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Farah’s YEC Irrationality

In the wake of Sen. Marco Rubio’s politically convenient but highly ignorant answer to a question about the age of the earth, Joseph Farah comes riding in on his hobby horse to defend young earth creationism. What he ends up doing, of course, is showing just how illogical he can be. He has two arguments, both of them nonsense. The first is a weak attempt to change the subject:

But what do they believe?

How did the universe come into being?

Almost all scientists agree on one thing today: The universe had a beginning.

Something brought all matter and energy into being. Almost no scientists still prescribe to the theory that it always existed.

So what caused it?

How did we get from nothing to a complex universe and a life-supporting Earth? And how did life emerge from non-life?

Science has no real answers, despite the arrogance of the L.A. Times and what its team learned at universities of higher learning.

Uh, Joe…the question was about the age of the earth, not the age or origin of the universe. One has nothing to do with the other. The earth is ~4.5 billion years old, regardless of how or why the universe came into existence.

And then he offers the very popular argument that if we do not have 100% certainty, we know nothing at all:

No one can be 100 percent certain, though I subscribe to the idea that the Bible is literally true and that the Earth and the universe were created in seven actual days about 6,000 years ago…

They no more know how old the Earth is than anyone else does – but they imply that it is a matter settled by science. If it is, I think the L.A. Times should publish a news story telling exactly how old the Earth is. Don’t you?

Yes, I do. I think they should do exactly that, publish an article that explains in detail how we know that the earth is ~4.5 billion years old. They could talk about the hundreds of concordant dates on both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial (no, not aliens, objects from outside the planet) objects using a variety of different radiometric dating techniques that all agree on that data. And they should go even further by debunking all the ridiculous arguments from YECs for why the earth must be young. And then all the wingnuts will deny the evidence and fall back on faith. What else do they have?

Comments

  1. jamessweet says

    Ah, the old epistemological nihilism card — beloved by church going creationists and stoned-ass college students alike. “But like, can you ever really KNOW anything, man? Man, that’s some good bud…”

  2. says

    To me, this is a foundational issue.

    Before I will consider anyone as a candidate for any office — local, regional, national — I want to know what they understand as the age of the Earth.

    4.5 billion years? OK, we can move on to other things.

    6000 years? Sorry, no. You’re not getting my vote. Next candidate.

    Now, I know that a local dogcatcher doesn’t really need to know the age of the Earth in order to catch dogs. But you elect him as dog catcher and pretty soon, he’s running for state house and then state senate, and then lieutenant governor and then US Senator, and suddenly you’ve got an ignoramus for a Senator.

    No. Not on my watch.

  3. Stacy says

    Something brought all matter and energy into being. Almost no scientists still prescribe to the theory that it always existed.

    ? I’m pretty sure they do think just that. Not in its present form, of course.

  4. Jordan Genso says

    But if the L.A. Times did write an article like that, the right-wing would point to it as an example for their lame “liberal bias” accusations.

    I think it’s why they love the “liberal bias” falsehood, because it works to keep the media from being more informative.

  5. thisisaturingtest says

    Farah:

    So what caused it?
    How did we get from nothing to a complex universe and a life-supporting Earth? And how did life emerge from non-life?

    Just saying “god,” though, isn’t an answer; it’s only a response.

  6. rabbitscribe says

    “… the question was about the age of the earth, not the age or origin of the universe. One has nothing to do with the other.”

    Sure it does, biblically speaking. On the third day, God made the Mediterranean Ocean. On the fourth, he made all the stars. There was no universe until God surrounded the Earth with it.

  7. eric says

    Rubio says stupid thing. People point and laugh. In response, Farah opines that he believes the same thing. I know the appropriate counter-response.

  8. rabbitscribe says

    #3 Stacy: it’s six of one, half-dozen of the other. “Always existed” means “has existed since the moment after the Big Bang.” That’s when time and space as such came into existence. There was no “20 billion years ago.”

  9. eamick says

    Something brought all matter and energy into being. Almost no scientists still prescribe to the theory that it always existed.

    ? I’m pretty sure they do think just that. Not in its present form, of course.

    Physicist Lawrence Krauss argues in his A Universe From Nothing that current research suggests not only that something did come from nothing, but that it was pretty much inevitable and not because of some supernatural cause.

