Cosmos: Too Well Designed for Creationists?

| 70 Comments

By Steven Mahone.

Mr. Mahone tells us that he “had the day off and made the mistake of perusing the [Discovery Institute]’s website.” Mistake or not, the perusal inspired him to write the following interesting response, in which he argues that it makes no difference whether or not the Cosmos is all there is.

The Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin says a lot more about his organization than he probably realizes with his latest article, which damns with faint praise the Cosmos series currently running on the Fox Network. On the one hand, Luskin claims that he is “glued to the screen” because of the fascinating science being presented by host Neil deGrasse Tyson, yet (there’s always a “yet”!) he is simply unable to contain his personal vendetta against anything that doesn’t explicitly acknowledge his intelligent-design agenda by asking, “But is that all?” Perhaps it’s just me, but isn’t Luskin really missing something here? He sort of reminds me of the story where a crusty old talent agent watches a potential client re-enact Moses at the Red Sea by parting the waters of a swimming pool on stage in full view of the audience. Through his chomped cigar, the unimpressed agent yells, “It’s been done. Next!”

There is a strength that comes from the knowledge and enlightenment that Cosmos is sharing with all of us on Sunday nights. Luskin wants to weaken that strength by claiming that the evidence must point to something more and that we can’t just be star-stuff, as Tyson claims, simply because we’re here to challenge such an assertion. In a nutshell, the crux of his organization’s argument is that some hydrogen atoms have attained a greater privilege than others, so we must be here by design. Apparently, the fellows over at the DI feel better served by appearing on The 700 Club to promote their ideas than they do by engaging cutting edge science or philosophy.

The problem, of course, is that Luskin (or anyone else, for that matter) can pretty much assert whatever he wants – right up until we detect an asteroid with our name on it and then suddenly the whole “privileged planet” thing is not so much after all. Not to mention the trillions of bacteria and viruses that are under no obligation whatsoever to not mutate this evening and ruin our wishful thinking for this summer’s vacation. Luskin desperately wants to take Tyson to task for telling us straight-up that the universe is unconcerned for anyone or anything. It’s nothing more than the old game of “blame the messenger”!

Neil deGrasse Tyson knows very well what science has to say about a hydrogen atom that’s contained in the tear of a newborn as well as one that’s at the core of a main sequence star. He also knows that our humanity has much to say about this as well. What Luskin fails to acknowledge is that the miraculous and the ordinary are equally indifferent to us, whether his designer is real or imagined, because that’s what the evidence shows and that is precisely what Tyson is trying to get across to his viewers. Not only is Tyson almost certainly correct, it turns out that this is the best situation possible because it means that the hopefulness and purpose that we seek is right there in front of us. Nothing is more or less privileged than anything else in the Cosmos. If Luskin were to put down his chomped cigar and stop worrying about whether that’s all there is, then he might come to the realization that what’s here is more than enough.

Steven Mahone is an engineering professional and founding member of Colorado Citizens for Science.

70 Comments

Well just as soon as Luskin has some evidence, he can produce a slick science program for the masses. Until then he will be relegated to the dustbin of bad ideas that never panned out. Reap it Luskin. You are going to have to learn sooner or later that people are interested in real science, not in your baseless theological musings. Your science envy is showing again.

Clearly the whole universe, along with humans, was designed for amoebas. Amoebic dysentery fully demonstrates this.

Or does Luskin have evidence of another aim of the Privileged Planet?

I’m sorry, but supernova explosions don’t produce – in any way, shape or form – the conditions necessary for generating the complex and specified language-based code that underlies all life on Earth.

Apart from the made-up “language-based code,” am I to believe that supernovas don’t scatter nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and phosphorous? Oh, that’s what the “language-based” BS was about, that if language was required first, then the means necessary to store information wouldn’t evolve. Of course not, but IDiocy hadn’t been invented either, and evidence shows that DNA has been evolving for a very long time, with some evidence of the evolution of the code itself remaining.

Does Luskin think that the evidence would allow us to indict and convict God for gross indifference to human life, should God make himself available for those procedures? If he does, why can’t he make a case for it in his articles, he being a lawyer and all?

