Kentucky religious conservatives cannot wrap their head around theory of evolution

Bear in mind, Young Earth Creationism is based on a scientific answer to the question of why there are water-derived rock features on top of mountains and in other improbable places. It's actually rational - if and only if you don't have an understanding of plate tectonics, which completely obliterated the scientific footing for YEC, and thus Creationism in general.

But if you look at it from, say, an early 19th century viewpoint, or even an early 20th century one, it's rational and, yes, testable. Unfortunately for modern Creationists, it failed the test and has been shoved out of the canon of theories supported by evidence. Without Flood Geology, there is no scientific grounding for Young Earth Creationism, and flood geology is deader than the dodo.

Robear:

Wait, seriously? "God made it that way," is a testable scientific hypothesis for water-derived features on mountains? How? Linkie?

The idea was that water-derived features on mountaintops on a 6,000 year-old planet were caused in short periods of time by a flood that covered the entire planet. That's certainly testable. It spawned the field of "flood geology", which attempted to explain unusual features by this mechanic, the action of floodwaters over time. It was generally ejected from mainstream science by about the mid-19th century, and plate tectonics finished it off in the early 20th.

Note that in the US, it's come back into vogue over the last 50 years among Christians, and has quite a following today.

Thanks for the link, Robear. It's not anything that I haven't seen before, though. I'm no more impressed now. Granted, I have the benefit of hindsight, but even in that era, it should have been obvious that positing your conclusion before your hypothesis is begging the question; and that looking for data to fit a theological concept is inadmissible as consistent with the scientific method as laid down by Bacon.

It is no more scientific than modern Creationist "science" that uses technology to obfuscate its true nature.

It may be rational, in the sense that it uses logic - a clarification I feel is necessary because it seems commonplace to forget this. However, it is not scientific in the sense of adhering to scientific method. It may use technology and scientific terminology to hide what it's doing, but it's not science, not scientific; and arguably never was.

Just thought you'd be interested. At least it was testable.

Robear wrote:

The idea was that water-derived features on mountaintops on a 6,000 year-old planet were caused in short periods of time by a flood that covered the entire planet. That's certainly testable. It spawned the field of "flood geology", which attempted to explain unusual features by this mechanic, the action of floodwaters over time. It was generally ejected from mainstream science by about the mid-19th century, and plate tectonics finished it off in the early 20th.

Note that in the US, it's come back into vogue over the last 50 years among Christians, and has quite a following today.

Yeah, this is the sort of detail I was referring to. There's also carbon dating, which has confirmed that fossils and rocks are millions of years old, not thousands of years old. Aren't these facts enough to prove that YEC is impossible? And if proven impossible, shouldn't that be grounds to disallow YEC from existing in textbooks of any kind?

Crispus:

Yeah, this is the sort of detail I was referring to. There's also carbon dating, which has confirmed that fossils and rocks are millions of years old, not thousands of years old. Aren't these facts enough to prove that YEC is impossible? And if proven impossible, shouldn't that be grounds to disallow YEC from existing in textbooks of any kind?

Er, wrong interpretation?

Carbon dating is a method that is based on observable phenomena - facts. What the method yields is an estimate based on certain assumptions - an extrapolation or a calculation based on assumptions, not a fact. Thus, you can't prove the age of anything with carbon dating. You can estimate a proposed age to be consistent with your assumptions, but it's always a calculation, not an observation.

This is an important distinction; and again, not semantic.

Analogously, you could estimate the height of a cliff by timing the fall of a rock released from the top; but it is not a direct measurement. Its accuracy and validity is dependent on assumptions. It is a usable estimate, but it is not a fact.

Thus, we presume that the Earth is millions of years old based on current observable phenomena, but we haven't actually observed the Earth aging millions of years in the time we have been able to observe it.

YEC should be allowed in theology textbooks, since it is valid theology, after a fashion. It is historically relevant theology, if nothing else.

LarryC wrote:

Crispus:

Yeah, this is the sort of detail I was referring to. There's also carbon dating, which has confirmed that fossils and rocks are millions of years old, not thousands of years old. Aren't these facts enough to prove that YEC is impossible? And if proven impossible, shouldn't that be grounds to disallow YEC from existing in textbooks of any kind?

Er, wrong interpretation?

Carbon dating is a method that is based on observable phenomena - facts. What the method yields is an estimate based on certain assumptions - an extrapolation or a calculation based on assumptions, not a fact. Thus, you can't prove the age of anything with carbon dating. You can estimate a proposed age to be consistent with your assumptions, but it's always a calculation, not an observation.

