jet is more or less aimed straight towards the Earth. Here’s a piccie.

Jason, I had a similar experience in my Economics class, only I aced the two midterms and then got cocky (read that: lazy and/or pulled by hormones towards other interests) and bombed the final. to my chagrin, wound up with a C. not sure what this proves, other than a certain erratic behavior of undergrads.

Mike

PS: if you were at Cal in the early 1980s, then I suppose I should say you are welcome for that nudge up the class curve I gave you.…

steve Wrote:

“Starlight says billions of years.” “Made to look that way” “Transitional fossils suggest evolution” “Made to look that way” “isotopes suggest the earth’s old.” “Made to look that way” “genetic similarities suggest common descent.” “Made to look that way”

With all of these things made to look like something they are not, it follows quite directly that these people’s deity is the Prince of Lies by definition.

I think we’d all agree with this.

The scene was shot

Creepy. It might have been worth asking how many of them believed there was any such thing as a photo of Jesus. I think the children did very well to refuse to recognise one of many bogus images of Jesus as being someone they knew. Jason, did you happen to recognise which artistic impression it was?

and learned a valuable lesson about philosophy

That it’s vacuous and intellectually and morally corrupt (and corrupting)? NB (Eng.)Lit. in the UK has similar failings of the you-must-regurgitate-the-official-party-line form (at the early levels anyway). Genuine and well thought out criticism is not tolerated. Art quality/appreciation has nose-dived too, eg Tracey Emin.

these people’s deity is the Prince of Lies by definition

That’s certainly my view (other than necessarily being a prince, since there’s a claim of a womb but none of a penis). It also explains why they are willing to elect people like Bush and Blair. Dishonesty and other despicable behaviour is what they’ve been indoctrinated to expect (via their religion) from their leaders.

Possibly the reason the big bang talk wasn’t nonsense was because there is a real case to be made against the big bang, new scientist recently had a balanced issue presenting both sides of the debate it was called “The end of the begining.”

It is true there are interesting unresolved questions about the big bang which could even concievably call the whole idea in to question. But the difficulties with the theory are rather subtle. I don’t see how anyone who believes that the universe was created 6000 years ago, and that quasers are an image of that event could usefully engage with that material.

Consider that we can measure distances up to several hundred light years using simple perspective effects. (These are called parallax measurements. The most accurate measurements are from the Hipparchos satellite.) Building on this with other measurements we conclude that the Milky Way alone is 100,0000 light years across. There is no way to pack every thing in to 6000 light years without doing serious damage to most of physics. This is just as “obviously insane” as the other talks.

Even if the big bang is less secure than, say, the modern synthesis it is clearly our best theory with very substantial evidence behind it. A more rational critic of the big bang would have to confront not just red shifts but at least the two other “classical” pieces of evidence: the cosmic microwave background and the abundance of light elements. Arguments about the absence of anti-matter just show we don’t understand all the details of the first fraction of a second(!). They don’t challenge the framework.

“They were trying to indoctrinate your kids, they were trying to show evolution, but they failed. You know why they failed?” Silence from the puzzled audience. “Because they show all four of those animals existing at the same time. That’s not evolution!” Cheers from the delighted audience, coupled with the thud of my jaw hitting the desk.

That’s about as stupid as it gets when you’re discussing evolution. That’s up there with the old saw, “If humans evolved from apes, why do we still have apes?”

I’m not so happy with this. It seems to me that if this was a biology text book rather than a cartoon with talking animals then Kerby would have a point. The fact is that the apes we see are not our ancestors. Isn’t there every reason to believe that gorillas have diverged just as much from our common ancestor as humans have?

Now, where do I sign up for the campaign to reclaim our culture from the Flintstones?

…Ice Age is an animated movie about a sloth, a mammoth, and a saber-tooth tiger who end up caring for a human infant who was abandoned when the baby’s mother was killed by other saber-tooth tigers.

To pick a minor nit: IIRC, the mother was swept away in a flooding river, just barely managing to push her baby onto the bank before going under (imo, a well-done episode to show death without unduly traumatizing a young audience). I must’ve missed the Gilligan’s Island episode where humans were shown living with dinosaurs - damn! Time for yet another course in Remedial Foundations of Western Culture…

Popular Mechanics published a picture of a guess of what Jesus may have looked like, based on a skull from the same time and place:

There’s no telling where God came up with the Y chromosome, or for that matter a full set of chromosomes, so I don’t see what good making a guess would do. It’s entirely possible (given the context of the story, which I personally don’t believe) that Jesus looked nothing like his Jewish neighbors. For all you know, he could have been blonde.

It’s a miracle. Trying to retroactively apply science to a miracle is extremely iffy.

