# Fun With Creationist Logic

I saw this on Fundies Say the Darnedest Things and it’s hilarious. In a forum discussion about stellar distances and the age of the earth, one creationist wrote:

Here is a question you.

So a light year = the distance light travels in a year.

You mentioned the figure 11 million light years away.

So my question is how are we observing this light 11 million light years away now?

I’m not 11 million years old, i’m 20.

When someone pointed out that the light actually left the star 11 million years ago, the poor sap still didn’t get it:

If it takes 11 million years to travel to earth, how can i see it now? I’m only 20.

If it takes 11 million years to travel to earth then the viewer would need to be 11 million years old.

That person, presumably, has the right to vote.

1. Chiroptera says

That person, presumably, has the right to vote.

He may even be able to complete college and get a degree.

Yes, I am serious.

Yes, I know that’s going to keep you awake tonight.

2. says

What is happening here is actually sort of interesting. The creationist in question has not fully internalized that light doesn’t travel instantaneously. So they sort of get it but they are working with a mental model that isn’t fully consistent.

3. says

That makes my head explode. I can’t even think of how a reality where you must have existed when a photon was emitted to properly detect it when it reaches your eye. Maybe he thinks its the motion that you see? Only seeing the motion of it moving from its source to you lets you fully see it? Of course that would just mean you’d have an illusion that stars are closer than they are. I give up. *head explode*

4. says

Ah, I think #2 nailed it. The person is mixing two theories of light in their head without trying to reconcile them.

5. matty1 says

That person, presumably, has the right to vote.

Just tell him the voting age has been raised to 11 million.

6. jameshanley says

Chiroptera @1,
He may even be able to complete college and get a degree.

It’s true, alas. I have a student right now who just submitted a term paper that claims the Founders came to America to start a new country so they could be Christians instead of being forced to be Catholics by the King. The paper as a whole is about why we should be allowed to teach a world religions class in public school even though it’s unconstitutional, because then people who have a Hindu boss would know that when they’re invited to the boss’s house for dinner they can’t have a drink, and we can teach people about Jesus.

Yes, this person just might be able to scrape through to a degree.

It’s no wonder I have a headache right now.

7. anandine says

@3 pinkboy: I can’t even think of how a reality where you must have existed when a photon was emitted to properly detect it when it reaches your eye.

Maybe it’s an extension of George Berkeley’s philosophy. If our fundie friend did not see the photon leave the star, it didn’t happen. Since it obviously did happen, and no human was here to observe it, that means our friend is God. If God returned to earth 20 years ago, we must be in the end times, and Obama is the antichrist. QED.

8. Didaktylos says

I was very interested in astronomy as a child. I had no trouble grasping the idea that if a star was x light years distant, I was seeing an image of it x years ago.

9. Erik says

CLEARLY, when God created the universe some 6,000 years ago He just set it up so it would *seem* like that light had traveled 11 million light years.

10. Larry says

Vote, hell. He has the right to breed!

11. havermayer says

I’m scanning the forum thread now. The poster in question is actually arguing for Emission theory of perception. That is the idea that light is emitted from our eyes and that allows us to see. He argued that intromission theory cannot be proven and is just an assumption by scientists.

Its rather mind boggling. That science is straight out of ancient Greece.

The poster is actually banned. So perhaps he was merely a troll.

12. cheesynougats says

Did anyone here read more of the forum discussion? Our little creationist friend is a proponent of emission theory (the idea that our eyes are emitting sight, rather than receiving light from outside the body). With that understanding, I can see how hir can’t understand the 11 My posts.
Where I find hope is in the fact that none of the posters I’ve read on the post think this dim bulb has any idea what hir is talking about.

13. imrryr says

@Erik – Creationists will usually say that light traveled faster in the past. How and why, you ask? I don’t know… the radiance of God makes light go faster, or something stupid like that, probably.

@jameshanley – Now that’s a terrifying tale worthy of Halloween. *shiver*

14. eric says

James @6 – that’s a trifecta of stupid. Bad history, bad understanding of law, bad argument. Give that paper an H. :)

15. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

why we should be allowed to teach a world religions class in public school even though it’s unconstitutional

As I understand it, it’s not at all unconstitutional to teach a world religions class in public school. Or are you just reporting another of your student’s misconceptions?

16. laurentweppe says

I have a student right now who just submitted a term paper that claims the Founders came to America to start a new country so they could be Christians instead of being forced to be Catholics by the King. The paper as a whole is about why we should be allowed to teach a world religions class in public school even though it’s unconstitutional, because then people who have a Hindu boss would know that when they’re invited to the boss’s house for dinner they can’t have a drink, and we can teach people about Jesus.