This is an important distinction; and again, not semantic.

Analogously, you could estimate the height of a cliff by timing the fall of a rock released from the top; but it is not a direct measurement. Its accuracy and validity is dependent on assumptions. It is a usable estimate, but it is not a fact.

YEC should be allowed in theology textbooks, since it is valid theology, after a fashion. It is historically relevant theology, if nothing else.

Do you feel that math is something that must be believed in? Do you think math doesn't result in facts? Because carbon dating is not some form of proposed estimation. It's a mathematical fact.

Yeah, this is the sort of detail I was referring to. There's also carbon dating, which has confirmed that fossils and rocks are millions of years old, not thousands of years old. Aren't these facts enough to prove that YEC is impossible? And if proven impossible, shouldn't that be grounds to disallow YEC from existing in textbooks of any kind?

Creationists are quite enamored of the recent findings that some radioactive decay seems to be affected by cosmic rays. Never mind that the effect is miniscule - if rates of decay can change, then they *must* have been different enough to make the world only 6000 years old.

There's also a large amount of handwaving literature claiming that all radioactive decay measurements are unreliable, and so the myriad methods of dating can all be safely ignored.

SixteenBlue:

Do you feel that math is something that must be believed in? Do you think math doesn't result in facts? Because carbon dating is not some form of proposed estimation. It's a mathematical fact.

Eh.

Mathematical rules are based on assumptions and propagated by logic. In that, it is similar to logical theology. They're both Rationalist disciplines. You need to accept the premises without question; but then exercise logic rigorously to arrive at usable conclusions. "Facts" in the way they're interpreted by math and theology are similar.

"Facts" in the discipline of empirical fields such as science are altogether a different thing. They are observable phenomena; directly measurable by the senses or instruments that enhance the senses.

We can directly measure the rate of carbon decay (that's a scientific fact), and so far as we have been able to observe, it has been shown to have a stable, predictable rate (this part is also a scientific fact). We can use that and assume that the rate has not changed at any time in the past or is different at any location we have not been able to reach. Then we calculate using mathematical rules.

So no, it's not a mathematical fact. It's a scientific estimate that happens to use mathematical tools. The Commutative Property of Addition is a mathematical fact.

As I know you are a practising Catholic, I am surprised you are so comfortable with the degree of mental masturbation going on in this thread.

SallyNasty wrote:

As I know you are a practising Catholic, I am surprised you are so comfortable with the degree of mental masturbation going on in this thread.

CheezePavilion would say "Any sufficiently advanced argument is indistinguishable from a semantic one."

The line of discussion I was advancing with Stengah pursues a strategic approach to combating the Creationist movement in education. It is a subset of the posts in the first page where I advanced the idea that it might be better to simplify the discussion, rather than challenge Creationists in the discussion areas of their choosing.

The discussion, in fact, yielded a very specific, implementable modification that can easily be made to any challenge to Creationism in order to weaken their positions. Stengah doesn't want to pursue the strategem, but we haven't gone at length as to why.

My discussion with CheezePavilion is slightly different. At the last point, he wants to call back to the beginnings of Creationism in order to hash out a tactic; I'm guessing, but no one's taken him up on it, yet.

Finally, I don't think you ought to be surprised that any Catholic would be comfortable that anyone would indulge in any kind of masturbation. If it weren't such an endemic problem, we wouldn't have any rules about it.

To be honest, having to extensively and exhaustively explain all this stuff tires me, too, but you can't build a castle on wet sand. If the basic science concepts aren't down pat, you can't advance discussion in any useful way. I would really much rather we all started off on the same page and went from there.

CheezePavilion:

FWIW, I really felt interested in what you had to say on the relevant posts last page. I wanted to take it up, too. However, the atmosphere engendered by a few in this thread made me feel unsafe and unwanted. Is there somewhere else we can have that discussion? You don't accept PMs.

LarryC wrote:

CheezePavilion:

FWIW, I really felt interested in what you had to say on the relevant posts last page. I wanted to take it up, too. However, the atmosphere engendered by a few in this thread made me feel unsafe and unwanted. Is there somewhere else we can have that discussion? You don't accept PMs.

I know! There's this crazy thing where when I clean out my Inbox, it totally screws up my PM capability. I'll have to get in touch with Certis.

LarryC wrote:

Analogously, you could estimate the height of a cliff by timing the fall of a rock released from the top; but it is not a direct measurement. Its accuracy and validity is dependent on assumptions. It is a usable estimate, but it is not a fact.

