Archive for September, 2007

Discover Magazine has an interesting article in the July 2007 issue: Science and Islam in Conflict. It begins:

“There is no conflict between Islam and science,” Zaghloul El-Naggar declares … What people call the scientific method, he explains, is really the Islamic method: “All the wealth of knowledge in the world has actually emanated from Muslim civilization.

Yes, please stifle your laughter. This is a common refrain among Muslims trying to promote and proselytize. I’m sometimes amazed by the tripe put out by Muslims to advance this fiction. I’ve seen plenty of YouTube videos claiming the Koran teaches modern scientific principles – and therefore, the Koran is proven true. It’s sometimes put into the context of “Who made the universe?” (God.) “Who do you go to if you want to know how something works?” (The person who built it.) See, all that work you do to “discover” things is in vain. Muslims can just look in the Koran.

And who is accountable for the decline [of Islamic science]? El-Naggar has no doubts. “We are not behind because of Islam,” he says. “We are behind because of what the Americans and the British have done to us.” The evil West is a common refrain with El-Naggar

Because the Muslim world was a bastion of science until 1918, when the British gained control of lands formerly controlled by the Ottoman Empire? Of course not. Islamic science was crippled centuries and centuries before that. A brief Neil Tyson video on the fall of Islamic science, beginning around 1200 AD:

But, Muslims constantly try to say that the Koran is verified by the “fact” that it teaches scientific principles, or the reverse – that science proves the Koran to be divine. And they end up producing stupid videos like this, this, and this.

In Treasures of the Sunnah, El-Naggar quotes scripture: “and each of them (i.e., the moon and the sun) floats along in (its own) orbit.” “The Messenger of Allah,” El-Naggar writes, “talked about all these cosmic facts in such accurate scientific style at a period of time when people thought that Earth was flat and stationary. This is definitely one of the signs, which testifies to the truthfulness of the message of Muhammad.”

Uh, wha? The Koran says the Sun travels in an orbit, and this proves the Koran anticipated the theory of solar-centrism? Sounds like geo-centrism to me. In other words, Muhammad is simply parroting the beliefs of his day – and getting his facts wrong, despite the fact that the message “came from God”.

Elsewhere, he notes the Prophet’s references to “the seven earths”; El-Naggar claims that geologists say that Earth’s crust consists of seven zones. In another passage, the Prophet said that there were 360 joints in the body, and other Islamic researchers claim that medical science backs up the figure. Such knowledge, the thinking goes, could only have been given by God.

Critics are quick to point out that Islamic scientists tend to use each other as sources, creating an illusion that the work has been validated by research. The existence of 360 joints, in fact, is not accepted in medical communities; rather, the number varies from person to person, with an average of 307. These days most geologists divide Earth’s crust into 15 major zones, or tectonic plates.

This reminds me a lot of Christian creationists. Like I said, this myth that the Koran teaches modern scientific principles (and it is validated by science) seems to be a pervasive myth among Muslims. I feel bad for the poor convert who gets sucked in by this misinformation because he failed to actually verify these empty claims.

As if we needed another testament to their intellectual flexibility:

El-Naggar even sees moral meaning in the earthquake that triggered the 2005 tsunami and washed away nearly a quarter of a million lives. Plate tectonics and global warming be damned: God had expressed his wrath over the sins of the West. Why, then, had God punished Southeast Asia rather than Los Angeles or the coast of Florida? His answer: Because the lands that were hit had tolerated the immoral behavior of tourists.

On the backwardness of Islamic science (due, of course to the British and Americans):

The Napoleonic occupation from 1798 to 1801 brought French scientists to Egypt. The arrival of the Europeans alerted Egyptians to how far behind they’d fallen; that shock set in motion a long intellectual awakening. During the 150 years that followed, institutions for higher learning in Cairo gave the city an international reputation for prestigious institutions, and the exchange of scholars went in both directions, with Egyptians going west and Americans and Europeans coming here.

Then came the 1952 coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser that toppled King Farouk I. Nasser was the first modern leader to position himself as a spokesman for the whole Arab world. His brand of nationalism was meant to unify all Arab people, not just Egyptians, and it set them in opposition to America and Europe. “After Nasser, Arab nationalism raised suspicions about the West,” Soltan says.

What about, say, evolutionary biology or Darwinism? I ask. (Evolution is taught in Egyptian schools, although it is banned in Saudi Arabia and Sudan.) “If you are asking if Adam came from a monkey, no,” Badawy responds. “Man did not come from a monkey. If I am religious, if I agree with Islam, then I have to respect all of the ideas of Islam. And one of these ideas is the creation of the human from Adam and Eve. If I am a scientist, I have to believe that.”

But from the point of view of a scientist, is it not just a story? I ask. He tells me that if I were writing an article saying that Adam and Eve is a big lie, it will not be accepted until I can prove it.

“Nobody can just write what he thinks without proof. But we have real proof that the story of Adam as the first man is true.”

“What proof?”

He looks at me with disbelief: “It’s written in the Koran.”

