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The Sciences

Creationists can't take the heat

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitJuly 24, 2008 8:00 PM


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I'm at ComiCon for the next few days, and I don't know how often I'll be able to report to the blog. I do have some other posts ready to go, so these oughta keep you sated until I can talk more about the geekorama. As a follow up to the post I made about flawed creationist reasoning when it comes to plate tectonics, I missed something obvious that, in retrospect, is (yet another) killer for creationism: heat. Creationists need the Earth (and the Universe, don't forget) to be 6000 or so years old, due to a lengthy list of "begattings" in the Bible. The problem is, we see lots of processes going on right now that are very slow -- but we see their effect because the Earth is incredibly old. But if the Earth is young, these processes have to have been cooking a lot faster in the past. Cooking indeed, because these forces expel a lot of heat. And it can be hard to dump that heat: it has to go somewhere (like an oven heating up a room when you open the door), and we just don't see that happening. Some people -- and by "some", I mean every reality-based person in the whole Universe -- say it's impossible to do that in 6000 years and still have a nice, hospitable planet today. And in fact, any Earth-forming process must have taken far less than 6000 years, since according to creationists people have been around nearly all that time. Even being generous, and giving these processes a few hundred years, makes it like impossible squared to happen. One of these processes is plate tectonics. As mentioned in the previous post, sliding plates around the planet and on top and underneath one another is a problem for creationists. A big one; it takes a long time to move a plate around when it crawls at an inch per year. But creationists, of course, think it all happened quickly, right after Noah's flood. However, this is impossible. And I mean impossible. Happily, the National Center for Science Education has a nice explanation of why, which boils down (haha) to the energy release from such rapid motion being enough to vaporize the oceans and melt the Earth's crust completely. And it really bugs me when Biblical literalists try to rely on science for some stuff, then just say "It's a miracle!" for other stuff. Why even turn to science at all then? The paper says this beautifully:

Fourth, we would criticize this concept on theological grounds. In Humphreys's article in the RATE book, he postulates that God performs lots of miracles in order to explain things. God is supposed to have changed the mass of the pion, changed the parameters of gauge bosons to accelerate beta decay, and changed the effective distance of the strong force to alter alpha decay. With all these miracles, why then does God switch to a naturalistic solution to the heat problem — albeit one that requires a rapid cosmic expansion of unexplained origin? All of this raises two serious theological questions. Why does God dance to Humphreys's whim, performing a miracle each time Humphreys requires one? Demanding miracles of God raises certain questions of who is the master and who the servant. And why does Humphreys insist on any naturalistic approach at all, given all the miracles he postulates? Why not simply remove the heat miraculously?

That is how you debunk creationism: cut to the quick. And I love their conclusion:

For these reasons, we reject Humphreys's cooling mechanism: because it is wrong, it is ineffective, it is falsified by observational data, and it is theologically flawed.

Ouch. Tip o' the continental shelf to RBH in the comments of my previous blog post for pointing out that awesome article.

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