What assumptions are those exactly?

It's just basic physics. Distance = Time x Speed

PiP:

Well, that's not the physics that will be used, actually. In this case, the relevant equation is:

Distance = 1/2 Gravitational Acceleration x (Time)squared; with additional caveats about whether you ought to adjust for the time the sound takes to be detected by the observer.

You're assuming that the acceleration will be constant throughout the drop. That may or may not be true. Acceleration varies according to the distance between the objects, of course, and there is such a thing as terminal velocity and air resistance.

Over a short distance, the simple application of D=1/2GTsquared will yield an accurate enough estimate.

SixteenBlue wrote:

Do you feel that math is something that must be believed in? Do you think math doesn't result in facts? Because carbon dating is not some form of proposed estimation. It's a mathematical fact.

Carbon dating is an estimation though, exactly like how LarryC describes it. It's built on a few assumptions, which LarryC mentions above, and it's fallible. Of course it's generally reliable, insofar as the testable material is uncontaminated, before or in the lab or by the handlers, but it's not bulletproof.

And to get pedantic, you don't use radiocarbon dating to measure scales like the age of the Earth, like Crispus suggested. You would use a method of radiometric dating, of which radiocarbon is one (good for measuring things up to 40-60kya). In fact, I regret suggesting this is pedantic, because conflating radiocarbon dating with radiometric dating is a mistake Creationists/IDers use to duplicitously attack evolution. That's a simple type of the rigor we have to use to successfully combat Creationists, which includes excising phrases like "believe in the theory of evolution".

-----

I want to say something in LarryC's defense, but I'm not articulate enough. I think I'm lucky enough to have interpreted him once and got it close!

In any case, I still believe his posts demonstrate some of the most rigorous critical thinking in this thread, and are completely in line with the way I was taught to do science in university. I'm sorry to read that his style irritates some when it's meant to challenge, but note that he has stuck to asking interrogative questions and making relevant observations; in turn he's met with increasing hostility, personal attacks, and hyperbole.

Partly why I don't want to be LarryC's apologist is because he doesn't need me; and partly because I feel like I'm sticking my neck out and am afraid I'll get my head bitten off. But I hope others reading this thread are taking away something more productive.

LarryC wrote:
SallyNasty wrote:

As I know you are a practising Catholic, I am surprised you are so comfortable with the degree of mental masturbation going on in this thread.

CheezePavilion would say "Any sufficiently advanced argument is indistinguishable from a semantic one."

The line of discussion I was advancing with Stengah pursues a strategic approach to combating the Creationist movement in education. It is a subset of the posts in the first page where I advanced the idea that it might be better to simplify the discussion, rather than challenge Creationists in the discussion areas of their choosing.

The discussion, in fact, yielded a very specific, implementable modification that can easily be made to any challenge to Creationism in order to weaken their positions. Stengah doesn't want to pursue the strategem, but we haven't gone at length as to why.

My discussion with CheezePavilion is slightly different. At the last point, he wants to call back to the beginnings of Creationism in order to hash out a tactic; I'm guessing, but no one's taken him up on it, yet.

Finally, I don't think you ought to be surprised that any Catholic would be comfortable that anyone would indulge in any kind of masturbation. If it weren't such an endemic problem, we wouldn't have any rules about it.

People seem to only take up the things I say when they agree with them; if feels like when I don't they just cry SEMANTICS! which yeah: maybe I'm a little tired of being used like this.

Funny thing is, we've had this conversation before about Faith vs. Trust, and I laid it all out rationally and directly; I guess I just don't feel anymore like helping people disagree with you who seem to have such a low opinion of me. I like constructive debate and the sharing of ideas, like we have--I learned a lot in having to defend my ideas about Faith vs. Trust. I don't like being a tool that gets thrown away when I become inconvenient.

LarryC wrote:

PiP:

Well, that's not the physics that will be used, actually. In this case, the relevant equation is:

Distance = 1/2 Gravitational Acceleration x (Time)squared; with additional caveats about whether you ought to adjust for the time the sound takes to be detected by the observer.

You're assuming that the acceleration will be constant throughout the drop. That may or may not be true. Acceleration varies according to the distance between the objects, of course, and there is such a thing as terminal velocity and air resistance.

Over a short distance, the simple application of D=1/2GTsquared will yield an accurate enough estimate.

There's no need to make assumptions about any of that. We know how to calculate both terminal velocity and air resistance.

