That’s rather blatant

I guess I’d always thought Wingnut Daily would at least put up a pretense of rationality (it’s a paper-thin pretense, obviously, draped over a great massive lump of lunacy), but no—they’ve just published a hoary old heap of old-school creationist apologetics. It’s all about Barry Setterfield’s long-disproven claim that the speed of light has been detectably decreasing in recent history. This is completely bogus: here’s a short refutation, or you can go for the longer dismantlement. This stuff is over 25 years old, and it’s pure garbage…but that’s no obstacle to being eternally perpetuated in the great Church of Scientific Ignorance.


  1. Russell says

    Say… what? I’m sorry, PZ, but that’s just silly. The Wingnut Daily never made more pretense at rationality than sloths make a pretense of being energetic, or rattlesnakes a pretense of docility.

  2. Wilfred says

    Another comment could be that in the context of general relativity, you just performed a time-dependant coordinate-transformation, which gives you nothing. :-)

  3. says

    I’d always thought Wingnut Daily would at least put up a pretense of rationality

    When it comes to science (and many other areas at well) clueless is the best that can be said of wingnut.

  4. cserpent says


    …than sloths make a pretense of being energetic, or rattlesnakes a pretense of docility.

    Not that I’m taking this too seriously ;) but… many rattlesnake species ARE quite docile. Being ambush predators, they tend to sit quite still, even when disturbed. There are “twitchy” individuals in every population and populations that are more easily agitated than others, but as animals go, a sloth and a rattlesnake are remarkably similar in docility. A better example would be a northern water snake making a pretense of docility, or Dick Cheney making a pretense of kindness and generosity.

  5. says

    The matter cannot be considered settled until we hear what WND’s science correspondent, Pat Boone, has to say.

  6. MAJeff says

    I’m not waiting for Pat Boone, I’m waiting for Chuck Norris. After all, Chuck can make the speed of light decrease.

  7. RamblinDude says

    What a creepy, creepy world these people live in. Their first priority is to inundate the brains of the Jesus zombies with a deluge of information that they know will simply be accepted without investigation. They will say anything as long as it keeps the Faithful confused. And if they can’t use discarded theories and disproved observations, they’ll just make shit up.

    One of the most perverse ironies I know of is listening to the Faithful chant ‘God is truth’ and ‘the truth shall set you free’.

  8. divalent says

    “Wingnut Daily … just published …”

    The piece is dated july 2004. Did they republish it today? WND *is* wingnut, and it is a piece of gullible crap, but it seems a bit unfair for us to make a stink about it now, unless they are the ones that pulled it out of their garbage can for re-viewing.

  9. Kseniya says

    Chris Bennett manages an environmental engineering division for a West Coast technology firm.

  10. says

    …the speed of light has been detectably decreasing in recent history.

    Whew, I thought it was just me. Now, time for a nap…wake me up when Pat Boone issues a ruling.

  11. Carlie says

    Wow. I read that speed of light stuff when I was about 15, and realized then that it made no sense even though I was a fundamentalist. Sad.

  12. Sideways says

    People like Setterfield don’t care about making meaningful contributions to physics, astronomy, or any other field of science. As far as they’re concerned they have all the answers written down in the Bible anyway. The point of “research” like this is to assure credulous Christians that Creationists are doing things with Supercomputers and Experiments and other long, scientific-sounding words they don’t understand.

    Being refuted by the scientific community actually helps their cause. Imagine the credibility that moon-landing deniers would gain if NASA issued a detailed response to every incoherent, poorly-mimeographed flyer they handed out at a public gathering.

  13. Janine says

    Divalent, alright, PZ was wrong in saying that this was just published. But that does not take away from his criticism. Also, it would seem that the article is part of the permanent collection for any one to use. In other words, the argument has not been retracted. So I say far game. So a stupid statement is three days or three years old. Point it out and discredit these people.

  14. Sophist, FCD says

    Even with all that time, it’s still hard to imagine how complex biochemicals such as hemoglobin or chlorophyll self assembled in the primordial goo.

    When an article starts out this ignorant, is there really any point in reading the rest?