  10. Reginald Selkirk says

    Almost all scientists agree on one thing today: The universe had a beginning.
    Something brought all matter and energy into being. Almost no scientists still prescribe to the theory that it always existed.

    And even fewer cling to the notion that the universe didn’t have a beginning because it never happened at all…

  11. Reginald Selkirk says

    If it is, I think the L.A. Times should publish a news story telling exactly how old the Earth is. Don’t you?

    While that would be a noteworthy public service, I don’t really expect them to do that because it’s not news. The science of geology had settled on the fact that there never was a Biblical worldwide flood before Darwin’s time, in the 1830s and 1840s. The idea that the Earth was much much older than Bishop Ussher’s begat sums was settled on before the end of the 19th century, even before radioisotope dating was developed.
    .
    The information is readily available in books for those who can be bothered to read. Here’s one with a straightforward title: The Age of the Earth by G. Brent Dalrymple, published in 1994. The information can also be found easily on Teh Internets, if your filters do not block out all non-fundy web sites.

  12. Michael Heath says

    eamick writes:

    Physicist Lawrence Krauss argues in his A Universe From Nothing that current research suggests not only that something did come from nothing, but that it was pretty much inevitable and not because of some supernatural cause.

    I read Dr. Krauss’ book and while he does cover all the bases, he also overmilks his version of nothing compared to what theist/deist philosophers and theologians argue. He’s mostly writing about space-time in our universe, whereas the philosophers were considering ‘nothing’ prior to the Big Bang and therefore prior to our space-time. So Krauss’ criticizing them on their questions about nothing isn’t entirely fair when he uses our space-time to do so.

    I’m not formally educated on this topic so I welcome someone else more qualified elaborating. But this was my conclusion after reading Krauss’ book. In defense of Krauss, he did point out in the book that many philosophers frequently referred to the supposed nothing part our universe, which is space-time and encounters quantum-flucuations where matter comes into existence out of that nothingness space-time. And of course this leads to the notion that perhaps the quantum flucuations applies outside our reality as well.

  13. says

    I haven’t read Krauss’s book, but I typically like to emphasize that the answer “we don’t know” is the only honest answer to the question of the origin of the Universe.

    Indeed, the most pertinent question at the moment is whether we can add the word “yet” to the end of that response.

    Anything we can be reasonably sure of ends at the Big Bang (or just after it, to be more precise). We don’t even know whether the concept of a “cause” applies to our Universe (as opposed to events within it) given that time is only known to be a property of the Universe itself.

    For all we know, our Universe could be the accidental byproduct of a multi-dimensional superbeing child’s grade-school science project. There is just no way to tell at the moment.

  14. says

    I’m not sure which one of the “Cosmology for dummies” books that I’ve read over the last few years says it, but at least one posits that the “Big Bang” might be a repeat event. It is the author’s thinking that the universe after it reaches its maximum expansion begins to contract and, eventually, is reduced to a singularity of incredible mass and almost no physical size. I’m okay with that, but it will definitely put real estate and all sorts of other professions right in the shitter.

  15. slc1 says

    Re MH @ #12

    I have not read Prof. Krauss’ book but my understanding of the current thinking relative to the origin of the universe is as follows.

    First, one must understand that the concept of “nothing” as it was understood in the 19th century has been superseded by the concept of the quantum vacuum. The quantum vacuum consists of virtual particles, e.g. neutrons protons, photons, and electrons. Although the quantum vacuum is not directly observable, it’s effects are, vis the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron, the neutron/proton mass difference (maybe), and pair production.

    As I understand the current theory, the creation of the universe was the result of the occurrence of a discontinuity in the quantum vacuum, which resulted in the creation of particle/anti-particle pairs, with the slight preponderance of particles being the consequence of CP violation.

  16. drizzt says

    That’s what I love about WND, nothing too stupid for them to try to tackle and justify. Farah is just the icing on the cake, if we join Jackson (she hasn’t shown up in ages in the articles), Keyes, Klayman, Monckton, Geller, Dean and others, omg it’s a wedding-cake of crazy, like a tower of stupidity, all coated in sweets so we can just read it all…

    “For all we know, our Universe could be the accidental byproduct of a multi-dimensional superbeing child’s grade-school science project”

    Let’s just hope he doesn’t throw a tantrum and destroys everything :)

  17. drizzt says

    forgot to reference my quote : “For all we know, our Universe could be the accidental byproduct of a multi-dimensional superbeing child’s grade-school science project” @13

    as other have said : wtb edit button.

