Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Auditor Time: Dr. Hartnett's 8 Reasons Why Evolution is Foolish

I have a fairly high tolerance for woo. As a matter of fact, I've even been known to peddle woo from time to time - longtime readers of the blog have likely witnessed my personal hybrid of strict-science and creationist cosmologies.

Every now and then, though, I've the unfortunate duty of laying the proverbial smack down when the woo hits a critical level.

Recently my place of business was frequented by such individuals as are Young Earth Creationists. This is not particularly unusual or even a cause for concern. You're allowed to be a creationist. You can even be a creationist aloud.

I don't, however, like being pamphleted, and I was, so today, I'm going to help out the locals by debunking this particular pamphlet. If you're interested in finding a hard copy, they're apparently produced by Creation Ministries International. It is accredited to an author, Dr. John G. Hartnett, who is credited as being a Physicist with his Ph. D. from the University of Western Australia.

I was actually somewhat pleased to find that UWA is actually an accredited university, which gives out actual degrees that are actually useful in judging the rigor of a person's academic instruction! I was not surprised, after reading his points, that his area of expertise has absolutely nothing to do with cosmology, astrophysics, or anything else relevant. His research is focused on the development of highly-stable microwave oscillators, and using such oscillators to test general and special relativity.

Without Further Ado:

 1. Where did the universe come from?

Man puts all his faith in cosmology to answer this fundamental question. But cosmology is not even science, it is just philosophy. This has meant that man has had to invent fudge gactors to make his theories work, such as the totally-just-mad-up stuff called Dark Energy, Dark Matter, and Inflation. There isn't a shred of any real laboratory evidence for any of them. Not any! They also claim the Cosmic Microwave Backround radiation as the afterglow of the Big Bang, thus supposed from coming from all directions. Yet it seems to be associated with the orbital plane of our solar system's planets!
Man doesn't put his faith in cosmology, unless you are implying that creationists are somehow not "mankind". Physical cosmology (as applied to religious cosmology) is an academically-rigorous and, indeed, scientific field of study. Dark Energy, Dark Matter, and Inflation are not fudge-factors. The inflation of the universe is observed and the thus-predicted impacts on particle physics have also been confirmed by experiment. Indeed, inflation as a hypothesis helped to plug up most of the holes in the original versions of the Big Bang Theory, and the fact that inflation is a studied phenomenon suggests that those resolved problems are resolved properly. Dark Matter is necessary as well - it's presence, see-it-with-your-eyes clarity or not - is beyond dispute unless humans are somehow deluded as to the functioning of gravity. While I'll grant you that the n-body problem in orbital mechanics is yet to be solved, the fact that every observation of stellar motion suggests the presence of Dark Matter is (forgive me) the sort of thing you'd have to wilfully ignore. Dark energy is a bit more nebulous, but it's only the most well-supported of a small handful of explanations as to why inflation is subject to acceleration.

As for the absolutely nonsensical statement of the CMB being inherently associated with the orbital plane of our solar system's planets, there's absolutely no reason to suggest that. The only reason I can conceive of for such a statement is the observer's failure to realize that the CMB was measured from the plane of the earth's orbit, and to suggest otherwise is to ignore the reality of the COBE experiment.

2. How did nothing explode?

According to the Big Bang story first there was 'nothing' and it exploded! When I say 'nothing', I mean not even vacuum, not even matter, no energy, no space, no time, not anything. Nothing!
According to Stephen Hawking, the question of the origin of the universe does not even exist. He claims it began in every way imaginable and maybe even some that aren't. He asks, why are we here? He simply says that the Universe selects those histories and lead to these conditions. That is, the Universe made itself - there was no Creator. And that just makes no sense at all.
Okay, there are actually two very difficult concepts here, but the basic gist of the argument is that Nothing can't explode. This would be a major coup de grace, and no scientist would ever have accepted Big Bang as a theory with such an obvious flaw, right? Naturally!

... As you might expect, that's not what Big Bang Theory postulates. If you knew what the Big Bang Theory actually suggested, the question would be "How did everything explode?". That's an interesting problem, and one that's hardly resolved in modern physics. Singularity is not nothing. The entire contents of the universe existing as a single point in space and then expanding to suit is everyting exploding, not nothing exploding. It's often like people seem to believe that the big bang involves someone pushing down on a cartoon plunger to set off the blasting cap.