  15. Roger Scott says

    Geologist Ian Plimer noted that with a much greater speed of light at the time of Adam and Eve, and with E=mc2 in mind, their acts of procreation would have been very energetic indeed. As Plimer noted, this was the origin of the expression “did the earth move for you to darling?”.
    On a more serious note, creationists who once called themselves ‘scientific creationists’ spent years trying to deny the validity of the various radiometric methods e.g. K-Ar, C-14 as being unsound in principle – don’t know the decay rates, leaching of material in and out does this and that. With this speed of light argument (which I KNOW Snelling was very interested in many years ago)all their objections disappear. The methods are inherently kosher, just calibrated wrongly.

  16. says

    It was published 3 years ago? That’s about 2 orders of magnitude ahead of most of their stuff.

    He might be right, though. That could explain all those alien visitations without requiring that they travel for millions of years–the universe really isn’t as big as those silly scientists say it is.

  17. Skeptic8 says

    You have got it all wrong.
    Setterfield doesn’t actually believe these imaginative creations. He’s in the “Entertainment Business” and they pay him so much a word for these “peer reviewed” theses. The Agency gets the MS and tiers of “readers” sift thru the “slush pile” and grade the works with a “truthiness” quotient. They guess the falsification levels: “HS grad” or “College” or “MS” and finally “PhD”. Accordingly, they submit them to the rags they have under contract for material. Satterfield has probably graduated from the “cents per word” level to a bid process. It doesn’t really matter if he is a liar so long as his thesis isn’t laughed off the stage on the first go-around when they issue “press releases”. The outlets for the drivel go into a syndicated release of the stuff after Agency rubberstamps the Peer Reviewed on it.

  18. woozy says

    The theory of evolution requires unfathomable lengths of time – eons … billions and billions of years.

    Even with all that time, it’s still hard to imagine how complex biochemicals such as hemoglobin or chlorophyll self assembled in the primordial goo. But to those of us who question the process, the answer is always the same. Time. More time than you can grasp – timespans so vast that anything is possible, even chance combinations of random chemicals to form the stunning complexities of reproducing life.

    … and what is wrong with giving the same answer “Time” every time, when all evidence seems to point to there being that much time.

    If creationists have difficulty “fathoming” vast lengths of time, why don’t they have any issue fathoming the vast distances of space. I mean the universe is BIG; really, really, BIG. You might think it’s a long way to go across town to the chemist’s but that’s just peanuts compared to how unfathomably big the universe is.

    Anyway, if the speed of light isn’t constant, then wouldn’t the imply it isn’t universal? (How could it slow down everywhere simultaneously?)

  19. Karl says

    I’m not a physicist, never thought about this before.
    Consider this: is it possible that the light that we see from a VERY distant star has taken longer to get to us than it would if the speed of light were constant. Since gravity bends light, doesn’t that mean that it imposes some sort of drag on it? So light from a distant star would be slowed each time it passed through a gravity system. And across vast space it – light – might pass through many such sytems, thereby slowing it down measurably. That would mean that far away stars are actually farther away than they appear and the “Universe” is bigger than we think.
    Please explain.

  20. Karl says

    And further: that means that light arriving from a distant star is traveling slower than light from the sun!?
    Please refute – or give me a reference that discusses this.

  21. Sili says

    “Early in 1979, an Australian undergraduate student named Barry Setterfield, thought it would be interesting to chart all of the measurements of the speed of light since a Dutch astronomer named Olaf Roemer first measured light speed in the late 17th century. Setterfield acquired data on over 163 measurements using 16 different methods over 300 years.”(my emphasis)

    As a Dane, I’d normally be offended by this. But it’s sorta of a badge of honour that these people can’t even get that right.

  22. Anton Mates says

    You’re quite right that there’s a time delay; however, it’s not from drag, at least if general relativity is correct. The locally measured speed of light in a vacuum is always a constant, no matter where that light came from or what it encountered on the way.

    The time delay actually stems from the distortion of the light’s path as it passes through a gravitational field. That effect can be split up in a spatial distortion, so that it has to travel a longer path than it would otherwise; and a temporal distortion, so that it appears to move more slowly along that path to distant observers.

    That delay doesn’t add a significant amount to the age/size of the universe, though; for instance, quasar Q0957+561’s about 9 billion light-years away, a significant fraction of the radius of the observable universe, but the time delay due to its lensing by an intervening galaxy is only 1.1 years.


    The rest are Wiki, I’m afraid:

  23. Karl says

    to Anton – in case he checks back:
    Thank you. I don’t understand a lot of it, but still very interesting.