It sounds like some of the Muslim commentary in the article is just a mixture of bad philosophy and theology (God made the universe and wrote the Koran, therefore science and the Koran cannot conflict) and constant scapegoating of the West for their problems.

[Prince El Hassan bin Talal] is also candid, calling suicide bombers “social rejects” and questioning the validity of those who would take the Muslim world back to the times of the Prophet Muhammad. “Are we talking Islam or Islamism?” he asks, pointing out the difference between the religion and those extremists who use the religion to advance their own agendas. “The danger [posed by Islamists] is not only to Christians but also to Islam itself. The real problem is not the Arab-Israel issue but the rise of Islamism.”

It seems that the Islamic world is caught in a cycle of poor education and religious extremism. Education has a way of blunting religious beliefs (and the dogmatic, backwards ones in particular). You can see it even within subcultures in the US: blacks have the highest degrees of religiosity and lowest education, whites have moderate levels of religiosity and decent levels of education, and Jews have the lowest degrees of religiosity and highest education. Similarly, the “Bible Belt” in the US coincides with the nation’s lowest high school graduation rates. Being exposed to reality and thinking tends to break the small worldview of religion. I also can’t help but wonder if the Muslim world is caught in another cycle: the fact that they are behind the West in science leads them (for reasons of ego) to downplay the usefulness of science and in favor of religion (well, the West might have science, but they are morally decadent and don’t have “God’s Word”. On the other hand, we [Muslims] please God and we’ll be the ones in heaven, not them – and in the end, that’s all that matters). Heck, you could even quote Jesus in favor of that point: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”

Update (Oct 2, 2007): Physics Today has an article written by a Pakistani Physicist about the state of Islamic Science.

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BoingBoing has an interesting post about a man (A. J. Jacobs) who tries to live by all the Biblical laws – all 700 of them. This includes no work on Sunday, leaving side hair uncut, dwelling in huts on certain holidays, strict dietary routines.

The religious practice of following rules and making sacrifices is something that I’ve thought about in the past in terms of how it affects people psychologically. Regarding the rules, Jacobs says, “It really structures your life. After my year I felt unmoored, overwhelmed by choice. I have adjusted, but I’m still overwhelmed by choice, as we all are in America.” I can’t help but wonder if following all these rules helps reinforce religious belief because they get to a point where they can’t live without the rules – which makes them cling to their religion. Perhaps it’s a bit like the African women who wear rings around their necks to stretch them because it is considered beautiful in their culture. With their heads supported by these rings, their necks become elongated, and their neck muscles atrophy. Eventually, they get to a place where they can no longer live without these metal rings. Their necks have been overstretched and their muscles atrophied, and now they depend on the rings. I can’t help but wonder if legalistic rules of religion are the same way – people get used to not thinking for themselves for so long that they can’t deal with the outside world and its choices without the crutch of religion.

Another way rules and sacrifice could reinforce religious belief is because people don’t want to admit their sacrifice was in vain. A common psychological phenomena noticed in economics is the tendency of people to “throw good money at bad”. For example, let’s say that a city wants to build a stadium. They decide that they are willing to spend $25 million dollars to do it. Later, they get $10 million into the project, and realize their new stadium is going to cost $50 million (on top of the already invested $10 million). If they had been told the cost was $50 million originally, the would’ve scrapped the project. But, now that they’ve already committed $10 million, they can’t bear to cancel the project. So, they continue. This is called “throwing good money after bad”. When religious people sacrifice for their religion, it might have the same effect. They spent a lot of effort doing something for their religion, and later they can’t bear the thought of “wasting” that effort, so they try to quell any doubts they have about the validity of their religion. I think about this whenever the Mormon church asks Mormon children to spend two years preaching “the gospel”. Anyone who has ever spent two years trying to preach Mormonism to “the unsaved” will have a harder time leaving the church because they’ve become invested in it.

By the way, the BoingBoing link (at the beginning of this post) links to Kevin Kelly’s website. He was one of the executive editors of Wired magazine and a strong Christian. This American Life had an interview with him years ago, and he describes his Christian conversion in pretty much the way I described in “The Religious Lobotomy” post months ago.

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I was talking to a Muslim recently, and she tried to dispute evolution with Harun Yahya’s material. Wow. I’m beginning to think of Harun Yahya as the Iraqi Information Minister of Creationism.

A few quotes from the links she provided:

Poll results in France show that 92% of people do not believe in evolution

After the big impact of the distribution of the 1st volume of “Atlas of Creation” in France, the French science website Science Actualités, made an interview with Patrick Tort of Charles Darwin International Institute and put a poll about evolution on line.

The results of the poll showed that Darwinism has come to an end also in France. 92% of people believe that “Humans are not the fruit of an evolution”

%5 of people believe that “the humans and the apes have common ancestors” and only 1% of people believe that “the humans descended from apes”. (Link)

Here’s the Science Actualites webpage in French, and a translated version of the same page here.

