YEC astronomers appropriate findings of JWST

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Screenshot
Screenshot of an inane cartoon that the author considers insulting to scientists in particular and intelligent people in general. Note how it conflates cosmology or cosmogony with evolution.Fair use.

Young Earth Creationist (YEC) astronomers have declared victory for creationism because of the findings of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Our favorite YEC astronomers have finally discussed the JWST at length. On Wednesday, September 14, 2022, on Facebook Dr. Danny Faulkner and Rob Webb of AiG, and Dr. Jason Lisle (formerly of AiG, now at the Biblical Science Institute) discuss the early findings of the JWST for a full excruciating hour.

Faulkner and Lisle have PhDs in astronomy. Rob Webb recently was hired by AiG as a preacher/scientist and has experience in aerospace engineering, helping design several different spacecraft (hence his AiG nickname “Rocket Rob”). Their “discussion” consists mostly of self-congratulation and sundry claims that every new finding supports Young Earth Creationism including having light from galaxies billions of light years away getting to Earth in a mere 6,000 years (a miracle!). Their self congratulations are based on the fact that astronomers are revising their ideas about how quickly galaxies and heavy elements formed in the early universe because of new data from JWST findings. This motley crew seems to be gloating that other astronomers are – gasp! – doing science. Much of the rest of the video is preaching/scripture quoting and, at about 23 minutes in, claiming a nefarious conspiracy of morally questionable “secular astronomers” based on their “worldview.” Most astronomers I know are upright citizens.

A wrong analysis of information in evolution

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Dandelions image
Dandelions at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, Minnesota (c) 2018 Tony Webster, from Wikimedia

As a simple example of how natural selection can put functional information into a population of organisms, I like to point to dandelions growing in my yard. They take energy from the sun and grow. If there are two different genotypes, one of which processes that solar energy more efficiently, the frequency of that genotype will increase as it grows more than the other one, competes better, and produces more seeds.

When we consider a scale of fitness, or a scale of energy-processing efficiency, this process of natural selection shifts the distribution of genotypes so that more and more of the dandelions have higher efficiency of energy processing. It does not take much calculating to see that the population then has increased functional information. The information does not come mysteriously from nowhere: energy is flowing from the sun into the plants, and ultimately heat is lost to the environment. All of which is a net increase in entropy. Evolution is simply slowing down this overall increase, not reversing it.

This would seem to be an elementary example. But at the ID-advocacy website Uncommon Descent, their regular post author Dr. Eric Hedin gets examples like this wrong. In a recent post Natural sources of information? he quotes his own book "Canceled Science: What Some Atheists Don't Want You to See":

In systems which are far from thermodynamic equilibrium, differences or gradients in various thermodynamic variables may exist within the system and between the system and the environment. It has sometimes been mistakenly assumed that these gradients could generate the information found in living systems.[i] However, while thermodynamic gradients may produce complexity, they do not generate information.

This is particularly surprising since Dr. Hedin is trained as an experimental plasma physicist, actually at my own university. He obviously got a solid grounding in thermodynamics and information theory. But somehow he has failed to apply that correctly to evolving organisms. Let's look more closely at his discussion ...

Lovell telescope

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Photograph by Marilyn Susek.

Photography Contest, Honorable Mention.

Lovell Telescope
Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Goostrey, Cheshire, England. Photograph taken while with the Sheffield Astronomical Society trip to Jodrell Bank. When it was built, the Lovell Telescope was the largest steerable radio telescope in the world.

Extreme right-wing Christian Nationalist to speak at Ark

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An extreme right-wing racist and Christian Nationalist has been invited to speak at Ken Ham’s Ark in October.

On September 4, Ken Ham blogged on speakers/preachers at his upcoming “Answers for Pastors and Leaders” event at the Ark. Several are far-right extremists and Christian Nationalists, but one in particular takes the cake: Tony Perkins, the President of Family Research Council.

Tony Perkins merits not only a Wikipedia page but also an entry in The Encyclopedia of American Loons.

Ham claims he and his ministry, Answers in Genesis, are against racism, in spite of receiving an Allosaurus skeleton valued at $1 million from neo-Confederate and former League of the South Board member Michael Peroutka in 2013 that is on display at the Creation Museum. Perkins makes Peroutka look moderate.

Besides the usual extreme right-wing policies promoted by Perkins, such as attacks on LGBTQ people and their right to marry, he has some astounding racist ties. According to Wikipedia, he has disquieting associations and also paid Klansman David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list while managing a US Senate campaign. See this part of the Wikipedia page:

On May 17, 2001, Perkins gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist group that has described black people as a "retrograde species of humanity". Perkins said he did not know the group's ideology at the time. In an April 26, 2005, article in The Nation, Max Blumenthal reported that while managing the unsuccessful U. S. Senate campaign of Woody Jenkins in 1996, Perkins "paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list." Perkins denied knowing about the purchase. A document authorizing the payment was reported to contain Perkins' signature. The incident resurfaced in the local press in 2002, during Perkins' unsuccessful Senate run.

Perhaps Kentucky media could be persuaded to cover this, as the Ark receives $1.825 million per year as part of a sales tax rebate incentive from Kentucky Tourism.

Reprinted and lightly edited with permission from an e-mail circulated by Mr. Phelps.

Daniel Phelps wins Paleontological Society Award, 2

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Daniel Phelps

Our colleague Daniel Phelps reminds us,

"Last year, I won the Paleontological Society’s Strimple Award [which recognizes outstanding achievement in paleontology by someone who does not make a living full-time from paleontology]. The Journal of Paleontology just published Colin Sumrall’s presentation and my acceptance as open access papers. Someone let Ken Ham know."

Because we reported the award over a year ago, we decided to post the texts as a separate item.