Glen Davidson

Glen - that is one really stupid Luskin quote. Of course supernovae don’t create the conditions needed for life. They don’t even create the “conditions necessary” for planets! In both cases, other things are needed afterwards: clouds of gas or liquid mixtures of organics, etc.…

Do not forget that Luskin’s paycheck depends solely on the Flim and Flam he sells. If he embraced Science he would be out of a job.

No! No! I won’t have that! I will not believe that the loathsome Luskin has the civilized sophistication necessary to appreciate cigars unless I see evidence!

What if they were $3 Hamster Cigars?

Glen Davidson

Helena Constantine said:

No! No! I won’t have that! I will not believe that the loathsome Luskin has the civilized sophistication necessary to appreciate cigars unless I see evidence!

Well, we know what Mark Twain thought about cigar snobbery.

I had no idea what Mark Twain said, but I have just learned that Freud probably did not say Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, though the Psychoanalytic Association seems to think that he did.

Matt Young said:

I had no idea what Mark Twain said, but I have just learned that Freud probably did not say Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, though the Psychoanalytic Association seems to think that he did.

He only said it sometimes.

Glen Davidson

Matt Young said:

I had no idea what Mark Twain said, but I have just learned that Freud probably did not say Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, though the Psychoanalytic Association seems to think that he did.

Speaking of Freud, I would recommend a visit to his house if ever in London. In the end, cigars were not his friend.

Matt Young said:

I had no idea what Mark Twain said, but I have just learned that Freud probably did not say Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, though the Psychoanalytic Association seems to think that he did.

I thought that was Bill Clinton.

Sorry.

Oh, now I understand … you rehearse your “theory” at Sunday School, have it published by The DI, peer review via The 700 Club. Next stop Stockholm! Man, I’ve really been doing it wrong.

Apparently, Cosmos has totally stunned the Disco Tute because they’ve pulled out the lightest of lightweights, the most obscure of the obscure, the only Tooter with a haircut worse than Meyer’s, a crackpot who makes Paul Nelson look like a freaking genius, none other than Jay Richards! Yea, Jay!

Jay says essentially nothing other than he thinks Sean MacFarlane is a poopy head, and doesn’t address any of the science points, because he doesn’t understand any of the science points.

It’s a wonder how Richards maintains a staff position at the Disco Tute considering the quality and quantity of his non-output. I suspect he has pictures of Luskin and Klingy doing the “hamster” in the office. It’s the only explanation.

But I be too harsh on old JR, after all he did get this part right:

“And did you know that the common ancestor of all mammals was from New Jersey? “

New Joisey! I knew it!

I wanted to cry when I saw the episode about star composition. To review, Cecilia Payne discovered during her thesis research that stars are composed mostly of hydrogen and helium. But Professor Russell at Princeton strongly disagreed with her conclusion, and somehow Payne was compelled to change her thesis.

Cecilia Payne and the Composition of the Stars

Most of the mass of the visible universe is hydrogen, the lightest element, and not the heavier elements that are more prominent in the spectra of the stars! This was indeed a revolutionary discovery. Shapley sent Payne’s thesis to Professor Russell at Princeton, who informed her that the result was “clearly impossible.” To protect her career, Payne inserted a statement in her thesis that the calculated abundances of hydrogen and helium were “almost certainly not real.”

She then converted her thesis into the book Stellar Atmospheres, which was well-received by astronomers. Within a few years it was clear to everyone that her results were both fundamental and correct. Cecilia Payne had showed for the first time how to “read” the surface temperature of any star from its spectrum. She showed that Cannon’s ordering of the stellar spectral classes was indeed a sequence of decreasing temperatures and she was able to calculate the temperatures. The so-called Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, a plot of luminosity versus spectral class of the stars, could now be properly interpreted, and it became by far the most powerful analytical tool in stellar astrophysics.

(Emphasis added.) According to Cosmos Cecilia Payne inserted the fateful (and incorrect) sentence under pressure. She made a hard bargain to graduate on time and avoid a lengthy dispute with her thesis committee. To his credit, Russell acknowledged that Payne was correct about four years later. But still we have the spectre of the powerful coercing the brilliant early-career researcher to drastically modify a conclusion. That makes me sad.

I thought the show intro looked familiar (and Wwaaaaayyyy too long), then I saw “produced by Brannon Braga”. It all makes sense now.