  18. slc1 says

    Re democommie @ #14

    The problem with the notion of the big crunch is that the existence of dark energy, which constitutes some 70% of the gravitating mass in the universe, is causing the rate of expansion to increase. Thus, it is entirely problematical as to whether the big crunch will occur. As I understand it, the current thinking is that dark energy will cause the universe to continue to expand forever.

  19. says

    slc1,

    As I understand it, the current thinking is that dark energy will cause the universe to continue to expand forever.

    At an accelerating rate. It is truly mind boggling. Over billions of years galaxies will blink off as they are pushed outside the horizon and their light can no longer reach us. We actually live at prime-time to do cosmology.

    The universe is an interesting place, to say the least.

  20. drizzt says

    i loved watching Krauss’ video, the «forget Jesus, stars died for you» phrase is memorable. What I didn’t know was that he had a book written from that… I’ll have to double my own Christmas buys… not only «The Second World War» from Antony Beevor but also «A Universe from Nothing» from Krauss…

  21. anandine says

    I forget where I recently read that a young earth means that uranium, instead of having a half-life about the age of the earth, must be able to rapidly decay under circumstances we don’t understand. Nuclear plants could melt down. Nuclear weapons could spontaneously explode. All because the observed breakdown of uranium has occurred over 6 thousand years instead of 4.5 billion.

  22. slc1 says

    Re Heddle @ #19

    Over billions of years galaxies will blink off as they are pushed outside the horizon and their light can no longer reach us.

    Mostly true. However, it is my understanding that the Andromeda Galaxy is moving toward the Milky Way Galaxy (it’s local velocity exceeds the rate of expansion of the universe in our neighborhood) and the two will collide several billion years from now. Now that will really be something!

    We actually live at prime-time to do cosmology.

    It could be argued that it would have been even more interesting to do cosmology million of years ago when the universe was much smaller.

  23. says

    slc1,

    Mostly true. However, it is my understanding that the Andromeda Galaxy is moving toward the Milky Way Galaxy

    Yes, it is always understood that locally the rule “all galaxies move away from each other” is violated by gravitational attraction. Of course these are very different effects–galaxies are to first order stationary–the moving apart is not a moving away in space but the expansion of space between the galaxies. The collisions are from ordinary motion (fueled by gravity) through space.

    It could be argued that it would have been even more interesting to do cosmology million of years ago when the universe was much smaller.

    I would say the time scale of millions of years makes no difference. Billions of years ago we wouldn’t see as many interesting things, like generation 1 stars (let alone have one for our very own.) But now we see the newest “stuff” and the oh-so-interesting oldest stuff–essentially back to the recombination epoch. Plus, because the way the universe expanded, there are actually some things outside the horizon in the early universe that have drifted in.

    There is a great picture I am trying to track down that I think was in Scientific American. It shows the horizon as a cone and the axis is time. It also shows you that the most distant objects have a slightly curvy path that path that brings them into the horizon in the early universe and, eventually (I think the timescale is ~100 billion years) out of the horizon. So–~100 billion years from now, if there is intelligent life, somewhere–they will not be able to do observational cosmology.

  24. slc1 says

    Re heddle @ #23

    Yes, it is always understood that locally the rule “all galaxies move away from each other” is violated by gravitational attraction.

    This is yet more indirect evidence for dark matter. If the galaxies consisted of only the observable matter (neutrons, protons, electrons, and photons), the repulsive force of dark energy would overcome the gravitational attraction and the predicted collision would not take place.

  25. aziraphale says

    Anandine @#21

    It was Alex Knapp at http://www.forbes.com

    There’s another point. If decay had been that much faster at any time in the last 6,000 years, all the uranium ores would have melted. Any lead they contained would have separated out and the radiometric dates would have pointed to the time when they solidified. Needless to say this is not what we observe. Let’s face it, the only way the Earth can be that young is if God put the lead there to trick us.