Gravey:

I highly appreciate the support. I'll admit that it frustrates me to no end when important distinctions that are key to battling Creationists are being swept under the rug by the very people who say they want to battle them.

I have seen that radiocarbon bit of doublespeak. Aggravating.

PiP:

There's no need to make assumptions about any of that. We know how to calculate both terminal velocity and air resistance.

But then you need to assume that the calculations you made applied to the area you're working in; and they're still calculations, which makes your distance a second order estimate.

Once you're extrapolating a measurement using a derived set of rules, it is no longer an observation but an estimation or a calculation; that's just the nature of the definition of what a scientific fact is.

fangblackbone:

Perhaps. I can't see how that tracks back to Kentucky, though. Would you care to expound?

Because carbon dating is not some form of proposed estimation. It's a mathematical fact.

I wouldn't go that far. As others are saying, it's not incontrovertible; one of the fundamental assumptions we're making is that things in the past functioned pretty much like they do now, which we don't absolutely know.

However, if we tie that into all the other ways we have to determine age, like ice cores, tree rings, geological samples, and measurements of other radioactive elements, like uranium, everything hangs together extremely well. There's essentially zero doubt that the Earth is far older than 6,000 years. But carbon-dating alone, unsupported, isn't enough to make declarations of fact... it's just one thread in a gigantic tapestry of observations.

There's no way we would be that wrong about that many different things at once... at least some of the threads in the tapestry obviously wouldn't fit, and the whole thing would unravel. Just a couple of threads, in fact, that were inconsistent with our believed deep history, and were consistent with each other, would be enough to put the edifice into doubt.

We haven't found those threads, and I suspect we never will. We'll be arguing about the details for as long as there are scientists, but I think we've got the broad outlines correct.

Oh, I read awhile back about a problem with carbon dating. There was some big atmospheric event, a long while back, that threw the carbon dating system off somewhat. We've been able to compensate by calibrating against other dating methods, but if we were relying on carbon 14 alone, we'd be producing answers that were pretty inaccurate, possibly outright wrong.

I wonder if we couldn't simplify this argument by saying that we have religious beliefs but we observe science or follow scientific observations.

That way we can distinguish the two as one that needs to be witnessed at its core and the other that doesn't.

In science if we encounter something that cannot be witnessed, we break it down into witnessed components. The more that is able to be witnessed or the increase in the amount of detail that can be witnessed, the stronger the science (theory).

Religious beliefs gain more strength from the number of witnesses and less from the amount witnessed and the specificity of the detail is nigh irrelevant .

Perhaps. I can't see how that tracks back to Kentucky, though. Would you care to expound?

Religious people approach science as religion and thus perhaps a threat. Science minded people can approach religion with scientific rigor and thus dismiss parts of it that are less concrete.

LarryC wrote:

I can't see how that tracks back to Kentucky, though.

Why don't you visit the popular Creation Museum in Kentucky and then get back to us.

OG_slinger wrote:
LarryC wrote:

I can't see how that tracks back to Kentucky, though.

Why don't you visit the popular Creation Museum in Kentucky and then get back to us.

We're looking for a usable weapon against Creationist movements in Kentucky. The broad connection is explicit from the OP; which I was privileged enough to read and comment in nearly from the start. fangblackbone has since clarified; I'm interested in further material along his idea, if you please.

LarryC wrote:

But then you need to assume that the calculations you made applied to the area you're working in;

wut?

and they're still calculations, which makes your distance a second order estimate.

Once you're extrapolating a measurement using a derived set of rules, it is no longer an observation but an estimation or a calculation; that's just the nature of the definition of what a scientific fact is.

Are you equating calculations with estimations? I'm a bit confused by your word choice.

PiP wrote:
LarryC wrote:

But then you need to assume that the calculations you made applied to the area you're working in;

wut?

and they're still calculations, which makes your distance a second order estimate.

Once you're extrapolating a measurement using a derived set of rules, it is no longer an observation but an estimation or a calculation; that's just the nature of the definition of what a scientific fact is.

Are you equating calculations with estimations? I'm a bit confused by your word choice.

I think so and I think that's where the disconnect is.

Gravey wrote:

In any case, I still believe his posts demonstrate some of the most rigorous critical thinking in this thread, and are completely in line with the way I was taught to do science in university. I'm sorry to read that his style irritates some when it's meant to challenge, but note that he has stuck to asking interrogative questions and making relevant observations; in turn he's met with increasing hostility, personal attacks, and hyperbole.

