YECs, a rather tenacious bunch

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YECs, a rather tenacious bunch

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Sun Jan 19, 2014 3:44 am

So, I just spend hours and hours reading various articles on http://creation.com. My goal was to find some bit of evidence which wasn't yet contradicted in some "plausible" way by creationists. I think I failed. Dendrochronology, distant starlight, even genetic variation in human (and other) populations. I took time to examine each counter, and I generally did not find outright lies. I found slight misrepresentations of the evidence. Selective citing of the evidence. Copy mistakes in sources of sources which could be perpetuated accidentally.

For example, when they attack potassium-argon dating, they cite some paper which itself used data from another paper which itself cited data from another paper. The middle paper mischaracterized the data of the temporal-first paper, and here are our creationists using the temporal-third paper. "The blind leading the blind." In fact, when you look at the original paper, you find overwhelming support of potassium-argon dating, albeit with rather high errors (IIRC 2 out of 3 samples from random places were in very high agreement with conventional dating, but 1 out of 3 were completely over the map - until you accounted for mitigating factors, which the paper did).

Another example. In talking about the problem of distant starlight, I read a PDF which repeated two completely discredited but obscure possibilities.

The first is this idea that the Earth is in the middle of a white whole or in the center of a finite universe. Throw on some completely math-less arguments, and you can argue plausibility to a layperson that GR allows the stars to be billions of years old in the star's reference, but only 6000 years have passed on Earth. Of course, many many things are wrong with this. The inevitable blue-shifting of the light. The massive increase of light reaching Earth because of the time differential would have cooked Earth. And more.

The second is that they referenced this old idea that the redshifting of faraway galaxies only comes in discreet units, or is so-called "quantized" (nothing to do with quantum theory). It then argued that these discreet values would be consistent only with the Earth in the center (which is a conclusion reached from a valid argument but based on false premises). I was actually already familiar with this idea, which was how I was able to dismiss it so fast. IIRC, it wasn't even from a Christian apologist originally, but from some crank only slightly better than Time Cube who was trying to argue for a steady-state universe. (What's wrong with it? It was borderline plausible decades ago with the available dataset of redshifts. However, with more recent evidence, the apparent "quantized" nature of observed redshifts has fell away and become a general continuum of observed redshifts.) Here again I see the Christian apologist trolling (in the sense of searching for anything) over the whole of all published ideas, but only picking out those that agree with his position. it is a brilliant example of confirmation bias at work.

I always loved sea-floor spreading and how it records magnetic pole reversals. I thought that was foolproof. But no, I found some article on there talking about Noah's flood and how the rapid change of continents going into the mantle was responsible for causing the many recorded magnetic pole reversals over a period of a year instead of millions of years. (Of course, what the fuck does the mantle have to do with the core, which is what is actually responsible for the magnetic field?) To do this, they had to casually disregard the dynamo theory of the magnetic field and postulate some asinine idea that the magnetic field is there because of an actual honest-to-goodness electrical current which is slowly decaying. (Which coincidentally means we're all doomed without Jesus, a very common recurring theme on that site actually.)

They even had a really technical overview of Egyptian archaeology and the dating methods used. Unfortunately I am not versed on those topics, and I did not take time to learn, which means that their arguments were plausible. I have little doubt that if I engaged with the primary evidence, I would find similar distortions, selective quotations of the evidence, and other confirmation bias at play.

I even found a paper on my much-beloved and favorite dendrochronology. In there, through their usual distortions and half-truths, they made a compelling case that the technical methodology of how they matched up the tree rings (like a jig-zaw puzzle) was possible only with the assumption of an old Earth. The paper argued that scientists use levels of C14 (not C14 dating proper) as a baseline for the computer statistical matching, meaning that the computer would not consider a better tree ring pattern match if it was grossly out of accord on C14 content. Then, it argued that this is circular reasoning, that C14 content corresponds to age, which let's us do dendrochronology, and dendrochronology allows us to calibrate C14 dating to confirm its accurateness. At first glance, it's a really compelling argument! Which is what annoys me so much. I might try to argue that C14 content cannot increase over time in dead wood, and so we can still do that, but I'm sure they'll be able to find a reason why Noah's flood vastly increased C14 content, leaving only highly technical and data-intensive rebuttals possible.

There is no simple knock-down argument. I know of a plethora of evidence, but every single line of evidence requires an advanced understanding of the evidence in order to refute these often distorted or outright ridiculous ideas. I have learned (or I was reminded that it was true) that most YEC Joes on the street are not even willfully ignorant of the evidence. Sure, the people who publish reports like this are grossly incompetent (e.g. confirmation bias at work with no attempt to correct for it) and/or are blatantly lying, but the average person doesn't take the time necessary to examine the evidence and arguments.

I used to say that arguing an old universe and Earth is easier than arguing for evolution straight away. I argued this quite strongly and quite often. I think I was in error. I think that it's easier to argue evolutionary theory with the average Joe on the street than it is for any of the other evidence. The other evidence seems to rely often on obscure technical arguments which cannot be made immediately obvious. But with a good taxonomic diagram of life (maybe even the creationist original discoverer Linnaeus's taxonomic drawing for extra bonus points), including known fossils, and armed with the molecular genetics, I think that's my best option.

/sigh

PS: Foolproof. Quoting Douglas Adams: "A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."

PPS: Still one of my favorite sources for a catalog of such evidence: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Evidence_a ... t_creation
EnlightenmentLiberal
 
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