Carl Drews said:

[W]e have the spectre of the powerful coercing the brilliant early-career researcher to drastically modify a conclusion. That makes me sad.

But it makes the Creationists happier than pigs in mud because they identify with the coerced brilliant researcher. Which is sadder still.

gnome de net said:

Carl Drews said:

[W]e have the spectre of the powerful coercing the brilliant early-career researcher to drastically modify a conclusion. That makes me sad.

But it makes the Creationists happier than pigs in mud because they identify with the coerced brilliant researcher. Which is sadder still.

It makes sense, you know, except for the lack of research or reasonable inferences from the data.

Other than that it’s a close match.

Glen Davidson

gnome de net said:

Carl Drews said:

[W]e have the spectre of the powerful coercing the brilliant early-career researcher to drastically modify a conclusion. That makes me sad.

But it makes the Creationists happier than pigs in mud because they identify with the coerced brilliant researcher. Which is sadder still.

Once again, all it took to convince the entire scientific establishment, including those who were originally opposed to the idea, was evidence. That’s it. You would think that they would eventually get the idea. You would think that they would eventually at least try to look for some evidence. But they don’t even pretend to try. Now why do you suppose that is?

But, you know, we only have one side of the story. Might it be a situation like Wegener’s? Perhaps when Russell disputed her findings, he was informed by the best thinking on stellar physics available at the time. Something–we are not told what–changed his mind 4 years later. Perhaps further data? A better understanding by the astrophysics community of stellar physics?

Wegener’s conjecture was rightly rejected (or at least put on the back burner) at the time, because no plausible mechanism (seafloor spreading) was known. Maybe doubting Payne’s thesis was appropriate at the time she first proposed it, because there was good reason to doubt it, and confirmatory data was not available, which was available by 4 years later.

Just Bob said:

But, you know, we only have one side of the story. Might it be a situation like Wegener’s? Perhaps when Russell disputed her findings, he was informed by the best thinking on stellar physics available at the time. Something–we are not told what–changed his mind 4 years later. Perhaps further data? A better understanding by the astrophysics community of stellar physics?

Wegener’s conjecture was rightly rejected (or at least put on the back burner) at the time, because no plausible mechanism (seafloor spreading) was known. Maybe doubting Payne’s thesis was appropriate at the time she first proposed it, because there was good reason to doubt it, and confirmatory data was not available, which was available by 4 years later.

The story does look rather suspicious with some checking. I wouldn’t say that Russell had good reason to doubt, but then it just seemed strange that hydrogen and helium would deviate so strongly, to his mind (note that other elemental abundances were not so far from that inferred for the whole earth–so why should hydrogen and helium differ so greatly?)–and, apparently, she was convinced by Russell, rather than the “coercion” BS trumpeted by the political hacks babbling about it now.

Anyway, this is from a review of Payne’s autobiography:

I must now pass on to what was in retrospect the greatest achievement of her monograph on stellar atmospheres — but was not recognized at the time, even by herself.

A section of part 3 of Stellar Atmospheres contains a discussion of the abundances of elements derived from the marginal appearance of spectral lines. As previously, this is based upon the concept of the reversing layer and is prior to the emergence of the curve-of-growth method. It is expressed by her as follows: “At marginal appearance the number of suitable atoms is only a small fraction of the total amount of the corresponding element that is present in the reversing layer, and this fraction is precisely the ‘fractional concentration’ evaluated by Fowler and Milne. If then it be assumed that the number of atoms required for marginal appearance is the same for all elements, the reciprocals of the computed fractional concentrations at marginal appearance should give directly the relative abundances of the atoms.” She finds that for the most abundant stellar elements, among those for which she is able to obtain a result, their relative abundances in the Earth are roughly similar and she regards her results as “trustworthy in order of magnitude”. There are, however, large discrepancies in the cases of hydrogen and of helium — up by a factor of 1000 or so in number-count of atoms. She states: “The enormous abundances derived for those elements in the stellar atmosphere are almost certainly not real. Probably the result may be considered, for hydrogen, as another aspect of its abnormal behaviour … and helium … possibly deviates for similar reasons. The lines of both atoms appear to be far more persistent, at high and low temperatures, than those of any other element.” It is unfortunate that, conforming to Russell’s judgment, she regarded the estimates of H and He abundances that she derived as spurious, whereas by hindsight we can judge that she made a remarkable discovery that was only confirmed generally following further work by Russell around 1930, and confirmed especially by Stromgren in 1932.

http://astrogeo.oxfordjournals.org/[…]/1/1.27.full

That is to say, there was no explanation for why other stellar element abundances would be close to those of earth’s, while hydrogen and helium would be so very much more common. So what do you do with outliers? Are they junk data, or do they tell us something surprising? Russell thought they were probably junk, and persuaded Payne that they likely were as well. I’d note that the first UV readings in Antarctica during the ozone hole period were also thought to be wrong–because they were so far out of expected readings–but were followed up and found to be correct–and important. That was what happened over time with Payne’s data.

Anyway, that seems a fair interpretation of those matters covered in that review, which presumably should be pretty good, but could possibly not be. I didn’t see the Cosmo episode, but I take it that it hardly covered the whole matter very honestly, assuming that the review of her autobiography is tolerably correct.

Glen Davidson

By the way, I wouldn’t excuse the response to Wegener’s ideas in the Anglo-American world, at least. In continental Europe the response may have been reasonable enough. Wegener did have good arguments, and there was a plausible mechanism, convection currents due to heat in the earth that Wegener mentioned once or twice (others had more to say on it, as he seems to have been derivative of them).

It did require time to work out, of course, with World War II not helping. Simply adopting it based on “plausible mechanisms” wasn’t going to do much good. Not working on it at all, the common response in England and America, also wasn’t going to do much good.

Glen Davidson

I have watched the parts of the Cosmos episode relevant to Payne-Gaposchkin now, and it’s fairly bizarre. She’s shown as being in disagreement with Russell’s statements when given in a lecture, as if she were more than ready to buck authority, then she gives in to authority later on. Just authority, not caveats about hydrogen’s “abnormal behavior,” and possibly helium’s (presumably not too well known then) that she actually included at the time (did she mean it? Who’s to know?). That seems to be her explanation as well, and no doubt it’s a large factor, but surely the outliers must make anyone wonder.

And oh, Tyson knowingly asks why we haven’t heard of people like Annie Jump Cannon and Henrietta Leavitt. Good lord, like we’ve heard of Russell, or the original spectrometers of the sun and the stars. Probably the first to take a spectrograph is mentioned in many references, but to claim that many have ever heard of him would be bizarre–oh, and why didn’t Tyson bring him up?

So, while the sexism was real, much of the PC crap on that show is just that. The real question would be why Tyson covered so many relatively minor figures, other than that they were women, except that there is no other answer. Payne-Gaposchkin actually did receive a fair amount of publicity, and her book was relatively well-read for a science text, when elemental abundances did become recognized, but of course the theoreticians are the ones who really get into history books, which she wasn’t, nor were Cannon and Leavitt.

A very political episode, indeed.

Glen Davidson

I’m sorry, but supernova explosions don’t produce – in any way, shape or form – the conditions necessary for generating the complex and specified language-based code that underlies all life on Earth.

Let’s decipher this.

I’m sorry, but supernova explosions tornados don’t produce – in any way, shape or form – the conditions necessary for generating the complex and specified language-based code that underlies all life on Earth 747s.

Casey, I’m sorry, you are definitely a pony who needs a new trick.

https://me.yahoo.com/a/JxVN0eQFqtmg[…]X_Zhn8#57cad said: Anyway, that seems a fair interpretation of those matters covered in that review, which presumably should be pretty good, but could possibly not be. I didn’t see the Cosmo episode, but I take it that it hardly covered the whole matter very honestly, assuming that the review of her autobiography is tolerably correct.

Glen Davidson

The coverage of her discovery and thesis was about a 2-minute snippet, and while I agree it could’ve been more accurate, I’m not losing sleep over it. Laymen will still learn a lesson, albeit not the one the incident taught.