Everyone is able to speak for his or herself around here (some better than others, admittedly…huh, Peachy?), so I won’t bother to speak for Bayes.

No, you will simply intimate that I misinterpreted his words as reflecting his intent. a) I don’t think so b) I consider your contribution to be ad hominem and worthless. I made a point about an error in reasoning that he expressed; it really doesn’t matter whether he intended his words seriously or not (though I have no reason to think he didn’t).

Actually, why there’s more “matter” than “anti-matter” is not a problem for particle physicists, and hasn’t been for decades … It’s due to a phenomenon known as CP-violation

“quia est in eo virtus dormitiva, cujus est natura sensus assoupire”

Uh, CP-violation is “a problem”, as there is at this time no explanation for it.

Air Bear Wrote:

Of course, this picture may be wildly inaccurate, since we don’t know anything about the genetic contribution of his Father. ;-)

We may not know anything about dad’s DNA, but sure as God made little green apples ( ;-)) His mother was a semite and almost certainly looked a lot more like Saddam Hussein than George W. Bush or any image of JC I’ve ever seen in a Western church. I was going to say that since His appearance seemed not to provoke any comment in Scripture, he probably looked like most people in the area, but then I recollected that there were a few Romans running around.

We may not know anything about dad’s DNA, but sure as God made little green apples ( ;-)) His mother was a semite and almost certainly looked a lot more like Saddam Hussein than George W. Bush or any image of JC I’ve ever seen in a Western church. I was going to say that since His appearance seemed not to provoke any comment in Scripture, he probably looked like most people in the area, but then I recollected that there were a few Romans running around.

Jesus always looks like the ideal within whatever society the artist lives. Ever seen how Ethiopian Christians draw him?

So, then, we shouldn’t be surprised when, say, white people from the South paint him with clean, straight sandy hair and as small a beard as possible. :-)

Jesus always looks like the ideal within whatever society the artist lives.

I pretty much thought about it the same way until I heard a multi-faith panel discussion of “The Passion of the Christ” where Dr. Christine Thomas, a professor in religious studies (specializing in history and archaeology), went into a lot of detail about the de-Judification of Christ during the Inquisition after some Franciscan monk put down a 14 year old AfrAm boy who had the temerity to ask why all the pictures showed Jesus as being white.

I must’ve missed the Gilligan’s Island episode where humans were shown living with dinosaurs - damn! Time for yet another course in Remedial Foundations of Western Culture…

There was also a gorilla who figured prominently in several episodes (she won a beauty contest once). Now if an African gorilla can manage to make her way to a tiny, isolated Pacific island, this quite possibly upsets that whole biogeography thing that makes such good evidence for evolution. Damn you Gilligan’s Island!!!!

Of course, it’s not all bad news. There are shows like Gilligan’s Island and the Flintstones tha depict humans and dinosaurs living simultaneously. Evolutionists hate those shows, I’m told.

Damn right. The baby elephant vacume cleaner is downright anti-scientific, especially when it complains, in English (!!!), about being overworked.

Jesus always looks like the ideal within whatever society the artist lives.

I was unware that the ideal male in our society is a hippie who dresses in bed sheets.

Also I’ve no clue why an “evolutionist” would “hate” the Flintstones.

The Great Kazoo, that’s why.

I pulled a ‘C’ out of the class and learned a valuable lesson about philosophy.

I learned the lesson sooner. My first Philosophy teacher was a scholastic guy. In the first paper I disagreed with him (tried to use Venn diagrams for logic) and got a C. The second, I regurgitated and got a B. For the last one, I not only regurgitated but called Bertrand Russell intellectually dishonest, for which I got an A. I’m appalled that, even as a sophomore, I was so pretentious, uncourageous and silly. I hope Russell forgives me, wherever he is… OTOH, I suspect he never noticed.

His mother was a semite and almost certainly looked a lot more like Saddam Hussein

Now that’s just scary. If your mother looked like Saddam Hussein would that be enough to turn you into a religious cultist too?

ts Wrote:

Uh, CP-violation is “a problem”, as there is at this time no explanation for it.

I wouldn’t call it a “problem”. CP violation has been unambiguously observed, and the explanation is pretty simple. In a nutshell: there’s a single 3x3 matrix, the CKM matrix, which describes how the 6 quark flavors interact, and another matrix (the MSW matrix) for the leptons and neutrinos. CP violation means, simply, that the matrices contain complex numbers as well as real numbers.

The initial discovery of CP violation was a big surprise; you can imagine people saying “But … but … I thought the CKM matrix would be real!”. “Why did you think it was real?” “Oh, no reason, I just sort of figured.” Aside from this breaking of preconceptions, there’s no real problem. The fun part is simply measuring the matrix elements accurately—a particular challenge in the lepton/neutrino sector.