As to the claims about what Stephen Hawking says, I'm not going to address them, except to say that the citation provided is pulled entirely from the proper context and anyone can read that paper and see that. As far as "no creator" not making any sense goes... that's a personal judgement call, and one I'm not entitled to make. But, in the same way that I don't believe you need a rain god to come along and irrigate your crops, or a volcano god to make the volcano explode, I believe that physics is sufficient to describe the behaviour of the universe on a grand scale as much as the small scale.

3. How did Stars and Galaxies Form?

There is no known law of nature (physics) that allows stars to form originally from clouds of gas, which supposedly came from the Big Bang. Fundamental physics must be violate or one must invent unknown stuff - Dark Matter - with the right properties to get stars to form naturalistically. Without it, it just can't happen.
He adds, in a footnote:
It has been proposed that an exploding star can compress a gas cloud, but that hardly qualifies as an explanation for the origin of stars in the first place.
Wrong! There is a very, very well understood mechanic for stellar formation via the collapse of gas clouds is achieved! The math is as sturdy as the calculations that support Newton's Laws of Motion. The masses required are very easily calculable and the process has been observed from every stage! The entire matter is simply a question of hydrostatic equilibrium - balancing the kinetic energy of the pressure of the gas off of the gravitational energy of the star itself. You don't even need Dark Matter to account for this... and as far as I know, nobody seriously suggests Dark Matter solves this particular problem.

4. How Come All Rocks Dated with Carbon-14 Give Absolute Ages less than 56,000 years?

I'm not going to repeat the individual claims of this section because, for once, the main claim actually is the question and the answer is very simple: that's because Carbon-14 Dating doesn't work for anything that old.

For the un-initiated, Carbon-14 Dating works by measuring the relative proportion of Carbon-14 atoms to other Carbon isotopes in a sample. This can be used as a dating method because of two important details: Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope with a well-known decay rate; and the natural ambient proportion of Carbon-14 is well-understood.

By comparing how much Carbon-14 is left in a sample, versus how much there should have been, you can arrive at a reasonable approximation of the age of the sample. However, there's an upper bound for this - after a while, you'll no longer be able to measure the amount of Carbon-14 left in a sample because it will be entirely too small, if it's still present at all.

For Carbon-14, the half-life is 5,730 years, plus-or-minus 40. That means to measure a sample of any kind, your resolution is annoyingly broad. Carbon-14 doesn't work on particularly recent or particularly ancient samples. We use other isotope dating measurements for that.

At the stated ages, approximately ten half-lives have emerged. If the original sample had been 100% Carbon-14, which would be remarkable, it is now less than one-twentieth of a percent of Carbon-14. You're getting these unusually low ages because you're reaching the upper bound of ages that Carbon-14 can be used to measure.

5. How do we determine the absolute age of a fossil?

Evolutionary stories tell us that the millions of fossils in the sedimentary layers found all over the EArth give dates in line with microbes evolving into man over the past 3 billion years. But it is impossible to determine the absolute age of any fossil. It must be dated by the sidemnts it is found in. And how are the sedimentary layers dated? By the fossils found in them - circular reasoning! And even when they use radioactive minerals (in associated volcanic material) to date sediments, they must make untestable assumptions. Even so, different methods commonly disagree with each other.

I'll grant you this is fuzzy if you're not an expert in archaeology - I certainly am not. However, this is objectively wrong. Fossil presence can be used to associate sedementary layers and known sedimentary layers can be used as a way to date what's in them, but the radiometric dating you gloss over at the end of the graph is reliable. The measurements disagree with each other... within the limits of statistical allowance, which I'm sure you're familiar with, being as you are involved in the development of high-precision instruments.

At this point, I'm more convinced that the author simply approved the copy, rather than writing it himself.

There are three further points: Why hasn't evolution been observed? (it has), How does specific coded information in DNA arise by chance? (it doesn't), and How did life arise from non-living chemicals by random chance? (Slowly, but other than that your guess is as good as mine.). They aren't even particularly worth addressing because, like the rest of this screed, they are predicated on an inability to look up even basic scientific information, or question what is being told to you by the pretty, shiny paper.

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