Brand-New Blogger, Y’all »« Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIb-2: In Which We Reclaim Earth Science for God’s Glory

Adventures in ACE V: Senseless About St. Helens

We have arrived at the section of Science PACE 1086 wherein someone who knows bugger-all about rocks will proceed to explain rock types. There is so much wrong we’ll have to split it into groups, and even then, I’m not sure the posts will be short enough to prevent acute creationist crap poisoning. I do know I just spent the better part of five hours dealing with just the errors in the opening paragraphs.

I recommend padding all hard spaces within a 12-block radius before we begin.

Mr. Wheeler, the ocean floor driller, is the narrator. It is apparent the instant he opens his mouth that the writer is not competent to write from the POV of a supposed expert, even a creationist one. “Igneous rock,” he pontificates, “is formed by heat.”

Um.

Actually.

Metamorphic rock can be formed by heat, too, so that definition is worse than useless. Let’s see how real geologists define igneous:

Rock formed when molten rock (magma) that has cooled and solidified (crystallized). See intrusive (plutonic) and extrusive (volcanic) igneous rock.

I’m afraid to check his other two definitions. We shall skip lightly past them singing “la la-la la-la” and continue with his slaughter of all things created by magma.

Image is a thin stream of lava descending a volcano. Caption says, "You make volcano cry."

Volcanoes are likened to squeezed tubes of capped toothpaste, with no nod towards those that erupt rather more gently than St. Helens and Etna. Mr. Wheeler would also like us to believe that magma is formed “when subterranean igneous rock is heated to such high temperatures that it melts.” In creationist world, then, it appears sedimentary and metamorphic rocks never melt. Geologists actually define magma as

Molten rock. Magma may be completely liquid or a mixture of liquid rock, dissolved gases and crystals. Molten rock that flows out onto the Earth’s surface is called lava.

Mercifully, the ACE writers understand that magma becomes lava when it gets to the surface.

We’re told that volcanoes erupt because lava forms a cap over the magma and the pressure builds until the volcano (which is never actually defined) spews. We’re not told why the pressure builds. Perhaps they want us to think God’s squeezing the magma chamber, trying to get that Lava™ brand toothpaste out, half-asleep and not realizing the cap’s still on until splurt – lava’s spewed everywhere. But I suspect it’s mostly because they have no fucking clue why volcanoes actually erupt.

Take their “Facts From Science” Mount St. Helens sidebar. There are 8 sentences. 5 of them contain egregious errors. Let us dissect them.

Mount St. Helens in Washington State erupted on May 18, 1980, causing a tremendous explosion and earthquake.

No. The earthquake caused the explosion. Criminy, you’d think they’d at least be able to get the order right. It’s bloody everywhere. Even other creationists know this. Don’t they get Acts & Facts? FFS.

Okay. Deep breath.

The force of the explosion was as great as that of 400 million tons (400 megatons) of TNT, a high explosive.”

*CLONK* *ow* Fuck, I forgot to pad my desk.

It took me a long time to trace that figure – creationists cream their shorts over it, but I couldn’t find it cited in any papers by actual scientists. It seems to have come from this 1981 Scientific American article. And yes, the authors are indeed estimating the energy at 400 megatons – for the entire eruption. The lateral blast, or “explosion”? A mere 24.

At 8:32 am, the earthquake broke loose about one-half cubic mile (2 km3) of rock and ice, allowing liquid water inside the mountain to flash into steam.

Ah, finally, an essentially-correct – if extremely simplified – set of facts. Bravo.

Releasing 20 megatons of energy within six minutes, the northward-directed steam blast leveled 150 square miles (390 km²) of prime forest.

Sigh. 24 (Twenty-four) megatons, we knew that even in 1980, you have no damn excuse – and what happened to your 400, hmm? Also, no paper I’ve seen gives a 6 minute figure for the time that energy was expended, and I’ve read the paper that 24 megaton estimate came from several times. Additionally, it was 250 square miles (650 km²). And it wasn’t a “steam blast” – it was a pyroclastic density current full of burning-hot gasses, ash, rock, tree bits, and whatever else it picked up and hurled along the way.

Also, the avalanche violently disturbed the water of Spirit Lake, rolling a wave 860 feet (260m) high upon the lake’s northern shore.

Close enough to reality, I suppose.

This enormous wave stripped trees and soil from slopes and returned it to its basin with thousands of floating logs, forming a large floating log mat.

You sorta kinda forgot to mention that the debris avalanche had raised the lake bed by around 200 feet, but whatever.

The soil from the slopes caused mudflows in six major rivers, resulting in great destruction, and the upheaval formed sixteen new lakes in the area.

One clause in that sentence is all you got right. Were you trying to win the prize for the World’s Most Ignorant Sentence, ACE writer?

  1. The soil from the slopes did not cause the mudflows. Water from melting ice and snow, buried streams, and pre-existing lakes mixed with debris avalanche and pyroclastic deposits to form the mudflows.
  2. Six major rivers, eh? Name ‘em. Yeah, you padded that number, jumping a couple of forks and a small river up to “major” status. Really, at most, it was three “major” rivers: the Toutle, the Cowlitz, and the Columbia.
  3. 16 new lakes, eh? Name ‘em. There were two: Coldwater and Castle. The rest of what you’re counting are probably ponds.

I know you’re allergic to real science, but honestly, it wouldn’t kill you to look at the USGS page, would it?

In addition, increased water erosion disfigured enormous pumice and landslide deposits.

After the eruption, yes. And don’t think I don’t see what you’re doing there. You’re trying to claim Mount St. Helens proves the Flood or whatever bullshit it is. It won’t work. Dramatic as Mount St. Helens seemed, it was a tiny blip in the vast sweep of geologic history. It’s a mere bit of dust the planet brushes off, an instant’s incident, barely of note.

All that, and we’re only a few paragraphs in. Sigh. We haven’t even gotten to how Racer is like a volcano, and their extraordinary inability to understand any volcano ever. I shall leave you breathless with anticipation…

Image is a kitten emerging from the top of a conical lampshade. Caption says "Oh noes! Volcano cat is erupting!!1"

 

Comments

  1. stever says

    Something about that ACE prose looked familiar. It looks a lot like mainstream accounts of events that require more than a child’s understanding of physical reality. Sometimes I think there is a secret style manual with things like:

    o Always call radioactive material “radiation.”

    o Use units of energy interchangeably with units of power, preferably in one sentence.

    o Always call silicon silicone.

    o When the expert you’re interviewing says something that you’re totally clueless about, don’t admit it. Just
    grab a phrase out of context and put it in scare quotes.

  2. rq says

    squeezing the magma chamber

    A pimple, is what comes to mind. Sounds like something god would do, spend time squeezing pimples… Ew.

    Also, their whole basis for ‘fast evolution’ or whatever it is the Grand Canyon supposedly did after the flood is bogus. Because, you see, there’s no giant canyon forming at the base of Mt St Helens, even with all those mudslides and fast-overflowing major rivers and whathaveyous. As far as I can tell, a few things got shifted out of place, but nothing to change the topography in an unrecognizable manner.
    Ah, but I forget – the flood was caused by gawd, therefore umpteen-and-a-half times more powerful than a mere volcano and thus capable of creating a vast canyon in about oooh, all the time it took to drain out 40 days’ worth of water. You know, about as fast as your standard full bathtub.
    Or something.

    *goes back to the wine*

  3. busterggi says

    Hey, I’m just surprised they didn’t use the volcano as ‘evidence’ for Hell being at he center of the planet – although that’s probably the unwritten understanding among believers.