Saturday, November 22, 2008

A problem for Young Earth Creationists

Some passages of Scripture, at least taken in accordance with their traditional/literal meanings, seem to be flatly contradicted by what we know in science. For example, if you add up the genealogies in Genesis, you get an age of the earth that is maybe 6000 years. The traditional figure is 4004 BC, calculated by Archbishop Ussher in the 17th Century. That conflicts with Darwin's theory of evolution, which is still questioned today. But it also conflicts with ordinary astronomy, according to which we can see stars in the heavens millions of light years away. Now a light year is the distance light travels in a year, so the only way light from a star can get here if the star is a million light years away is for it that light to travel for a million years. But if the "heavens and the earth" came into being 6000 years ago, we've got a problem.

17 comments:

Ilíon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ilíon said...

V.Reppert: "Some passages of Scripture, at least taken in accordance with their traditional/literal meanings, seem to be flatly contradicted by what we know in science. For example, if you add up the genealogies in Genesis, you get an age of the earth that is maybe 6000 years. The traditional figure is 4004 BC, calculated by Archbishop Ussher in the 17th Century."

And the Jews (I presume in making similar faulty assumptions and calulations as Bishop Ussher) say that today, Nov 22 2008, is in the year 5769 since the Creation; whereas, by Bishops Ussher's calculation, this now is the year 60013 since the Creation (as by his calculation the Creation was in September).

V.Reppert: "... But it also conflicts with ordinary astronomy, according to which we can see stars in the heavens millions of light years away. Now a light year is the distance light travels in a year, so the only way light from a star can get here if the star is a million light years away is for it that light to travel for a million years. But if the "heavens and the earth" came into being 6000 years ago, we've got a problem."

Actually, not. Or, at any rate, not yet and not from "science."

Keep in mind that I am not arguing *for* YEC, but rather against bad arguments against YEC.

The first thing to keep in mind is that science isn't about truth. You, and Gentle Reader, really do need to wrap your minds around that truth; grasp it, grapple with it, internalize it, and keep it always at the forefront of your mind: science isn't about truth. So, everyone (non-Christian and Christian, alike) needs to stop making an idol or a god of "Science."

Any given scientific pronouncement *may* be true, or (if it's a compound statement, as all but the most trivial will be) it may contain both truth and falsity, or it may be false. But, in no case can we use mere science to determine the truth-status of any scientific pronouncement.


FOR EXAMPLE: How far from Earth is the Perseus Arm of the Galaxy?

Well, the truth is: if you want actual truth about the distance, then God only knows, we certainly do not.

And if you want the scientific statement about the distance, than there is no one single statement (there is, rather, an agreement by scientists to go with this statement or that statement, until they reach a new consensus) -- the "answer" you get depends upon the assumptions you make (one of which is that your measurements are accurate, another of which is that the speed of light is constant).

Consider this NewScientist article from 2005 Notice that the "newest value" is half the "old value." (Perhaps my memory is playing tricks; I thought I remembered an "old value" three times the "old value" stated in the article).

There are three distances mentioned in the article: 13000 ly, @6500 ly, and 6400 ly, with the claim that the second and newer is more accurate that the older, and that the last and newest is most accurate of the three. However -- logically speaking -- we are in no position to say that any of these three is more accurate than the others.

NOW, is "the edge of the universe" *really* 12-13 billion light years away? Who knows!


FOR EXAMPLE: Is the speed of light indeed constant?

Who knows? There seems to be evidence that it is not, and there is an on-going controversy amongst scientist about this. And, in fact, the current model asserts that for a brief period immediately after the Big Bang the speed of light was vastly greater than it is today.


FOR EXAMPLE: Is the 'half-life' of a radioactive element -- which is related to the speed of light -- indeed constant?

We were all taught, as though it were actual truth, that radioactive decay is constant in all circumstances. Apparently, this is not the case. Or the measurements are wrong. Or there is some other faulty assumption throwing a monkey-wrench into the works.


FOR EXAMPLE: Is time "real" or is it not?

Kurt Gödel showed that if the General Relativity theory is true, then time isn't "real" (and I have no idea what that would mean, nor what use we might make of it).

Ilíon said...

OOPS.
Obviously, I meant to write "... whereas, by Bishops Ussher's calculation, this now is the year 6013 since the Creation (as by his calculation the Creation was in September)."

Blue Devil Knight said...