Comment #40453

Posted by Gary Hurd on July 29, 2005 11:18 PM (e) (s)

Sorry, I have to note my massive doubt regarding the existance of a “magnificent fajita burrito” anywhere east of the Mississippy River.

I know a few hispanics here in NC whose burritoes are magnificent.

Planet Fresh in Santa Cruz for top notch urrito’s. I can assure one and all that there are no good burrito’s whatsoever here in London. Those who live east of the Mississippi should consider themselves relatively lucky when compared to the good burrito desert that is the UK.

Oh and, er, creationists suck.

Ben M Wrote:

CP violation means, simply, that the matrices contain complex numbers as well as real numbers

Ah ha … ok, thanks.

“Anyway, the part of the Big Bang they don’t like is the implication that it happened billions of years ago.”

I have, for the first time in my (relatively brief) 4-year teaching career, just had office hours in which a student told me that she is becoming convinced of deep time! After being raised in a religiously conservative household and being married to an adamant creationist, she is seeing new information in a new light. I did it (well, she did it) all with sedimentary rocks, and we haven’t even gotten to radiometric dating yet! We had a long conversation about the fact that many people respond to set statements about controversial issues with the emotion they were trained to feel in response, and that a questioning mind, in science and in other areas, looks past the trained response and asks about the content of the statements, ask for definitions of meaning, and works to understand the meaning logically. Interestingly, she’s also taking an English Comp. class where the students read an essay by Marx (that’s Karl, not Groucho), and she was shocked – shocked! – to find that it was about people and their economic situations, not about the Secret Police and mind control.

So there’s a counter-wave to the religious reactionaries, and education can work. I wonder if she’s the adult equivalent of the boy from Jason’s post of day Three or Four…

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 1, column 64, byte 64 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

“In another strange moment, the flatness of the universe was offered up as a refutation of the inflating balloon model of the universe.”

I’m impressed!!! The “flatness problem” is indeed one of the major reasons that *inflation* is now a cornerstone of modern cosmology (http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr162/[…]flation.html). Inflation is an extension of the original Big Bang model; it says that rather than expanding smoothly, the universe experienced a short period of incredibly rapid expansion a few moments after the bang, and then slowed down to the rate of expansion we see today. The SNAP mission should help us figure out more about how this rapid expansion happened (http://snap.lbl.gov/). Inflation is a very promising model because it not only explains why the universe is “flat,” but answers a host of other questions, including why the universe seems to be at a fairly uniform temperature, and why nobody has ever seen a magnetic monopole.

“At this point he returned to the Big Bang and suggested that the apparent absence of anti-matter in our universe is a strike aganist standard Big Bang cosmology.”

Quite right! Our current models have a hard time explaining why the universe is made of mostly matter, which is why the search for matter/antimatter asymmetries is on the cutting edge of modern physics. For example, the IMB experiment (http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jcv/imb/imbp3.html) is currently searching for evidence of proton decay, which is related to matter/antimatter asymmetry in a way I confess I don’t really understand. :)

“Then he suggested that no one has any idea how stars and glaxies form, suggesting that this was another defect in the theory.”

Right again! It may be a bit of an exaggeration to say that “no one has any idea,” but star and planet formation is a very hot field in astrophysics, especially now that we’ve begun to detect planets outside the solar system. There was a very interesting article in Nature News recently! (http://www.nature.com/news/2005/050[…]50711-6.html)

In conclusion, the speaker’s problem is simply one of attitude. Where he sees answers in Genesis, cosmologists and astrophysicists see exciting, promising, cutting-edge research.

Oops! I wouldn’t have talked so much if I’d known there was a REAL physicist around here! Maybe Ben M can explain why proton decay is related to matter/antimatter asymmetry, and correct some of the vapid misunderstandings and gross oversimplifications in my post. :)

“In a nutshell: there’s a single 3x3 matrix, the CKM matrix, which describes how the 6 quark flavors interact, and another matrix (the MSW matrix) for the leptons and neutrinos.”

Ooooh… pretty! How come Brian Greene never explains it like that? You ought to steal his job.

“CP violation means, simply, that the matrices contain complex numbers as well as real numbers.”

What would CPT violation do?

Jason, (or anyone else who is interested,) AiG has seen fit to post an article about your blog series. It can be found here.

In addition, someone has posted on this thread too:

http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]tml#comments

Aaron,

So you want to know about CPT? For those of you following along at home C, P and T are symmetries. C stands for “charge conjugation”, or replacing matter with antimatter, P stands for “parity” which you can think of as looking at your experiment in a mirror, and T stands for “time reversal”, which does what it says on the tin. If we write more than one together, it means we do them all.

If a symmetry is violated, as in “CP violation”, it means that the laws of physics look different after performing the symmetry operation.