The first problem is that this poll was an online poll – which means it’s very easy to spike the poll by sending lots of people there, or create scripts that skew the results (a little fooling around showed that closing your brower and re-opening it allows you to vote again – showing that the poll is obviously vulnerable to scripts). In contrast, the evolution poll results done by Science magazine, have 80% of the French saying that evolution is true, and only 12-13% saying it is false. Some of this discrepancy is due to the questions themselves (some people who would say that evolution is true suddenly get nervous when they are asked whether humans are the result of evolution). I think it’s obvious the majority of the discrepancy is because the online poll is non-representative of French views. Even further, it’s pretty funny that Harun Yahya is attempting to credit it’s “Atlas of Creation” for these imaginary poll results. (It’s so powerful, it converted France’s 12-13% into 92% within a few months!) “Darwinism has come to an end also in France” says Harun Yahya. Sure, it has. And, “Atlas of Creation” gets all the credit. Baghdad Bob says: “There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!”

Update: According to this link, when the poll had 4274 votes, the poll said 64% of the French believed humans and apes had a common ancestor, and only 11% said humans are not a product of evolution. This is reasonably close to the Science poll. To switch dramatically to 5% and 92% with 72166 votes (as Harun Yahya’s image shows) would require that the next 67892 votes fell out this way: 1.3% (870 votes) “humans and apes had a common ancestor”, 97% (65,920 votes) “not a product of evolution”. That seems like a highly unlikely reversal of the poll. Additionally, that particular poll has far more votes cast than any other poll on the site. Sounds like someone’s tweaking the poll results – probably with a script. It’s rather funny that Harun Yahya would use an obviously manipulated poll to claim “Darwinism has come to an end also in France”. Take your victories where you can, I guess.

There are plenty of other ridiculous “news releases” on Harun Yahya’s website:
The Atlas of Creation and Fossil Exhibitions Cause Panic in France and Turkey:

The fossil exhibitions that are continuing at full speed all over Turkey seem to be causing intense alarm and panic among certain media circles. Unable to offer any evidence to the contrary and in a state of panic in the face of these developments, these circles are resorting instead to prohibition and obstruction. Issuing reports aimed at halting the fossil exhibitions and banning the Atlas of Creation cannot stop the collapse of Darwinism, however.

Yet not one single intermediate form has been discovered to date, and neither is it possible that any will be found in the future. Indeed, all our calls to evolutionists for them to put any intermediate forms they may have in their possession on show have gone unanswered, and Darwinists have retreated into silence in the face of the fossil findings that prove the fact of Creation.

Sure, there are no transitional fossils. And still more non-existent transitionals. And Baghdad Bob says, “Their casualties and bodies are many.”

The Harun Yahya press release: The Impact Abroad of the “Atlas of Creation”, has all kinds of information about the power of the Atlas of Creation, with little clips from the media:

The 24 June, 2007, edition of The Washington Times carried a report about the Fact of Creation, which is growing increasingly powerful in European countries. The report quoted Hervé Le Guyader, a biologist from Paris University, who called the challenge from Islamic thinkers “much more dangerous than the previous creationist initiatives, which were often of Anglo-Saxon origin.”

Wow. That must make Muslims feel good – those pesky Anglo-Saxon creationists are nothing compared to the *power* of Turkish creationists. They’re like some kind of Muslim Rambo – crushing the Western evolutionists with one hand, far more powerful than those wimpy Christian creationists! Harun Yahya and those Islamic thinkers are truly an intellectual force to be reckon with. The West has no defense! We must submit to their intellectual superiority, and submit to Allah…. Wait, a minute. This all sounds like some big, collective Middle-Eastern fantasy. Isn’t the Washington Times owned by the Moonies? And isn’t the God-incarnate of that church (Sun Myung Moon) the one who told Jonathan Wells to get a PhD so he could “devote [his] life to destroying Darwinism”? Hmmm, could The Washington Times article be leaving something out? Maybe? Oh, (thanks google!) here’s more on what Hervé Le Guyader thinks:

French biologist Hervé Le Guyader, professor at the University of Paris VI, carried out a preliminary analysis of the [Atlas of Creation] for the education minister, reported Le Monde (February 3, 2007). Le Guyader called the book “much more dangerous than previous creationist initiatives,” noting that the book’s lavish production “could convince someone who didn’t know any biology.” But, he added, its scientific content was “appallingly poor.” (Link)

Curse you creationists! You almost had me fooled. The power of your quote mine was almost too much!

As ridiculous and disconnected-from-reality as these Harun Yahya claims are, the group is still an important force in the creationism debate because they’ve got money, churn out propaganda at an amazing rate, and have a large pool of scientifically ignorant people to target. I’m sure they’ll be around a long time since no creationist has ever died from embarrassment (despite their valiant efforts). Harun Yahya has been doing lots and lots of propaganda work all over the internet. YouTube, for example, has 2,010 results for “Harun Yahya”. Many of those are critical of Harun Yahya, but plenty of them are material put out by the group. That’s even more hits than you get by searching for Kent Hovind on YouTube (1,510).

Update: Since I keep getting creationist readers reading this article and commenting that there is no evidence for evolution, I should direct you to my Creationism|Evolution page, where I’m continually adding information supporting evolution.