I wonder if your student is really an idiot or just testing whether the Chewbacca defense works in academia.

17. Ben P says

As I understand it, it’s not at all unconstitutional to teach a world religions class in public school. Or are you just reporting another of your student’s misconceptions?

It’s not, unless of course by “World Religions Class” you actually mean “Religion 101: Christianity, vs heathenism, paganism and other false religions.”

As kind of a halfway formed thought, I wonder whether it’s really appropriate at all to teach world religions to a group of younger high schoolers. Assuming people have been raised in a religious or at least semi-religious context (which is true of most Americans) it takes a really good teacher and a certain level of maturity to turn the class into anything other than “giggling about the silly gods those foreigners have.”

18. jacobfromlost says

Is he thinking that it takes light 11 million years to get to him from 11 million light years away, and once the light reaches him, then he is instantaneously seeing that moment (say, the year he is 20) all the way back to the object that is 11 million light years away…which somehow must be a contradiction because he should be seeing the object as it is in the year he is 20 and not the year of 11 million years ago?

It’s almost as if he is thinking of light as a kind of phone line that has to be installed at Slow Speed, and then once it is installed you can call people in Instantaneous Speed, lol. Once the light is installed, you can “call” 11 million light years away and should be able to see what is going on 11 million light years away right now.

Missing the entire point of a light year, though.

19. pHred says

I was just grading a test where a student explained that China was going to invade Japan for their resources. Sometimes it is really hard to tell if a student had some kind of agenda/prejudice or they are just not paying any attention. My head explodes on a regular basis while grading, Sigh.

20. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

The ACLU has this to say about teaching religion in public schools (full statement here):

The history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scripture)-as-literature (either as a separate course or within some other existing course), are all permissible public school subjects. It is both permissible and desirable to teach objectively about the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries.

There is certainly a risk that a comparative religion class can turn into a “look what those stupid infidels believe” exercise. But it can also provide students the background and impetus to critically examine the religion they themselves have been brought up in, which is all to the good. I suspect this benefit outweighs the risk.

21. says

Did anyone here read more of the forum discussion? Our little creationist friend is a proponent of emission theory (the idea that our eyes are emitting sight, rather than receiving light from outside the body). With that understanding, I can see how hir can’t understand the 11 My posts.
Where I find hope is in the fact that none of the posters I’ve read on the post think this dim bulb has any idea what hir is talking about.

Now I see the troll logic. It requires a whole different level of denialism about our understanding of light, cameras, and human anatomy. We’re probably dealing with fractal wrongness: Equally wrong at every level of resolution.

22. says

The history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scripture)-as-literature (either as a separate course or within some other existing course), are all permissible public school subjects.

In an ideal world, I’d be fine with teaching a course about the Bible as literature. Unfortunately, we live in a country full of crazed fundamentalists who can’t be trusted to do that job.

23. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

Unfortunately, we live in a country full of crazed fundamentalists who can’t be trusted to do that job.

You may be right, but the original question isn’t whether it’s a good idea, it’s whether it’s constitutional. “Unconstitutional” and “a very bad idea” aren’t equivalent concepts.

The ACLU says certain forms of religion education, including “Bible as Literature”, are constitutional, and they employ lawyers and stuff. (Plus, their heart is generally in the right place, which can’t be said of some other organizations that employ lawyers.)

24. matty1 says

(Plus, their heart is generally in the right place, which can’t be said of some other organizations that employ lawyers.)

Do lawyers have hearts?

25. murollavan says

The list page is hard to read. I find it scary how David Duke, Wendy Wright,etc’s comments don’t really seem out of place versus the other nondescript fundie christians.

26. jameshanley says

Herculues, As I understand it, it’s not at all unconstitutional to teach a world religions class in public school. Or are you just reporting another of your student’s misconceptions?
You’re correct, the student is wrong. Except that the student clearly wants it to actually be a class that teaches that Christianity is right, in which case it would be unconstitutional.

Eric, Give that paper an H.
An H? Is my last name really that representative of massive stupidity?

Laurentweppe,I wonder if your student is really an idiot or just testing whether the Chewbacca defense works in academia.
Oh, trust me. This student responded negatively to a book that puts the U.S. gov’t into comparative context with other countries’ gov’ts because it didn’t praise the U.S. system for its evident and incontrovertible superiority. (Not that the student managed to use such big words.)

phred, I was just grading a test where a student explained that China was going to invade Japan for their resources
Ouch. Unless you’re teaching a course on alternative-universe fiction.