Tyson’s point (that a senior scientists’ power and authority can sometimes bias data interpretation, so we should be cautious about giving too much weight to scientific authority figures) is a good one, just not a point supported by this particular anecdote. OTOH, the point that could have been made because it was supported by the anecdote is Feynman’s famous “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”

I’ll agree that Cecilia Payne getting her ideas well-accepted in four years is a lot better than Afred Wegener dying on the Greenland Ice Cap never knowing when or if his ideas would get accepted. Payne’s story has a happy ending. She took the correct path: further research and scientific publication of evidence.

Scientific research operates on the edge of evidence. New hypotheses are not well-supported; that’s why they are hypotheses. Every graduate thesis should push the envelope in some way, and some new ideas will inevitably turn out to be unsupported.

But I was kind of hoping that the expert would see the new idea and exclaim with a flash of insight, “Aha! She might be onto something here!”

Max Planck played the role of the “Aha!” expert for Albert Einstein during the phase of his Annus Mirabilis papers (1905). Planck was an editor for Annalen der Physik, where Einstein published his extraordinary manuscripts. We all like happy stories, don’t we?

Any time someone says “specified language-based code”, I ask them what they mean by “specified”, what an example of an “unspecified language-based code” would be, and inquire as to whether they believe a non-language-based code is possible.

And what, precisely, do they mean by ‘language’? Is pure math a language? What organized system, with consistent internal rules (grammar), would not be a language, if any?

I suspect they want to use the word ‘language’ for damn near everything because it implies ‘like human speech’, which, of course, is what their very human god uses. So if it’s a ‘language’, then it HAD to be created by their human-looking god.

It is utterly ironic and amusing at the same time that Steven Mahone is so confident in his intelligence to utter ‘not only is Tyson almost certanly correct’, but in the same breath, can claim that Man is no more special that mars, Andromeda, e.coli, or bark.

Hello Mahone, its not ‘Are we special” but “What makes us special?”.

FYI, counter-trend trading is not a wise move. There is plenty of supporting evidence that “The trend is your friend.”

Stick to the trend. You won’t go wrong. And the trend is and has always been that Man IS special. So special in fact that the list of human capability is light years ahead of any other organism and defies evolutionary explanations.

To the regulars here, why do you have this deep desire to argue around the obvious? What are you trying to accomplish by it?

Steve said:

It is utterly ironic and amusing at the same time that Steven Mahone is so confident in his intelligence to utter ‘not only is Tyson almost certanly correct’, but in the same breath, can claim that Man is no more special that mars, Andromeda, e.coli, or bark.

Hello Mahone, its not ‘Are we special” but “What makes us special?”.

FYI, counter-trend trading is not a wise move. There is plenty of supporting evidence that “The trend is your friend.”

Stick to the trend. You won’t go wrong. And the trend is and has always been that Man IS special. So special in fact that the list of human capability is light years ahead of any other organism and defies evolutionary explanations.

To the regulars here, why do you have this deep desire to argue around the obvious? What are you trying to accomplish by it?

Do you mean to argue that man is special because Jesus, Steve?

harold said:

If people obsessed with “overpopulation” are non-racist and non-misanthrope, they should be advocating aggressively for children’s health.

And BIRTH CONTROL, and EDUCATION, particularly of women.

TomS said:

Wasn’t the challenge stated in terms of animals?

If not, then I vote for Prochlorococcus marinus. According to Wikipedia, “It is possibly the most plentiful species on Earth: a single millilitre of surface seawater may contain 100,000 cells or more. Worldwide, the average yearly abundance is between 2.8 and 3.0 octillion (~1027) individuals.”

That would be a few orders of magnitude more than the number of stars in the observable Universe.

Just Bob said:

harold said:

If people obsessed with “overpopulation” are non-racist and non-misanthrope, they should be advocating aggressively for children’s health.

And BIRTH CONTROL, and EDUCATION, particularly of women.

Agreed, although it does tend to sell itself.

Across numerous societies, including some where having a lot of children was traditionally prestigious, including some where traditional religion has discouraged sex except for reproduction - in our society, both of those conditions existed - people control family size as soon as they figure out that the kids are all probably going to live.

Whether this is conscious or unconscious I don’t know, but it is very consistent. From Japan to Jamaica, family size and population growth go down when you decrease childhood morbidity and mortality.