  26. Michael Heath says

    heddle writes:

    The universe is an interesting place, to say the least.

    An interesting place where I encounter an increasing number of books by experts explaining what we understand and what we’re still trying to figure out. So us laypeople have great access to understanding much of what we’ve found and are trying to explain.

    I’d be interested in your perspective of Paul Halpern’s Edge of the Universe: A Voyage to the Cosmic Horizon and Beyond. I’ve been monitoring the reader reviews at this book’s Amazon page to see whether I should pull the trigger. Monitoring reader- and other book reviews is my standard approach to deciding what to read.

  27. says

    Michael Heath,

    I haven’t read it yet. The ToC looks good–but, that says nothing of the writing. I will probably read it at some point, but for now I can’t give a review.

    I hope it is good. Scientists who can popularize well are worth their weight in gold.

  28. says

    Michael Heath,

    I’ll even add to my previous statement this: PZ popularizes science so amazingly well– that he would (in my opinion) do a far greater service to science in that line–rather than the direction he has chosen. Just my opinion.

  29. Michael Heath says

    heddle writes:

    PZ popularizes science so amazingly well– that he would (in my opinion) do a far greater service to science in that line–rather than the direction he has chosen. Just my opinion.

    I think the rage many young non-believers raised to be religious have is justified. I was certainly very angry for a couple of years in my twenties when I began to find out I wasn’t merely lied to as I’d already known since a pre-teen, but the lies were outrageous and far more voluminous than I imagined.

    In particular, arguments from ignorance, e.g. ,I had no idea how much academics understood until I went to university. And how accesible that knowledge was to the religious leaders who argued they knew nothing. I think PZ provides a helpful forum to express that rage.

    However I also hope to see his fans grow-out of it quickly, say in a handful of years. After awhile the behavior becomes sophomoric.

  30. eric says

    @12, @15

    I read Krauss’ book, and I thought he did a very good job of covering the definitional or semantic problems associated with the phrase ‘something from nothing,’ at least in part because of the critiques he received from his earlier comments. Here’s my description of the book, which in terms of content can be divided into five main sections.

    Forward (very short, but I’m going to spend more text on it because it really sets up the rest of the book): Krauss points out that there are at least three ways people have historically used the term ‘nothing’ when referring to physical reality. Prior to the 20th century, it was most commonly used to refer to what we would now refer to as empty space. I.e., nothing = no thing within a framework of time, space, and physical laws. Krauss argues that to early philosophers, time and space were not ‘things,’ they were the stage upon which things sat. After Einstein figured out that time and space have properties, philosophers and physicists started thinking about nothing = no thing + no time + no space. Then philosophers took the final step and basically equated nothing with no properties at all. This concept almost tautologically defies description, since if you can describe it, it has properties and is therefore not ‘nothing.’ Even saying “no thing + no time + no space + no rules” does not capture it, because that description describes a something with the properties listed above. Krauss spends little time trying to explain or discuss this third definition any further – in fact, IIRC he spends less text on it than I just did.

    Main text, section 1: describes what modern physics knows about the universe. This is the biggest section of the book, at about half of it. Also the least philosophical.

    Main text, section 2: Krauss describes how physicsists are very, very sure that something does come from nothing in the first of the three meanings of the term, referring back to section 1 to show how/why physicists think this.

    Main text, section 3: Krauss describes how physicists are very, very sure that something can come from nothing in the second of the three meanings of the term, again referring back to section 1 to show how/why physicists think this.

    Main text, section 4 (its very short, just a few pages): Krauss tries halfheartedly to argue that something could come from nothing in the third of the three meanings of the term, but does not really do so convincingly. He spends most of the last few pages pointing out that physics, not philosophy, is responsible for what we do know about somethings coming from nothings, and uses this point to conclude that if we humans ever do discover a definitive answer to the question of whether something can come from nothnig (3rd definition), the answer will likely come out of our scientific investigations, not philosophy or theology.

  31. slc1 says

    Redefining the quantum vacuum as the new “nothing”, it has been known for over 70 years that something can come from nothing. Consider pair production. Photons can knock a virtual electron out of the quantum vacuum, with the hole left behind manifesting itself as a positron.

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