Earlier, Ben M wrote:

The initial discovery of CP violation was a big surprise; you can imagine people saying “But … but … I thought the CKM matrix would be real!”. “Why did you think it was real?” “Oh, no reason, I just sort of figured.”

It’s true the result was a surprise. (When ground breaking experiment of Chien-shiung was passed over for a Nobel in favour of male colleagues who provided the theoretical explation, U.S. Senator Clare Boothe Luce remarked that “when Dr. Wu knocked out that principle of parity, she established the principle of parity between men and women.”)

CP violation wasn’t a problem, it’s just a fact of nature. However, I’m no historian but I have a guess as to why CP violation was such a surprise, and it has to do with CPT.

It turns out that in relativistic quantum mechanics, which is our most fundamental theory of physics, CPT must be an exact symmetry - if you replace all matter with anti-matter, look at your experiment in a mirror and run time backwards all at once then the laws of physics look the same. The reason is that other wise probability is not conserved. Quantum mechanics is a probabilistic theory, and at every time the total probability that something happens must add up to one.

If CPT was violated then at latter times we might find when we add up the probability for all the different possibilities it comes to greater or lesser than one. So CPT must hold.

But if CPT holds, and CP is violated that means that there must be a compensating violation in T. What does that mean? If you run the clock backwards, the laws of physics look different.

Now it turns out that in classical physics T holds exactly, and it looked like the same was true in quantum physics (the violation is small). Furthermore, people had burnt up a lot of mental energy on thinking through the consequences.

After all, the world around us seems to have a direction to time. It is quite a puzzle to reconcile that with laws that look the same back and forward. The answer comes from the second law of thermodynamics - which I have no intention of explaining here!

But my point is, because people thought about how to derive the second law of thermodynamics from underlying time invarient laws, they assumed that T would hold, and therefore that CP would hold too.

Aaron, JK - Since in physics nothing is sacred, not even CPT conservation, there’s been a fair amount of work done looking into the conditions required for CPT violation. I found this pdf today during a quiet moment at work. It’s fairly mathematical, as you might expect, and shows a number of ways in which CPT might be violated.

Ben M - Thanks for the “Sakharov conditions”. I was wondering about baryogenesis, as kaons obviously don’t cut it, just after I posted, and took thermal disequilibrium more or less as read. Heh. It’s a pity we can’t get to the 10^14 GeV level directly, never mind 10^19, but it looks like there are some promising lines of enquiry, for the former at least.

I was once patiently lecturing a Jehovah’s Witness doorknocker about how water couldn’t orbit the earth in a shell and how Goliath was killed by two different people in the bible, and she became so confused she eventually said “I’ll send a MAN around to talk to you”.

I had a favorite way to deal with any Bible-Babblers who knocked on my door:

For a very long time, I had an extensive collection of reptiles and invertebrates (around 55 species) that I used for educational shows in school classes, scout troops, etc. I kept them all at my house, and my living room resembled a zoo with all the display cages.

Two of the cages closest to the door contained a colony of African emperor scorpions and a black racer snake. The scorpions are the largest species on earth – eight inches-plus from heavy pincers to quarter-inch venom sting. Pure shiny black, probably the most evil-looking thing most people can imagine. The racer snake was also glossy shiny black, almost three feet long. A bundle of nervous energy, he never sat still for very long. Oh, and he HATED humans with a passion, and whenever anyone (including me) approached his cage, he’d instantly rear back into that famous “S” shape that means “come any closer and you’ll be sorry”.

Both animals were, of course, utterly harmless – the scorpions were big babies and would walk around contentedly on my arms when I held them, while the racer snake, despite his bad-ass attitude, was all bluff and almost never tried to actually bite (he preferred pooping all over the place instead). But of course, everyone who saw them assumed that the scorpions must be incredibly lethal, and that the racer snake must be some sort of deadly mamba or something.

Whenever the holier-than-thou’s would show up, I’d always invite them in and have them sit near the cages. As soon as they began their Bible speech, I’d interrupt, ask to borrow their Bible, and turn to Luke 10;19, and read “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” I then ask them if they really have faith that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. And when they piously declare their faith, I point to the two cages near them, point to the Biblical verse I read to them, and calmly ask them to open either cage (their choice which) and hand me the occupant.

Never had any takers.

At which point I sadly inform them that I am not interested in hearing about the Bible from people who obviously have so little faith in it, and invite them to come back anytime in the future when their faith is a little stronger.

Never had anyone come back.

Re #40990,

ROFL ROFL ROFL

Henry

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jason Rosenhouse published on July 29, 2005 7:33 PM.

Massospondylus embryos was the previous entry in this blog.

A Blind Eye towards reality is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter