Young Earth Rising

| 151 Comments

In the first half of the 20th century creationism, at least when it had any scientific pretensions, tended to be of the old earth variety. And many American Christians, even rather fundamental ones, felt no need for science denial at all as Bowler reminds us. Instead, progressivism (“Mankind ever upward and onward”) was the order of the day in popular culture and to some extent in scientific thinking. Evolution was thought, even by some scientists, to include an innate drive toward progress, and this could easily be seen as God’s method.

By mid century progressivism had suffered two major blows. There had been two world wars, the first insane and the second not only that but starkly demonstrating man’s capacity for evil. The idea of inevitable progress seemed ludicrous. At the same time, Fisher’s mathematical basis for what came to be known as the Modern Synthesis in biology removed any hope for innate progress in evolution and replaced it with chance and selection. But for many believers, it just didn’t seem like God would do it that way.

In the 1960’s young earth creationism (YEC) was jump started by Whitcomb and Morris’s book The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Explanations. After losing its legal battles to get into the school science curriculum, YEC lost steam in the eighties. Then in the nineties creationism in general got a major public relations boost under the rubric of intelligent design, an attempt to unite both old and young earth creationists against science. IDC has been an effective social legitimizer and political door opener for creationism, which in 21st century America is increasingly of the young earth variety.

How is YEC fairing today? Hanna Rosin in the New York Times reports on a YEC geology conference and paints a picture of the movement. Hat tip: John Hawks.

Creationist geologists are thriving, paradoxically, at a moment when evangelicals are becoming more educated, more prosperous and more open to scientific progress. And though they are a lonely few among Christian academics, they have an influence far out of proportion to their numbers. They have just opened a state-of-the-art $27 million museum in Kentucky, and they dominate the Christian publishing industry, serving as the credentialed experts for the nearly half of Americans who believe in some version of a young earth. In a sense, they represent the fundamentalist avant-garde; unlike previous generations of conservative Christians, they don’t see the need to choose between mainstream science and Biblical literalism.

On the shoulders of what?

Marcus Ross, the creationist who recently completed an entire Ph.D. program in paleontology with his fingers crossed, is a rising star in YEC. How does he try to justify saying that the earth is only a few thousand years old? Rosin:

Outside school, Ross studied what he considered great breakthroughs in creation geology. In 1999, Ross came across John Baumgardner’s theory of catastrophic plate tectonics, which was proposed a few years earlier. The theory is the first attempt to describe the mechanism of the flood. It involves a fantastic “runaway” situation in which the ocean floor slides into the earth’s mantle in a matter of weeks and then hot rocks come to the surface of the ocean floor, causing ocean water to vaporize and rush out like a geyser (“the fountains of the great deep” described in Genesis). A computer model refining the theory purports to show an earth wobbling crazily on its axis as land masses come together and then break apart, forming the continents we have today.

“Until then, my options were pretty pathetic,” Ross said. Now he had something that “accounted for a large body of geological evidence,” proposed by a geophysicist trained at U.C.L.A. and supported by three other geology Ph.D.’s.

So YEC’s best claim to a scientific foundation rests on Baumgardner’s bizarre geology. Discussion of his arguments can be found at Talk Origins. Joe Meert’s report on the YEC RATE conference provides further insight into Baumgardner’s standards of argument. Readers are invited to analyze YEC geology.

Newton famously remarked “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.” Ross and other “scientific” YECs have chosen far lesser shoulders.

151 Comments

[quote]Newton famously remarked “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.” Ross and other “scientific” YECs have chosen far lesser shoulders. [/quote]Considering how much time and effort creationists spend actually doing research, as compared with how much time and effort they spend attacking science, launching breathtakingly inane lawsuits, etc., one internet wag* quipped that, in contrast to Newton, these guys are “biting the ankles of giants”

*(hat tip: Calilasseia, on the Dawkins forum)

Seeing as Baumgardner hails from New Mexico, he’s got his own page on NMSR’s C-Files.

I’ve encountered him at legislative hearings up in Santa Fe. He basically dismisses anyone who thinks there is evidence of evolution as a “militant atheist.”

Nowadays, the head of IDnet-NM refers to us as the “Darwinist SWAT team.”

Things haven’t really changed very much at all, eh?

Dave

The ‘Darwin swat team’ is preposterous. After all, Darwin was a peaceable man.

I suppose I’m in the minority here.

Darwin swat team? Well, YECs do deserve a good spanking.

The last few days have been entertaining as Baumgardner’s bogus critique of C14 dating for the Institute of Creation Research, RATE Group has been demolished by Dr. Kirk Bertsche.

Perhaps Dr. Bertsche could be persuaded to offer a summary to PT as a guest post.

I had my fill of Baumgardner over his false claims regarding fossil osteocalcin, and young earth fantasy, in Ancient Molecules and Modern Myths.

Doesn’t the rise of the Internet deserve much of the blame for the relative health of Young Earth Creationism these days? I doubt there are more people who believe in a literal Genesis today that there were fifty years ago, we just get to here a lot more from them because of the huge reach of the World Wide Web.

Until we were all hooked up online, creationists had to rely on books, pamphlets, and radio broadcasts to spread their message, all of which remained mostly limited to a network of fundamentalist churches which few scientists and secular folk ever ventured into. All the rest of us ever got to see where those occasional 60 Minutes pieces on what those wacky fundamentalists were up to now.

The Web has brought about a revolution in communications, but not just in science or news or politics. Religious beliefs have benefited from the same revolution, and master propagandists like Ken Ham have not been slow at taking full advantage. As with most new technology, the Web is a double-edged sword. It has been invaluable in disseminating scientific information and knowledge to the masses, but the forces of anti-science have proven no less adept at getting their message across. And one thing that the Internet cannot change how that information is processed in the human brain. People will continue to believe what they want to believe, and the Ken Hams of this world are all too happy to continue feeding those beliefs.

Young Earth, Short Earth Wrote:

The ‘Darwin swat team’ is preposterous. After all, Darwin was a peaceable man. I suppose I’m in the minority here.

If your handle, “Young Earth, Short Earth” is indicative that you are a young earth creationist, then you are indeed in the minority as regards commenters on Panda’s Thumb. While quite a few creationists post comments here, many of these are not coming out of the YEC closet, preferring to adopt the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” philosophy on the age of the earth, as espoused by “Intelligent Design” (ID) founding father Phillip Johnson:

I have consistently said that I take no position on the age of the earth, and that I regard the issue as not ripe for debate yet.

Just so we’re clear here, the person who came up with “Darwinist SWAT team” label is the head of the New Mexico chapter of the Intelligent Design Network. This person, one Joe Renick, made this comment just a few days ago (Monday, Dec. 3rd, 2007) at a Rio Rancho, NM school board meeting in which an “ID policy” he supported was rescinded:

From “Game Over in Rio Rancho, NM: Science 1, Wedge 0” by Marshall Berman, Kim Johnson and Dave Thomas:

Among those arguing that the board should retain the policy were … the executive director of IDnet-NM, Joe Renick, [who] read a lengthy statement defending the policy’s “honorable intentions and clear language.” Renick said the policy simply promoted neutrality through objective science education, and blamed the speakers against the policy for being the ones who got things so entangled with religion. He also called them the Darwinist SWAT team!

I agree that it’s a silly label. But don’t blame us science types, blame the ID people, OK?

Cheers, Dave

It’s time to be clear. Anyone who believes that the earth is 6,000 years old is, to paraphrase Richard Dawkins, either insane,ingnorant, or evil.

There is no doubt on age of the earth. The evidence is overwhelming.

For me, there is no point in trying to make intellectual arguments with YEC adherents. They are stupid. Period. They are beyond rational argument, and therefore not worthy of same. They should be mocked, laughed at, and made to look like the fools that they are.

Newton famously remarked “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.” Ross and other “scientific” YECs have chosen far lesser shoulders.

Maybe they used the ones along roads where the signs say “soft shoulder” or “don’t drive on the shoulder”?

and the Ken Hams of this world are all too happy to continue feeding those beliefs.

But doesn’t the Bible say avoid eating what comes from Ham?

Henry

waldteufel’s comment echoes that of Kurt Vonnegut’s in his intro to “Scientists Confront Creationists”. Paraphrasing (it was, after all, a long time ago that I read it): “One cannot reason with someone for whom reason does not count.”

Has anyone noted the irony that Marcus Ross shares the last name with who may be the world’s most prominent OEC, Hugh Ross?

I didn’t read the linked article yet, so there’s a chance I could be pleasantly surprised. But by now I know not to expect much in terms of exploiting the differences between YEC, OEC and ID. Really, 2 years after ID’s embarrassing defeat at Dover did anyone not expect a YEC resurgence in the PR world? And did anyone truly think that YECs would come up with any scientific argument that has not been both thoroughly refuted by science and quietly abandoned by the OEC and ID community?

I’ll say it again. For the ~50% of the public that is (1) not hopelessly fundamentalist and (2) still sympathetic to “teach the controversy” and other misleading anti-evolution sound bites, our best approach may be to show how anti-evolution groups cannot agree on even the basics, and how some groups (IDers) are far more interested in covering up the failures and contradictions than developing a theory that they themselves sometimes admit is not ready for prime time. I know that many readers can fill in the blanks, but most get “amnesia” when the arguments are constructed as “one particular brand of creationism” vs. evolution. And that’s just the way anti-evolution activists want it.

waldteufel wrote:

It’s time to be clear. Anyone who believes that the earth is 6,000 years old is, to paraphrase Richard Dawkins, either insane,ingnorant, or evil.

One of few things Dawkins has said recently with which I can wholeheartedly agree.

Most of them, I’d like to believe, are simply ignorant, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

Russell:

[quote]Newton famously remarked “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.” Ross and other “scientific” YECs have chosen far lesser shoulders. [/quote]Considering how much time and effort creationists spend actually doing research, as compared with how much time and effort they spend attacking science, launching breathtakingly inane lawsuits, etc., one internet wag* quipped that, in contrast to Newton, these guys are “biting the ankles of giants”

*(hat tip: Calilasseia, on the Dawkins forum)

These guys are standing on the shoulders of their predecssors, their only problem is that the previous guys were gnomes instead of giants and are head down in the mud.

YEC science is a joke. Reading that RATE piece reminded me of that old cartoon. “Then a miracle happens.” Maybe they think that is valid science?

Waldteufel’s comment echoes that of Kurt Vonnegut’s in his intro to “Scientists Confront Creationists”.

And speaking of the late Kurt Vonnegut.…let’s listen to this little ditty from National Public Radio Morning Edition (“The Long View”):

Mr. VONNEGUT: Where you can see tribal behavior now is in this business about teaching evolution in a science class and intelligent design. It’s the scientists themselves are behaving tribally. Mr. INSKEEP: How are the scientists behaving tribally? Mr. VONNEGUT: They say, you know, about evolution, it surely happened because their fossil record shows that. But look, my body and your body are miracles of design. Scientists are pretending they have the answer as how we got this way when natural selection couldn’t possibly have produced such machines.

Source: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/0[…]ism_and.html

Now Kurt Vonnegut was not a creationist, not at all. But it seems that the man was far more sensible, and far more open-minded, than a lot of folks around here.

FL :)

“But it seems that the man was far more sensible, and far more open-minded, than a lot of folks around here.”

Open-minded doesn’t mean embracing all ideas equally regardless of merit. Serious open-minded people open their minds to the active collection and critical evaluation of data. Vonnegut shows his ignorance of science when he says “Scientists are pretending they have the answer as [to] how we got this way … “. How we got this way is the subject of great interest and research–sometimes called “evo-devo.” Vonnegut compounds his error when he says “natural selection couldn’t possibly have produced such machines.” Modern science has already shown how natural selection *could* have produced such machines.

This shows the perils of relying on science fiction novelists to speak for science. If you can’t do the hard work of actually, you know, reading and understanding the factual scientific literature, at least do folks around here the service of keeping your uninformed opinions to yourself.

FL wrote:

“Now Kurt Vonnegut was not a creationist, not at all. But it seems that the man was far more sensible, and far more open-minded, than a lot of folks around here.”

No he wasn’t. In fact, he was displaying exactly the same loathsome behavior he was attempting to criticize. He stated that scientists had answers based on evidence. OK, then what? Did he deal with that evidence honestly? Did he have a better explanation than the experts? Was he even aware of what the evidence was? If not, then he was just spouting the party line of every creationist in the last two hundred years. “Regardless of the evidence, they’re wrong and I’m right, I just know it.” That isn’t being open-minded, that’s being ignorant, stubborn and arrogant. Open-minded means being open to the evidence. It doesn’t mean ignoring evidence. It doesn’t mean dismissing evidence without having the slightest idea of what that evidence is. That is the definition of closed-minded. As one PT contributor once stated: “You shouldn’t be so open-minded that all reason falls out.”

Quote mining again, from January 2006.…

Actual Source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/[…]ryId=5165342

Of course this is simply an argument from personal incredulity.

Looks straightforwared to me. Vonnegut says “I refuse to accept the evidence, therefore my preferences are correct.” FL, who shares the same preferences and refusal to accept the evidence, deems Vonnegut “sensible.” As Larry Niven wrote, nothing is more reasonable than a shared prejudice.

I can picture both of them saying “I refuse to believe heavier objects fall at the same rate as lighter objects. Just LOOK, they have different weights. It’s obvious.” And, uh, about the actual observations? Well, see, we’re not looking at them, we’re looking at “sensible”.

The University of Chicago later accepted his novel Cat’s Cradle as his thesis, citing its anthropological content and awarded him the M.A. degree in 1971.

Since when is Kurt Vonnegut an authority on biological science and what qualifies him to evaluate and pass judgement on 150 years of science?

Nothing. He has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and an MA in cultural anthropology based on his writing. He was a writer.

Quote mining Kurt Vonnegut was lame.

waldteufel wrote:

Most of them [YECs], I’d like to believe, are simply ignorant, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

If a person is arguing on behalf of young-earth creationism and hasn’t bothered to educate himself before expressing opinions on the subject, the ignorance is something to be ashamed of. There’s ignorance and there’s willful ignorance. The latter variety is the main problem.

Jim, you misquoted me. The quote you attribute to me was made by wolfwalker. Easy mistake to make because of the way comments are formatted here.

I agree with you, though.

Wikipedia:

Vonnegut was a Humanist. He served as Honorary President of the American Humanist Association, having replaced Isaac Asimov in what Vonnegut called “that totally functionless capacity”. He was deeply influenced by early socialist…

Wikipedia:

IHEU’s Minimum Statement on Humanism All member organisations of the IHEU are required by IHEU bylaw 5.1 to accept [5] the IHEU Minimum Statement on Humanism:

“Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

Strange, looks like Vonnegut was an atheist or something close to it. So if he thinks humans were designed, and he is an atheist then who designed us? Vonnegut was a complex person who often said off the wall things that didn’t make much sense to the average person and would sometimes make outrageous provocative statements for effect. He once defended Moslem suicide bombers.

Wikipedia: Vonnegut: “I regard them as very brave people.” When pressed further Vonnegut also said that “They [suicide bombers] are dying for their own self-respect. It’s a terrible thing to deprive someone of their self-respect. It’s [like] your culture is nothing, your race is nothing, you’re nothing … It is sweet and noble — sweet and honourable I guess it is — to die for what you believe in.”

OK, FL, I’ll bite:

FL Wrote:

And speaking of the late Kurt Vonnegut….let’s listen to this little ditty from National Public Radio Morning Edition (“The Long View”):

Mr. VONNEGUT: Where you can see tribal behavior now is in this business about teaching evolution in a science class and intelligent design. It’s the scientists themselves are behaving tribally. Mr. INSKEEP: How are the scientists behaving tribally? Mr. VONNEGUT: They say, you know, about evolution, it surely happened because their fossil record shows that. But look, my body and your body are miracles of design. Scientists are pretending they have the answer as how we got this way when natural selection couldn’t possibly have produced such machines.

Source: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/0[…]urt_vonnegut

Now Kurt Vonnegut was not a creationist, not at all. But it seems that the man was far more sensible, and far more open-minded, than a lot of folks around here.

OK, FL, in exactly what way does an argument from personal incredulity constitute open-mindedness? Or “being sensible”?

Also, Vonnegut dismisses the evidence without addressing any of it, or even attempting to understand it. These are very typical creationist tactics.

Since he was dismissing the facts of the case (i.e. the discoveries made by science), what type of “not a creationist” do you think he was?

Raven Wrote:

[Vonnegut said]:

It is sweet and noble — sweet and honourable I guess it is — to die for what you believe in

Which is an obvious paraphrase from the well-known Wilfred Owen poem “Dulce et decorum est”. (Wilfred Owen was one of several soldiers who used poetry to describe the horror of trench warfare in WWI).

The full line is “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”, which is usually translated as “It is sweet and meet [in the sense of “fitting” or “right”] to die for one’s fatherland”.

What is ironic is that the poem describes the saying as a lie.

Source: http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/owen1.html

wolfwalker Wrote:

One of few things Dawkins has said recently with which I can wholeheartedly agree. Most of them, I’d like to believe, are simply ignorant, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

It would depend primarily on the reason for the ignorance and the attitude of the individual.

Willful ignorance in the presence of sufficient information to dispel that ignorance is closer to insanity and/or malevolence.

People who would otherwise learn but who do not have access to knowledge, either because their society can’t get it for them or because it is being kept from them by demagogues, are probably not to be entirely faulted if they have no means of fighting back.

In the case of evolution and the age of the Earth, however, this country has had years of fundamentalist political activity aimed at keeping people ignorant. In principle, there are means for fighting back in this country.

In spite of the court decision in Dover, there has definitely been an up-tick in militant antievolution activity on the religion channels and in some of the churches. This is willful ignorance. The people doing it need to be exposed and their tactics need to be highlighted. One of the primary tactics used by these demagogues is to convince their congregations that the only information that is safe for consumption is information that comes from sectarian-certified sources complete with identifying shibboleths.