27. salem says

I’m not 11 million years old, i’m 20.

I think he was talking about his IQ in that second clause.

28. jacobfromlost says

“In an ideal world, I’d be fine with teaching a course about the Bible as literature. Unfortunately, we live in a country full of crazed fundamentalists who can’t be trusted to do that job.”

But that’s a background problem that is present in ANY context, teaching ANY subject (ie, ignorance is always in the background of teaching–otherwise we wouldn’t have the need for teaching).

Teaching is not magic–just because you teach a course in an objective way, using effective methods, etc, doesn’t mean that every student will A) understand it, or B) believe it. There will ALWAYS be students who say, “Look at all the funny gods of those foreigners, ha ha”, but that just reveals a “teachable moment” as it were–you can connect it to archetypes, to human experience, to popular movies, to history, to current events, etc., and help the students illustrate for themselves the importance of learning the material.

It’s not much different than continually answering the question, “What’s the point of math class?” or “What’s the point of English class?” or “Why is what you are teaching me important in any way, shape, or form?”, etc, by getting down in the trenches and TEACHING. Both teaching and learning are messy businesses, and ignoring a subject for fear it will be misunderstood is not teaching, but enabling ignorance to take root.

Of course, if your fear is that the teacher may not actually be teaching but indoctrinating their religious views…then I share your concern, but there is not a lot we can do about that either (at least systemically) unless or until society at large values education AS education, and not simply as a buzz word to slap onto whatever subjective idea comes along. Of course, we can often fight individual cases when they pop up, but if certain communities are overwhelmingly indoctrinated already, who knows how often things happen behind classroom doors that no one ever knows about.

29. says

Does this mean we have to reconsider the theory of human evolution? Speficially the possibility that some of us didn’t?

30. andysemler says

Quote# 61678
“That’s the beauty of Heaven… we can leave our brains behind.”

31. alekseisvoboda says

That website is a gem. Everyone should check out http://www.evolutionfairytale.com and specifically “The Show”. Read about the giraffe’s story because it made me laugh out loud. It shows you just how bad things can go when an organism (not the population) can’t evolve fast enough.

32. Aquaria says

I can visit there only so often, to keep my brain from oozing out of my head, and my Hulk mode under control.

33. Infophile says

To follow up on this fundie’s beliefs in the emission theory of vision: He actually believes it’s safe to stare at the sun, but not at the moon. I honestly wonder if it’s possible to be this stupid, or if it’s a troll. Poe’s Law comes in handy at times like these.

34. Thorne says

Do lawyers have hearts?

Of course they have hearts! They’re very small, and very hard, and rarely used, but they do have them.

35. says

For a head explosion worthy of Scanners, someone should tell this guy that the photons impacting his retina that enable him to see this 11 million year-old star originated inside his eyeball.
“But I’m only 20!”

36. Crudely Wrott says

It’s said that Mount Everest is a little over 29,000 feet high. Preposterous! No human being has ever been over 8 feet tall! There is no way to stand beside the mountain and be able to say, “It’s almost as tall as I am”!

37. jimfoley says

I can only marvel at what must be going on inside his head. But if his worldview was correct, new stars would continually be coming into view as he got older – someone twice his age would be able to see eight times as many stars. What happens if you get a lens transplant and the lens was manufactured yesterday, do the stars disappear? And don’t get me started on the ramifications for cameras and telescopes. A whole new field of research is opening up…

38. Infophile says

It’s said that Mount Everest is a little over 29,000 feet high. Preposterous! No human being has ever been over 8 feet tall! There is no way to stand beside the mountain and be able to say, “It’s almost as tall as I am”!

<fundie>How wrong you are! The Bible clearly says that people were “giants in those days.” Humanity has since shrunk down. If you doubt this is true, then how do you explain pygmies and dwarfs!? </fundie>

39. juice says

A lot of those comments seem like trolls. They have to be. Right?

40. dingojack says

No, no, no. I like the logic. Think about it:
All humans age at the same rate, therefore I will always be younger than John McCain, Herman Cain, Sarah Palin et al.
Therefore –
They can all be ignored because they are all invisible! QED
:) Dingo

41. bananacat says

Either this guy is a troll, or he’s so incredibly narcissistic that he can’t comprehend anything existing before he did.

42. lordshipmayhem says

(Plus, their heart is generally in the right place, which can’t be said of some other organizations that employ lawyers.)

Do lawyers have hearts?

Of course. All sharks have hearts.

43. slc1 says

Re James Hanley @ #6

Apparently, Prof. Hanley’s student has never heard of Henry VIII who was in his grave long before any of the founding fathers were born.