When God created the stars and Earth, he made sure people on Earth could see the stars. What's the problem?

God is the ultimate argument finisher, bound only by logic, and not even that (God is paraconsistent).

Jim S. said...

I'm sorry if it seems like I only leave comments when I link to my own blog, but I did write a fairly extensive blogpost on this issue, if you're interested: http://agentintellect.blogspot.com/2008/02/speed-of-light-and-age-of-universe.html

Ilíon said...

Two points, Jim S:
1) You don't seem really to comprehend that science isn't about truth
2) you've quite misrepresented Setterfield -- and with that I stopped reading.

Ok, a third point: there are also "secular" scientists arguing that 'c' is not a constant, after all.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Ilion: is it not true that you have a kidney?

Blue Devil Knight said...

The speed of light is less than c when light travels through a medium (e.g., water). In a vacuum, things are more complicated). However, it isn't clear that any of the theories mentioned at that site would solve the problem Victor poses. Light would have to travel a few orders of magnitude slower to get the observed data. I don't see any theories that would support such drastic changes, but this isn't my specialty so I may well be wrong.

Ilíon said...

BDK: "Ilion: is it not true that you have a kidney?"

And obviously, neither does the "science" worshipping BDK grasp the vitally important truth that science (at least as practiced today) isn't about truth. And thus, whether or not any particular scientific statement is true is of little interest to scientists -- and, increasingly (because "Darwinism" and materialism must be protected), it is of little interest to them whether scientific statements are even logical.


BDK: "However, it isn't clear that any of the theories mentioned at that site would solve the problem Victor poses. Light would have to travel a few orders of magnitude slower to get the observed data."

You mean faster, don't you?

Something can be the case only if there is a theory (or "theory," and one which materialists will accept) to "explain" it?

Blue Devil Knight said...

So you do have a kidney, which is a statement in biology that is true. But scientists don't care about the truth. And won't accept it because there is no theory to explain it.

You are just wrong about this. Scientists wouldn't enter the field if they weren't concerned with truth, and the methods of science seem to be the best way we have to get the truth about nature. Most of us are quite concerned with getting things right. That's why we are in science and not philosophy. Thought without empirical friction spins off into fantasy.

Taken as a sociological fact about neuroscientists, you are wrong. Of course whether we can actually attain truth is a more interesting debate.

The Hodgkin-Huxely model of neuronal excitability, which is the theoretical cornerstone of neuroscience, would be a good place to study this question concretely.

"You mean faster, don't you?"

Right, that was silly of me. My general point still holds. In theory, light can move very fast (or very slowly) for brief periods of time, but not in the large scales, over long times, that would be needed to get coherent transmission across the universe over thousands of light years. That's my understanding at least, and as I said I'm no physicist.

Blip said...

Of course, arguments like the one posed above have been long discussed by YECs. One of the best treatments can be found in D. Russell Humphreys' book ¨Starlight and Time¨, which can be found here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Starlight-Time-Solving-Distant-Universe/dp/0890512027/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1227550085&sr=1-1

It is a work which was later supplemented by Hartnett's book, Starlight, Time and the New Physics, available here:

http://creationresearch.org/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=BK-STA1b&Category_Code=

BDK: God isn't just bound by the laws of logic, qua explanatory hypothesis, he must also come under standards of theoretical economy. God's making sure people could already see is a bit ad hoc, and so theoretically undesirable.

ilion: Ok, so you are an anti-realist about science, well that is a contestable position, so I don't think you should throw it around as if everybody knows it.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Blip: so God is constrained both by logic and Ockham's razor? I'm not convinced he is constrained by logic. Logic is for sissies, and God is no sissy!

Seriously, though, there are many different systems of logic, and they aren't all consistent with one another (to the extent you can even say that when talking about different systems of logic). So perhaps they are all true, and paraconsistent logic is right. Or one is true, and classical logic is right. :)

Blue Devil Knight said...

Blip: I believe that Ilion doesn't believe at least half of what he says. He's an irascible scoundrel that one.

Ilíon said...

And I know that BDK doesn't believe much of what he says. He claims to be an atheist, after all.

Ilíon said...

Blip: "ilion: Ok, so you are an anti-realist about science, well that is a contestable position, so I don't think you should throw it around as if everybody knows it."

I can't see where your statement even makes sense, in any of its parts.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Ilion doesn't have a kidney.

Ilíon said...

So. Apparently we've determined what BDK lacks.