Bags of Bran

Apologia #5 (!)
April 1, 2012, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Apologioi
Curt Ames
Mar 5

to me
You forget about radiometric dating- many, many forms exist and all corroborate each other! And finding the baseline reading isn’t impossible as the authors of the ‘Sacred Cow’ book I used to read so much repeated over and over- in the case of uranium-lead dating, you find rocks without uranium. The ratio of isotopes in all the meteorites is the same, and lead-204 is not the product of radioactive decay. So if you know the amount of lead-204, you can calculate the amount of ‘primordial’ lead present when the rock was formed. The remainder is then decayed uranium. Taking the known rate of decay into consideration gives you the age of the rock.

Granted, some methods are more useful for some things than others- so, for example, carbon-14 dating is pretty much useless for things older than a few thousand years, which is why it isn’t used for such .It’s used to discover when organic (as in once-living, not simply carbon-containing) material stopped living. Potassium-argon dating is used to find out when rock flows cooled and stopped gaseous diffusion.
There are over a dozen means of radiometric dating, all of which line up- without the kind of massaging of numbers that the ‘Sacred Cow’ book claimed was happening. Their much-repeated line of reasoning amounted to little more than an elaborate conspiracy theory!
Also worth noting is that dendrochronology also backs up various forms of radiometric dating including c-14. It’s also been used (via a species I’m sure you’re familiar with, the bristlecone pine) to show that, though the oldest specimens are around 4,800 years, their siblings go back much further- and the samples line up with incredible precision, much the same as the visual representations of DNA or spectrograph element readings.  And it’s not a matter of a few samples being chosen for their ability to line up- thousands of samples needed to be checked in order for any kind of certainty to be assured.
A lot of scientists would raise an eyebrow at the idea that they are ‘looking’ for evolution. Again, that would be the opposite of the scientific method- starting with a conclusion and finding evidence to support it. A great deal of effort is put into eliminating any possible biases in order to examine the data from a neutral standpoint. Granted, one is not often aware of one’s own biases, but the peer-review method is great at pointing out flaws of that nature.  The scientific community basically gathers like vultures on any new studies and data- you know how Star Trek nerds like to cut each other down when they confuse Episode 10 with Episode 15? Imagine more intelligent people, doing that about stuff that matters.  That’s how the recent ‘Neutrinos faster than light’ thing got shut down- an assumption was spotted by an astute colleague and it was discovered that the methods used to gather the data were askew.
The amount of fame alone would be a fine incentive for anyone who could find evidence of a young earth- and as I said, there are large monetary awards for anyone who would do so.  The problem is that the science just doesn’t bear it out- many people claim to have been blacklisted, to have had their ideas rejected out of hand, but the simple truth is that their methods didn’t meet the standards of the scientific community. It’s not that the ideas were too radical, or that the reviewers just didn’t like them (as regrettably actually happened with the guy who thought that just maybe washing your hands between dissecting corpses and delivering babies would save lives- “why wash your hands? They just get dirty again!”). String theory is more ‘radical’ than roller skating to a Men With Hats show in a denim jacket while wearing sweatbands and socks that cover vastly more leg than your shorts and holding an enormous boom box up to one ear, yet it made it through the review process because it is sound- no one could come up with a single way to disprove it.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, that if the evidence pointed to a young earth, then science would follow it there.  It does no good to claim bias on the part of the scientific community, the majority of whom would love to confirm their faith through scientific discovery and would most likely challenge anyone to find where their assumptions, if any, lay.  As far as I know, the most that is assumed by science is that what we perceive as our physical reality is actually such and not some dream or what-have you that you’re likely to find being bandied about by coffee shop, armchair philosophers who are waiting for their narc-anon meeting to start. (Sorry, but I think the whole ‘the world is an illusion, maaan’ line of reasoning is tantamount to philosophical self-pleasuring and about as useful as a hole in the head.)  I’ve spoken personally with several people who went into fields like geology, paleontology, genetics/ biology, looking to find evidence to support their biblical viewpoint, and in the end wound up having to admit that, once you’ve spent the time learning the science, the whole “billions of years” thing is about as watertight as it gets- and not at all inconsistent with their faith, might I add, which I found to be kind of admirable.
With love and fond regards,
Christopher Ames
Mar 5

to Curt
 Oh, brother! J

 First off, I have a bias, nay, a presupposition. I admit it. Anyone who lays claim to any unifying theory of anything has presuppositions. I am sitting on a chair largely made of empty space with tiny little chunks of something whizzing around my hinder parts at breakneck speed. But the special relationships amongst those chunks, which I have never seen and are therefore a matter of faith to me, keep my bum safe from chunks and off the floor. Do I need this proved to me empirically before I sit down? Well, that’s a bigger question, but no: I don’t need a good model for molecular interaction to sit on my chair, I just do it. Call it a shortcut.

Is God my shortcut? Yes. I refer my observations to what I know of Him. He holds my chair together by decrees He has made concerning nature. It is His orderliness reflected in the unfathomable complexities found in the physical world.

Within the theistic worldview, the presence of isotopes today need not be traced to a remote beginning. Even if decay rates are/were/will be stable, it is just as plausible that God could have created rocks somewhere along the decay process. What if God, uninterested in impressing folks who wished to ignore Him, simply, for reasons known mostly to himself, put thus-and-so-much potassium and thus-and-so-much argon in the same thing, and set up a system whereby the one would slowly decay and form the other? Would it not be His prerogative to do so?

I say yes, He can do whatever He wishes, and I trust His character, that He will do right, though not necessarily according to a standard I would wish to impose upon Him. I say yes, not because I do not know the science (I don’t know the science) or because it is uninteresting to me (it is interesting to me) but because the data themselves may or may not point in one direction or another. It would be an awfully strange thing if the relationship between potassium and argon did point in that direction, given the opposite direction that almost everything else in the world points. So I will interpret it according to my framework, and say “Huh. I’ll have to think about that one.”

It would make for a difficult debate if your interlocutor put up a fence like that, wouldn’t it?

A lot of scientists would very well raise an eyebrow at my assertion that they come to their work with presuppositions and expectations. Yet dominant paradigms have a way of normalizing expectations, don’t they?

Naturalism simply is an assumption through which the scientific community looks at the facts. It is the dominant paradigm. It is the thing that need not be proved in order for the experiment to go forth. It is beyond the level of a bias, it is a presupposition. It’s the air we breathe! Believe me, I still find myself thinking that way sometimes.ThrumThrumThrum goes the music, tap, tap, tap goes my foot.

What happens when you try to introduce a competing paradigm? Ask Galileo and Copernicus first, then ask a guy named Michael Behe. You could probably e-mail him yourself: I don’t think he’d mind.

I propose that you might read Behe, and then read about him, and see if your impression of his work is the same as the impression of his work you get from reading about his work in reviews from the scientific community. Yes, he’s one of your “rejected out of hand” guys, but the problem was not his methods, it was his interpretation of the outcome.

But you are right about the assumption of the scientific community: they believe that their observations of fact amount to fact. They need a framework in which to assemble those facts, however, or they forfeit rationality. The framework is the thing which need not be proved.

Thanks for making me think. You’ve probably rightly guessed that I am trying to show you that you are as religious as I am.



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