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Hindus and the monkey army

Here’s a phrase I wouldn’t have ever expected to hear in my lifetime: “Hindu hardliners say the project will destroy what they say is a bridge built by Ram and his army of monkeys.” An army of monkeys? I’m always a bit surprised by the kinds of things Hindus believe. Anyway, that was a phrase I heard on the news tonight – part of a news report that mentioned protests and several deaths over a project in India that would destroy “Adam’s Bridge”. I couldn’t help but think these stories mirrored the “Paul Bunyan” explanations of American geography. I also can’t figure out why Ram would build a 30 mile bridge over water instead of just building a boat.

BBC: Report on Hindu god Ram withdrawn
TimesOnline: Can the monkey god save Rama’s underwater bridge? (Be sure to check out the comments on this link. They remind me a lot of something a fundamentalist Christian would say.)

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[Via BadAstronomy.] Hooray! More and more intelligent people are questioning the intellectual know-it-alls who call themselves scientists. Here’s a clip of one more person who should be praised for her courage. We need to teach our children to be more like her — willing to question authority and their fascist desire to make us all think like them. Sherri Shepherd – what an appropriate last name for someone who will lead us to the promised land!

My only concern is that Sherri isn’t stating the flat earth more forcefully, like as Sheik Abdel-Aziz Ibn Baaz: “The earth is flat, and anyone who disputes this claim is an atheist who deserves to be punished.” [Muslim religious edict, 1993, Sheik Abdel-Aziz Ibn Baaz, Supreme religious authority, Saudi Arabia]


Sherri Sheperd resembles some other creationists that I know: a mixture of scientific ignorance and belief that the Bible is the literal truth (sometimes mixed with a disinterest in learning anything more about it). These are the most difficult people to reach. It reminds me of one time when I mentioned some evidence that supported evolution to a family member, and they simply replied, “That’s not what the Bible says”. End of discussion. As far as I can tell, they are in a nice, little comfortable spot where everything fits together neatly (all the Bible stories starting with Genesis 1 are literally true, everyone just needs to believe in Jesus), and their ignorance enables them to avoid experiencing cognitive dissonance.

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While looking up some quotes on the D. James Kennedy book, I stumbled on a Christian grad school’s webpage (for Education 543, which looks to be a graduate level course) containing teaching materials for children. The author used Kennedy’s book for some of his “facts”. I just couldn’t help but laugh at this claim:

scientists have computed that to provide a single protein molecule by chance combination would take 10^262 years. Take thins pieces of paper and write “1” and then zeros after them – you would fill up the entire known universe with paper before you could write that number.

Wow. An amazing new fact I could only learn from a creationist! 10^262 cannot even be written! But, thanks to the *real-ultimate power* of the internets, we can actually see what this number looks like! (Warning, don’t print this webpage on your printer – it will use all the paper in the universe and still won’t be done printing!)


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A number of years ago, I happened to notice a book on my parent’s bookshelf: Why I Believe, written in 1980 by D. James Kennedy (the televangelist who founded and then grew his Florida church into a megachurch and television program: “The Coral Ridge Hour”). Now, I was curious to see what he would say, but I’m left with one piece of advice for theists: you should more throughly checkout the basis for belief, because obviously, some of you have accepted a lot of flimsy evidence as support for your beliefs. No doubt, Kennedy thought he’d come in and put together a cognizant argument in defense of the Christian faith, driving fear and embarrassment into the hearts of the unbelievers. Instead, he made Christian beliefs look weak. What always amazes me, though, is how often poor Christian apologetic books get good ratings – on Amazon, 10 of the 18 reviewers gave it 5 stars, and one reviewer actually starts his review with “”Why I Believe” is a masterpiece of Christian apologetics.” (Christians: you look weak-minded when you give this book five stars).

One small chapter is titled: “Why I believe in Creation”, and is mostly composed quote mining, the unlikelihood of abiogenesis, the idea that Nazism was a natural outgrowth of evolutionary theory, Karl Marx asked Darwin to write the introduction to Das Kapital, the Cambrian explosion, etc. He begins the chapter:

We live in a time when there are only two religions competing for the minds, hearts and loyalties of intelligent Western man. The future of this world will be determined, humanly speaking, by intelligent Western man. One of those religions is Christianity; the other religion is evolution.

More idiotic “evolution is a religion” crap. Yup, it’s a “religion”, just like solar-centrism and atomic theory are religions. Apparently, if some people believe an idea, and he disagrees with it, but is incapable of actually convincing them otherwise, then it is “a religion”. How else to explain their unwillingness to “deconvert” from evolution?

Anyone who does not realize that evolution is a religion does not know much about evolution.

Funny, it seems like the people who know the least about evolution are the most willing to brand it a religion.

It is a religion that is passionately held to by its devotees.

There seems to be a hidden variable here that Kennedy seems blissfully unaware of: evidence. Scientific theories, like atomic theory, the theory of relativity, and the theory of evolution, have evidence to support them. If you are blissfully unaware of that evidence, you will perceive scientists as being irrationally devoted to their ideas.