Salon has a nice, but short piece about Cosmos : Why Neil deGrasse Tyson has creationists so thoroughly petrified

Yet we can also rest assured that creationists around the world will take issue with anything Tyson says, because the biggest enemies of a creationist’s beliefs are rational thought and evidence.

And here too: Creationists now losing their minds because Neil deGrasse Tyson explained electricity

Shocking!

Salon has another nice piece summarizing the mini series, and touching on the creationists beef with the show: “All of science is wrong and all scientists are liars, because… Bible”. Nothing that isn’t already familiar to everyone here, but nice to see in the “general” press.

Scott F said:

Salon has another nice piece summarizing the mini series, and touching on the creationists beef with the show: “All of science is wrong and all scientists are liars, because… Bible”. Nothing that isn’t already familiar to everyone here, but nice to see in the “general” press.

So then they are all Amish? They reject all science and all technology? No? Then they are just hypocrites.

Seriously, any argument that starts with any form of “all scientists are …” is automatically wrong. Science is not some monolithic conspiracy by some zealots sworn to a common ideology. That’s just projection, pure and simple. Ideally, science is just the sincere quest to understand nature, based on the evidence. It has provided us with the modern lifestyle and lifespan we enjoy. You don’t like science,? Fine, do without, nobody cares. You can always choose to have a short, painful life. But don’t be too surprised if this is the only chance you get.

The bible can coexist with science just fine, as long as you follow the advice in the bible and don’t try to steal that which rightfully belongs to Caesar. Why is it that the people who cry the most about following the bible are invariably the ones who choose to ignore it?

DS said:

Scott F said:

Salon has another nice piece summarizing the mini series, and touching on the creationists beef with the show: “All of science is wrong and all scientists are liars, because… Bible”. Nothing that isn’t already familiar to everyone here, but nice to see in the “general” press.

So then they are all Amish? They reject all science and all technology? No? Then they are just hypocrites.

Seriously, any argument that starts with any form of “all scientists are …” is automatically wrong. Science is not some monolithic conspiracy by some zealots sworn to a common ideology. That’s just projection, pure and simple. Ideally, science is just the sincere quest to understand nature, based on the evidence. It has provided us with the modern lifestyle and lifespan we enjoy. You don’t like science,? Fine, do without, nobody cares. You can always choose to have a short, painful life. But don’t be too surprised if this is the only chance you get.

The bible can coexist with science just fine, as long as you follow the advice in the bible and don’t try to steal that which rightfully belongs to Caesar. Why is it that the people who cry the most about following the bible are invariably the ones who choose to ignore it?

The Salon article consists of a summary paragraph or two about each episode of Cosmos, a paragraph or two describing the Creationist response to it (typically a quote from AIG or the DI), and a snarky response to the AIG babble gaff.

The phrase, “All of science is wrong and all scientists are liars, because… Bible”, is my generalization of the AIG quotes, and a summary of how Salon views those quotes.

The AIG quotes form a consistent whole: that all of the “historical” sciences (astronomy, cosmology, physics, geology, paleontology, chemistry, etc (any science that doesn’t fit on a lab bench with experimental results measurable in the range of a human attention span using human senses alone)) are simply conspiracies intended to manufacture and prop up the lie of “deep time”, this for the sole intentional purpose of supporting the lie of Evolution, this for the sole intentional purpose of denying the truth of the Bible, the reality of Creation, and the authorship of God (in that order). They appear to believe that deGrasse Tyson is a lying shill for this vast, all encompassing conspiracy.

They don’t reject “all” science, nor any human technology (as long as it’s technology that they don’t understand, such as GPS). They believe in “true” science, and merely reject any “false” science or “false” evidence that does not conform to their interpretation of their version of the Bible.

Yea, that was kind of my point. The assumption that an entire branch of science, any branch, is completely committed to one and only one goal is absurd. Obviously the person who wrote that doesn’t know any real scientists. You have to be completely nuts to even suggest a conspiracy on such a scale. But of course, if you first you assume that you are right and everyone else is wrong, how else could you explain the fact that absolutely no real scientist agrees with you? It can’t be the evidence, can it? Why would that convince anyone?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on May 5, 2014 8:00 AM.

Freshwater: Appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court was the previous entry in this blog.

Chrysopa sp. 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