I'm staying away from the greater debate at this point, but I'd like to add my 2c about why I think people are getting upset. This doesn't apply just to this thread, but others like it as well.

I think the problem people are having, and this is from my perspective, so it could be different for every person, is that we're not all scientists. I personally use a lot of shorthand and informal speech when talking about science, partly because it's easier, and partly because I'm simply not intelligent or educated enough to wrap my mind around some of the higher concepts being thrown around. For other people, it's almost certainly not a problem of smarts, just that people generally like to use truncated English to get the point across concisely, as I was feebly trying to explain much earlier in the thread. "Believing" in ToE for example. I still say "Oh my God!" occasionally, it doesn't make me religious, just like beliving in the ToE doesn't make me religious, I'm just slipping into entrenched speech paterns that aren't necessarily correct, but still get the point across.

People get grumpy when they're trying to make a point, or simply add their view, and others pick apart the terminology being used rather than the central conceit. Personally, I realise I'm not using the right terminology all the time, and I realise I'm not ever going to be as smart as LarryC or most of the other posters on the board (by the way, I'm not angsting about this, it's true! I accept it! And it's usually one of the reasons I love GWJ, I love to hear intelligent people discussing things that interest me), but other people are generally polite enough to make assumptions about what I'm saying, rather than point out every little mistake in my line of thinking. I don't mind being educated, but very few people like being condescended to, even inadvertently.

I realise that this is the sort of problem we need to deal with when debating with Creationists, they're not going to go easy on us, but we're not all looking to start a debate when we post in P&C. Honestly, sometimes people like to add their voice to the groupthink. It's ultimately pointless I guess, a glorified "+1" but I'm sure a lot of us a guilty of it and I think most of us are fine with it.

That's how I see it anyway.

I've cooled off a bit since my last efforts in the thread, and I apologise, to Larry in particular, if I got carried away. I should know well enough to just abandon ship when threads get to a certain point, grumpiness never helps anyone.

Carry on!

I grew up in a rigorously conservative Christian denomination and was taught Young Earth Creationism in science class for the several years I was in private school (explicitly in elementary, implicitly in high school).

Robear wrote:

The idea was that water-derived features on mountaintops on a 6,000 year-old planet were caused in short periods of time by a flood that covered the entire planet. That's certainly testable. It spawned the field of "flood geology", which attempted to explain unusual features by this mechanic, the action of floodwaters over time. It was generally ejected from mainstream science by about the mid-19th century, and plate tectonics finished it off in the early 20th.

Note that in the US, it's come back into vogue over the last 50 years among Christians, and has quite a following today.

Sad but true.

Once upon a time I won a (church-sponsored) national essay contest by nitpicking carbon-14 dating and cherry-picking geological phenomena as justification for the Great Flood (for those who care, petrified trees figure prominently in flood geology; my argument was similar to this). The bulk of the Young Earth argument hinges on this and the inconsistencies in radiocarbon dating (the issue Malor noted earlier).

Now, I know y'all hate semantics and LarryC has been driving some of you batty here, but I think he's got the right of it. If the point of all this arguing is how can we encourage scientific-minded, critical thinking in people who have been mostly exposed to theological versions of natural history... a clear articulation of what's observable and verifiable, what's derived from that, and what falls outside that is how you get there. Simply exchanging one belief structure for another (even if "belief" is just being used as a conceptual placeholder) doesn't get one much closer to a critical worldview.

I'm one of those kids we're talking about, who got "saved" by getting a real scientific grounding before my beliefs calcified. I presume this is what people are hoping will happen in Kentucky.

Part of what got me there was exposure to more varied fields of science. Part was having the opportunity to engage with people who, instead of simply arguing the usual "that's wrong, and stupid to boot" angle, approached the things I had been told as a fellow thinker and reasoned through "interesting; how would x, y and z factor into that also" with me. Part was getting good instruction and modeling of critical thinking, and learning to internalize the "scientific" way of looking at things.

Semantics cannot be ignored in this arena, because the arguments for creationism that use scientific data (the arguments that will be trotted out for science curricula in schools) hinge on technical hair-splitting and informational cherry-picking. Clarifying actual positions and actual, underlying scientific arguments, while patiently stripping away the shorthand both sides like to indulge in, will produce results.

Emotional displays of frustration by "evolutionists" who are at the end of their argumentative rope are often pointed to by creationists as evidence that evolution is just as much of a belief system as creationism. The only counter to that is the patient clarification of actual scientific principles and critical thinking, and allegiance to that above everything else. Even evolution

Awesome post, clover, thanks for sharing that.