I would agree that, in many cases, scolding or demeaning a member of a sect is counterproductive if that individual has been taught to fear knowledge of evolution. It’s usually the leaders who know what they are doing, and it is they who are irresponsible, and/or insane, and/or malicious.

Re Richard Dawkins

What Prof. Dawkins actually said was, “an individual who rejects the theory of evolution is either ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked (but he didn’t want to consider the last). This was in an article about David Berlinski who he said was neither stupid, ignorant, or insane.

Mike Elzinga wrote:

It would depend primarily on the reason for the ignorance and the attitude of the individual.

Agreed. I figure there are three things required for curing ignorance on evolution (or any other subject): the realization that one is ignorant, the desire to get informed, and access to the needed information. From personal experience I know that many rank-and-file creationists simply don’t realize how ignorant they are, because they were told “evolution is a crock” by people they trusted and it never occurred to them to doubt it. For them, I feel sympathy and I’ll not diss them if I can avoid it.

However, for people who have been told how to get informed and are simply unwilling, I have no sympathy at all. On evolution or any other subject.

It’s usually the leaders who know what they are doing, and it is they who are irresponsible, and/or insane, and/or malicious.

Also agreed. Leaders of creationism deserve no mercy.

It’s says a lot that the ID crowd can always get an authoritative quote from novelists (Vonnegut), actors (Ben Stein), dead philosophers (Paisley), event he occasional cartoonist (Scott Adams), but somehow though, they never seem to get a pro-ID statement from anyone whose paycheck comes from producing actual results with it.

Unlike evolution, say, whose strongest support comes from the hundreds of thousands of people who don’t get paid unless they get their drugs, seeds and paternity tests to actually work.

Now, the cynic in me wonders whey, exactly, that might be?

(Actually, the cynic in me already knows.)

Still, I liked Vonnegut and his work, and it pains me to hear him say something so blazingly ignorant as…

“It’s the scientists themselves are behaving tribally… They say, you know, about evolution, it surely happened because their fossil record shows that. Scientists are pretending they have the answer as how we got this way when natural selection couldn’t possibly have produced such machines.

Which basically boils down to “Yes, they have all this evidence, but I still won’t believe it”

And so it goes.

FL:

I know I’m coming in late here, but how does an endorsement of ID by a science FICTION writer somehow constitute a triumph for ID?

“I know I’m coming in late here, but how does an endorsement of ID by a science FICTION writer somehow constitute a triumph for ID?”

of course it does, it clearly shows that ID is science fiction!

FL:

I know I’m coming in late here, but how does an endorsement of ID by a science FICTION writer somehow constitute a triumph for ID?

Because ID is science fiction, albeit without the science.

OK, how about triumph with a small “t?”

FL:

Are you stil waiting Mplavcan? But of course.

Please FL, provide us with some actual scientific observation that the mind is NOT a function of the structure of the brain and therefore cannot evolve.

Well, let’s see now. You’ve dissected 2000 human bodies and you just received the most recent copy of American Scientist in the mail this week, to boot. So how about YOU providing me with some actual scientific observation (either from your own observations, or from your newly arrived magazine there) of material-based natural selection actually producing the immaterial human brain?

Merely four months ago, Discover magazine said “we don’t know.” And now, you’re in a great position to prove them wrong. (Probably snag a Nobel Prize with a little luck.)

Just provide the actual scientific observations, just provide the evidence, the specifics. How hard can that be?

******

But let’s not make it too easy for you, hmmm?

The eminent microbiologist, Herbert Jennings, in his studies of bacteria, paramecium, and amoebas found that their responses to stimuli were strikingly similar to those of large-brained animals. He concluded that if these tiny, one-celled creatures were enlarged to the size of dogs, we would readily see them to possess conscious choice, perception, memory, intelligence, and emotion. The fact that these mental qualities are present in minute bags of slithering protoplasm strongly supports Eccles’ view that the conscious mind does not “emerge” from the brain but is an independent, nonphysical force.

—Carl Gunter, quoted by Denyse O’Leary at http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.php/[…]_the_intelli

Anyway, there you go! You may resume your waiting, once again.

FL :)

Eff off, you intellectual prostitute.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Pete Dunkelberg published on December 8, 2007 7:00 PM.

Intelligent Design, and Other Dumb Ideas was the previous entry in this blog.

Intelligent Design, Science Literacy and the Case of Antibiotics 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 4.361

Site Meter