Listen to what some well-known evolutionists, all highly placed scientists in the world, have to say. Professor Louis T. More, one of the most vocal evolutionists: “The more one studies paleontology [the fossil record], the more certain one becomes that evolution is based on faith alone.”

Professor Louis T More: a Physicist, dean at the University of Cincinnati, an advocate of Lamarkianism (and against Darwinian evolution) wrote this in 1925 – and there’s a lot of new information discovered since 1925. He was not liked by either the evolutionists or the creationists. My guess is that he was trying to tear down ideas of Darwinian evolution in an attempt to build up his own Lamarkian views. (Link)

Professor D.M.S. Watson, a famous evolutionist, made the remarkable observation that evolution itself is a theory universally accepted, “not because it has been observed to occur or can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the alternative – special creation – is clearly incredible” To the reprobate mind, the unregenerate mind, creation is incredible because it requires belief in a creator, and that is totally unacceptable to such men as these.

The date on that quote? 1929. A lot has been discovered since then. What Watson says, earlier in the same article: “Evolution itself is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or is supported by logically coherent arguments, but because it does fit all the facts of taxonomy, of paleontology, and geographical distribution, and because no alternative explanation is credible. Whilst the fact of evolution is accepted by every biologist, the mode in which it has occurred and the mechanism by which it has been brought about are still disputable…” (Link) In other words, he says (in 1929) that the idea of natural selection as the mechanism behind evolution was questionable, but calls evolution a “fact” because it fits the facts of “taxonomy, of paleontology, and geographical distribution”.

A famous British evolutionist, Sir Arthur Keith, is just as frank in his admission. He says, “Evolution is unproved and unprovable. We believe it because the only alternative is special creation which is unthinkable.”

Some creationist literature attributes that to Sir Arthur Keith in the forward of the 1959 edition of Origin of Species (apparently taken posthumously, since Keith died in 1955). It’s unclear whether this quote is accurate or not – it seems like a bizarre quote to put in the forward to Origin of the Species. People attempting to track down this quote have been unable to even find a copy of the 1959 edition. (Link)

So, where does that leave us? One quote from the 1920s from a Lamarkian Evolutionist. One quote from the 1920s questioning the validity of natural selection as the mechanism behind evolution, but it made to look like he was questioning the validity of evolution in general. And one posthumous quote that hasn’t been verified.

What would happen if I were to stand up before my congregation and say, “My friends, Christianity is unproved and unprovable, but you still ought to believe it”? They would get up and walk out, and rightly so. But that is the way men accept evolution.

This one surprised me quite a bit. If Kennedy ever did that in his church, no one would walk out. They would declare that they had faith, and would be proud of it. They’d be quoting Bible verses: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17), “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29). Besides, isn’t Pascal’s Wager regularly trotted out by believers to convince people that they should believe in God even though God’s existence isn’t proven? They “ought to believe it” because the consequences of not believing in God and being wrong is eternal damnation, but the consequences of believing in God and being wrong are nothing.

I particularly liked this brief statement in the next paragraph:

Dr. Duane Gish, noted biologist, says, “Evolution is a fairy tale for adults.”

Wow, a “noted biologist”. Kennedy provides no more information about this “Duane Gish” fellow – he just moves on. But, I’ve seen that name before. I just can’t place it. Oh, right, he’s the former vice-president of the Institute for Creation Research. I don’t think Gish is noted for being a biologist. He is known for debating tactics such as the “Gish Gallop“, however. Nice to see that Kennedy can quote people who agree with him.

It goes on like this for another nine pages – touching on Communism, Nazism, an so on. It even includes claims such as:

Evolution is the religion of modern unbelieving man, and it has been the pseudoscientific foundation of every false and anti-Christian “ism” that has come down the pike in the last hundred years.

Or maybe Christians have blamed every bad “ism” on evolutionary theory. It’s particularly funny when Christians try to blame things like socialism on evolutionary theory, since capitalism is the economic equivalent of evolution’s survival of the fittest. No doubt, there are Christian socialists blaming the existence of capitalism on evolutionary theory, and complaining how evolution is the cause of the evils of capitalism. Evolution is the whipping boy, the convenient scapegoat for every problem in the world. You get the feeling that Kennedy would blame the Spanish Inquisition on evolutionists (it’s just “survival of the fittest” applied to a religious context), if it wasn’t for the problem of chronology. Here’s what Kennedy says about the Spanish Inquisition (page 119):

Second, we must remember that Christianity has often been blamed for things that true Christians did not do, and that everyone who professes does not necessarily possess what he professes. For example, perhaps the darkest blotch and accusation that could be brought against Christianity would be the Spanish Inquisition. I would not endeavor to defend it. It was deplorably in the highest degree, a monstrous epic of brutality and barbarity. It was diabolical in its nature.

