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Creation’s Cretins

February 16, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Some ideas are so ridiculous that they deserve no serious consideration at all. That’s one of the reasons that many people refuse to debate with creationists. But recently Bill Nye “the Science Guy” rather foolishly agreed to debate Ken Ham, a prominent creationist, and this has stirred up a lot of discussion in various forums.

It should be an easy victory, right? Because Nye has all the facts on his side, and Ham has nothing. But no, it wasn’t really that simple. Like most of these debates, there was no obvious victor because Nye was debating the facts and Ham was countering with creationist lies and propaganda.

Anyway that’s enough of the preamble. What I want to do in this blog entry is show how anyone can prove to themselves, beyond reasonable doubt, that creationism isn’t true. By “creationism” I mean the belief that the world is about 6000 years old; that the universe, Earth, and life were created as described in Genesis; and that the Flood was a real event. There are other forms of creationism (old Earth, for example) and there are other beliefs included in that view, but I’ll stick to these most important ones.

Creationists say the Universe is just (roughly) 6000 years old because that’s what the Bible seems to show, without explicitly stating it. OK, so is that true? Science says the Universe is about 13.8 billion years old, the Earth about 4.5 billion, and life and 3.6 billion. That’s a big difference, a factor of 2 million times greater (like saying I’m 10 minutes old instead of 50 years). Surely it should be easy to find which of those ages is correct. Well yes, it is.

What evidence do creationists have? The Bible. That’s it. And even then it is just one particular interpretation of the Bible because most Christians accept the Universe is much older. Apart from that creationists occasionally quote errors or inaccuracies in scientific dating techniques, some of which are real but have no effect on the overall findings.

What evidence does science have? Well there are so many independent sources that I can’t possibly list them all. An old Universe (and Earth) is required by the discoveries of astronomy, cosmology, chemistry, geology, physics, evolution, and virtually any other science you can think of.

The important thing is that all of these outcomes are independent. An error in one would not lead to the same error in another because they rely on completely different assumptions and methodologies. Yet the results match to a high degree of precision. So what’s more likely: that every branch of science has got the basics wrong and got them wrong in exactly the right way to give the same wrong results as each other, or that something written in an old book is wrong?

But that’s all just philosophical musings. Now I want to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Universe is billions of years old. If you don’t trust science you can buy an amateur telescope and do all this yourself (it also requires a bit of maths), so you don’t even need to rely on those sneaky scientists with their an atheistic worldview and global conspiracy against God!

First, figure out the dimensions of the Solar System. This can be done by estimating the size of the Earth (something done by Eratosthenes about 2200 years ago) and then doing some timing at a transit of Venus or Mercury (unfortunately you just missed those but the calculation was done by Lalande in 1771). If you do that you can figure out the speed of light using timings of Jupiter’s satellites (originally done in 1676, by Danish astronomer, Romer).

Now figure out the distance to some close stars. This is difficult but was first done (by Friedrich Bessel in 1838) using relatively basic telescopes with the trigonometric parallax technique (which uses the size of the Solar System you calculated above). Now you can create some rules for estimating the real brightness of different stars by using closer stars (parallax is only practical for close stars) and using the apparent brightness and the distance.

Now observe some examples of particular stars, called Cepheid variables, which change brightness based on their mass (calibrate your measurements using the estimates above). You will find these bright stars can be used to calculate distances, even to other galaxies. You will find that some stars are visible at distances of millions of trillions of kilometers.

Now remember you calculated the speed of light earlier? Use that to calculate how long the light from those stars has been travelling through space. You will find it easy to prove that light has been travelling for tens of thousand, hundreds of thousands, or millions of years, even based on relatively “close” stars. But that’s far longer than the universe has existed according to creationists.

There are three possible excuses creationists might use here…

First, the speed of light was faster in the past. Unfortunately you will need to study some physics to understand why this can’t be the case to any significant extent because the speed of light is so fundamental to the universe it would be very obvious if it used to be faster by so many orders of magnitude.

The second possibility is that the stars were created a few thousand years ago (as creationist think) but the light they produce was created already travelling. Even the majority of creationists reject this possibility because God isn’t supposed to be deceptive. There would also be interesting effects on gravitational lenses and light echoes, which we don’t see.

The final possibility is that there is some special and poorly understood aspect of relativity or maybe quantum theory which causes some sort of unusual non-linear effect making the stars seem older. This approach has been attempted in the past but it just doesn’t work and no one takes that possibility seriously.

Of course, (going back to explanation 2) God could have made thousands of different phenomena just 100% right to deceive us into thinking that the universe is old when it isn’t, but if that’s the way he works how can we believe anything, including what creationists think he wrote in the Bible?

So really young Earth creationism is very easy to disprove. The method I described above is just one of many I could have used. If people want to believe in the myth of Christianity that is fine but they shouldn’t mention in public discussions that they are creationists because that really just makes them look like one of creation’s cretins!

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