Was this Christians persecuting non-Christians? It was the very opposite. I am quite convinced that the members of the Inquisitorial Party were not Christians. They lived in the Dark Ages when the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been all but totally forgotten and the faith so perverted that it bore little resemblance to that which had been given by Christ. In many cases the victims of the Inquisition were evangelical Protestant Christians who had come to realize that the historic Gospel of Christ was and who had rejected the papal superstitions of that time. These were the people who were exposed to these tremendous tortures.

I am quite certain that no Christian would ever torture anyone.

See? The Inquisition was the non-Christians persecuting the Christians. Those Catholics claiming to be Christians were actually from the Dark Ages – they time-travelled from 1000 AD into the 1500s to kill the “evangelical protestants” (who time-travelled back from the 1800s and 1900s). Admittedly, the Inquisition did kill about 100 protestants (Link). The Catholic church doesn’t like competition. There are also cases of protestant reformers torturing Christians (e.g. lookup John Calvin and Michael Servetus), and based on the writings of Martin Luther, one gets the feeling that he wouldn’t have a problem with torture or execution (“We are at fault in not slaying [the Jews].”)

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The future of Creationism?

Halfway There has an interesting post about R. Josiah Magnuson – one of the young creationists in the AnswersInGenesis Research Papers contest. He was runner-up twice. What is the budding little creationist up to now? Forming the YLCA (“Young Christian Leaders’ Alliance”), although you’d think it was “Young Christian Liberation Army”. Is this the future of American Creationism – to be pushed further and further from the mainstream, into fantasies involving national control, and the “rightness” of their own scientifically illiterate ideas? From the YCLA constitution:

1. God’s Words are pure; KJV is the most accurate version. 2. The Members of the Trinity are distinct but act totally harmoniously. 3. Creation was by direct act of God. 4. Man is equal in humanity, responsibility, and rights. 5. Authorities are to be respected; must be obeyed when commands do not violate Scripture. 6. Individuals are naturally free to make decisions over their own consciences. 7. Death and suffering came by sin. 8. Man must have faith in Christ and His atonement to be saved from sin. 9. Baptism is correct and is by immersion. 10. Heaven and Hell are literal. 11. Christ will bodily return to Earth.

I sort of get the feeling that Josiah will be moving to Montana soon. Well, check out Halfway There. Maybe someone should tell Dembski about this. I’m sure he’d be happy to sign up – but only as a super-secret member.

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North American Union

I’ve heard a few things recently about the “Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America” that is being created – allegedly something along the lines of a super-NAFTA. It apparently also involves a super-highway from Mexico, through the US, and up into Canada to increase trade. For the more conspiratorial minded, it involves the loss of US power to a “North American Union” akin to (if not more powerful than) the EU.

WND-HologramThen I heard about some new hologram on the North Carolina drivers licenses that supposedly supports this – and what do you know, World Net Daily has an article about this hologram. On the right is the hologram that appears on the back of North Carolina drivers licenses. Just for comparison, there’s a picture (not on the licenses) of the logo for the “Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America”.

See how similar they are? No? Hmm. They’re both images of North America, I have to give them that. I just don’t see it as anything more than that. And those holograms of the globe that appeared on Visa cards years ago? I don’t think those holograms are a secret sign that the UN is about to take control of the nations of the world and the world’s economy, either.

Okay, so the AAMVA (American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators) is involved in creating the hologram, and they are involved in promoting uniform driving laws across different states and provinces, and are also involved in advocating drivers licenses that can be uniformly identified as authentic (e.g. a California police officer can recognize a Vermont license as an official, non-forged document). But, WND is wrong when they say:

“The hologram looks exactly [like] the map of North America that is used as the background for the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America logo on the SPP website,” Gheen told WND.

They’re not exactly alike. According to the article, Marge Howell, spokeswoman for the North Carolina DMV, says, “It’s a security element that eventually will be on the back of every driver’s license in North America” and “The goal … is to get one common element that law enforcement throughout the continent can look at on all driver’s licenses and tell that the driver’s license is an official document.” Interesting stuff, but I’m not quite sure what this has to do with “a plan by bureaucrats and trade groups that act like bureaucrats to little by little transform us into a North American Union without any vote being taken and without explaining to the U.S. public what they are doing”. I can understand that the SPP might benefit from security devices on all drivers licenses (to help international trucking), I’m just a bit unclear how they jump from [security device used across North America] to [America being subsumed into a North American Union]. I suppose once you’ve accepted the latter as fact, you can’t help but see the former as part of that.

And, as a side note, I thought this was an odd addition to the article – this paragraph appeared in the middle of the article without any segway or transition:

In 2006, WND reported Pastor Rios Sanchez, 55, an illegal alien, was accused of killing three people, including two North Carolina State University students and a 26-year-old, while driving drunk.

I can only guess they wanted to stir-up some anti-illegal alien sentiment, but it doesn’t fit in the article at all. Did they just want to remind people that drunk-driving Mexicans are dangerous? Maybe the author was hoping to say something more about it, but didn’t, and then forgot to remove the paragraph from the article? It reminded me a little bit of the Saturday Night Live’s ‘subliminal man’ character (YouTube link).

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Below is a list of radionuclides (radioactive elements). These are unstable elements that have a tendency to undergo radioactive decay. The list contains every known radionuclide with a half-life longer than 300 years. A half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of a quantity of radioactive material to decay. So, if we start with 1.0 kg of Carbon-14, then after one half life (5,730 years), 0.5 kg of Carbon-14 will remain (and 0.5 kg of the decay product: Nitrogen-14). After another half-life, one half of the remaining Carbon-14 will exist (0.25 kg), and so on. A radionuclide will decay to nearly nothing after about 20 half-lifes. After that amount of time, the amount of radionuclide will be 1 / 2^20 (about one millionth) of it’s original quantity.

The second column of the list says how long the half-life of the element is. The fourth and fifth columns show how many half-lifes would have occurred in 4.5 billion years (the scientific estimate of the age of the earth), and 6,000 years (the age of the earth according to young earth creationists).

(Note to readers: Some of the numbers contain an “E”. This is a scientific notation indicating that you need to move the decimal point to the right to read the value. For example, 7.70E+24 years means “move the decimal point 24 spaces to the right” resulting in a value of 7,700,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.)


There are 92 radionuclides on this chart, and they show an interesting pattern. A lot of the radionuclides with long half-lifes exist in nature, but none of the radionuclides with short half-lifes exist. Now, as I mentioned earlier, radionuclides who have existed for more than 20 half-lifes would decay out of existence (at least as far as our being able to detect them). If evolutionists are right in claiming the earth to be 4.5 billion years old, we would expect radionuclides experiencing 20+ half-lifes within 4.5 billion years to have disappeared. (The number of half-lifes within 4.5 billion years can be found in column 4.) Any with longer half-lifes would still be around – assuming they existed on earth in the first place. Looking back at the list, we can see that all long-lived radionuclides exist on earth, and radionuclides with 20+ half-lifes don’t exist on earth with some exceptions.

There are some short-lived radionuclides that can be found on earth which are produced — they are either decay products from long-lived radionuclides, or produced by some continual process. So, it is not surprising that they still exist even in a very old earth:

> Uranium 236 is produced in uranium ores by neutrons from other radioactives.
> Iodine 129 is produced from Tellurium 130 by cosmic-ray muons.
> Manganese 53 and Beryllium 10 are produced by cosmic-ray radiation hitting dust in the upper atmosphere.
> Trace quantities of Np-237 are actually found in nature due to transmutation reactions in uranium ores produced by the neutrons which are present.
> Carbon 14 is produced in the upper atmosphere by radiation from the sun.
> U-234 is a product of U-238 decay (which has a 4.5 billion year half-life).
> Th-230 is a product of U-234 decay.
> Ra-226 is a product of Th-230 decay.
> Cl-36 is produced by cosmic ray interactions with Argon

There is one element in the long list that isn’t continually produced, but has been found despite the fact that would undergo 20+ half-lifes in 4.5 billion years: Pu-244. It has a half-life of 81 million years (i.e. 56 half-lifes within 4.5 billion years).


Finding Plutonium 244. Its half life is 82 million years, so 4.55 billion years is 55 half lives. You might reasonably ask how come Plutonium 244 isn’t listed as no. The answer is that someone made a very serious effort to find it: their article is referenced below. Eighty five kilograms of molybdenum ore were chemically concentrated, and then the lot was tediously run through a mass spectrometer. The amount of Plutonium 244 they found, 10-14 grams, was so small that it would have averaged one single radioactive decay every six years. Clearly, they could not have detected this Plutonium 244 with a geiger counter. However, 55 half lives ago, it would have been about one kilogram of plutonium metal. That’s believable in 85 kilograms of metal ore.

Samarium 146’s half life is 103 million years, so 4.55 billion years is 44 half lives. This means that Samarium 146 could be 200 billion times rarer than Uranium 235, but could be a thousand times commoner than Plutonium 244. I predict that if anyone tries very very hard to find Samarium 146, they will succeed. Curium 247, at almost 300 half lives, is completely out of the question. (Link)

U-235, which appears right above the 20 half-life dividing line, would have gone through 6.39 half-lifes in 4.5 billion years – meaning would decay to 1.2% of the quantity that it existed 4.5 billion years ago. It currently composes only 0.720% of Uranium in nature. This fits well with the expectation that U-235 would be slightly uncommon.

If we assume that the earth is young, the scarcity (but existence) of Pu-244 is a bit peculiar. The young earth hypothesis does not rule out finding minute quantities of Pu-244, but the diminishing abundances of radionuclides as we move through the 1 billion year – 50 million year half-life radionuclides looks peculiar. If the earth was truly only 6,000 years old, it means God created Pu-244 in extremely minute quantities. Had God produced it in larger quantities – quantities comparible to any of the 36 longer-lived radionuclides – then it would be implausible that the earth was very old because it would require that implausibly large amounts of Pu-244 existed 4.5 billion years ago.

So, all the short-lived nuclides which exist on earth are created by some process. There are no short lived radionuclides which exist on earth which are not created by some process on earth. Yet, every long-lived radionuclide exists regardless of whether it is produced on earth or not. This is what we would expect if the earth was old. If the earth is young, we would be surprised by the degree to which this pattern matches the “old earth” hypothesis. Although this pattern is not explicitly ruled out by the young earth hypothesis, the pattern is a quite peculiar.

I chose to list all the radionuclides which have half-lifes of 300+ years for one reason: a half-life of 300 years is exactly 20 half-lifes on a planet that is 6,000 years old. Notice that none of the radionuclides between Nb-92 and Cf-249 exist on earth except for the radionuclides we’ve talked about. There are 43 short-lived radionuclides in that group. If any of them had been present on earth 6,000 years ago “when the earth was created”, they would still exist. But, none of them exist.

One prediction of the old-earth hypothesis is that radionuclides would reach equilibrium with their decay products. For example, Uranium-238 decays into Thorium-234, which decays into Protactinium-234, and so on through a number of different radioactive elements until it turns into Lead-206, which is stable. This is what the U-238 decay chain looks like (starting with Uranium-238 and ending with Lead-206):


This decay chain has the effect of causing radionuclides to exist in specific proportions to each other. In this case, the proportion of U-238 to U-234 is governed by this equation:


Since we know the half-life of U-234 and U-238, we can calculate this value:

245,500 years
——————————— = 0.0000549 (predicted ratio)
4,470,000,000 years

If we look up the relative amounts of U-238 and U-234 in nature, we find that 99.2745% of Uranium on earth exists as U-238, and 0.0055% of Uranium on earth exists as U-234. Thus, the actual ratio of U-234 to U-238 is 0.0055/99.2745 = 0.0000554 (or 0.000055 when we take the number of significant digits into account). The values match – U-238 and U-234 are in equilibrium with each other.

Now, creationists might wonder if this equilibrium can be reached within 6,000 years. This equilibrium cannot be reached in a short amount of time. It takes about 10 half-lifes of the daughter element before they will reach the equilibrium point. 10 half-lifes of U-234 is 2.4 million years. So, the abundance of U-238 and U-234 could not reach equilibrium in 6,000 years.

Other radionuclides in the U-238 decay chain are relatively short lived, so they only exist in minute quantities. We do know that Radon-222 exists, which means that Radium-226 (another radionuclide in the U-238 decay chain) is decaying in significant quantities. Radon-222 is the gas that seeps into basements and causes cancer. The EPA says that it is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. The very fact that Radon-222 exists on earth supports the assertion that the entire U-238 decay chain is filled and that requires quite a bit of time (or a deity who creates the earth and radionuclides precisely at their equilibrium points). If the earth is truly 6,000 years old, it means God even created Radon-222, which seeps into basements and causes lung cancers. Maybe He really wanted to make it look authentically old, even if that means causing cancer.

We can also look at other decay products and make predictions about their abundance on earth. We know that U-238 decays through a series of intermediates until it becomes the stable element Lead-206. Since U-238 should’ve gone through about 1 half-life in 4.5 billion years, we can say that half of the original U-238 has become Lead-206. This means that the abundance of Lead-206 be equal to or greater than the amount of U-238 we currently find on earth. In other words, the abundance of Lead-206 which is currently on earth should be = ( the amount of Lead-206 originally on earth ) + ( the amount of Lead -206 that should exist from radioactive decay within 4.5 billion years ). While it is difficult to know how much Lead-206 originally existed on earth, this calculation provides us with an absolute minimum of Lead-206 that should exist. Is there anything here that breaks the old earth theory?

* U-238 (4.47E+09 year half-life) decays into Lead-206. In the lithosphere (the top 25 miles of the earth’s crust), U-238 exists in a ratio of 2.4 ppm (particles per million) and Pb-206 exists in a ratio of 3.3 ppm. Since U-238 has gone through about 1 half life since the formation of the earth, then 2.4 ppm of U-238 should have decayed into Pb-206. Our prediction is confirmed: the abundance of Pb-206 (3.3 ppm) is greater than 2.4 ppm. We can also use the information to put a maximum age on the earth. If Pb-206 exists at 3.3 ppm and U-238 exists at 2.4 ppm, then the U-238 could not have gone through more than 1.25 U-238 half-life, which is 5.6 billion years.
* Th-232 (12 ppm, 1.41E+10 year half-life; 0.32 half-life in 4.5 billion years) decays into Pb-208. Th-232 should’ve produced 3.0 ppm of Pb-208. Pb-208 exists in an abundance of 7.3 ppm.
* Lu-176 (0.013 ppm, 3.78E+10 year half-life; 0.12 half-life in 4.5 billion years) decays into Hf-176. Lu-176 should’ve produced 0.001 ppm of Hf-176. Hf -176 exists in an abundance of 0.17 ppm.
* K-40 (2.457 ppm, 1.28E+9 year half-life; 3.52 half-life in 4.5 billion years) decays into Ca-40 (90%) and Ar-40 (10%). K-40 should’ve produced 16.72 ppm decay products (15 ppm Ca-40, 1.7 ppm Ar-40). Ca-40 exists in an abundance of 39,000 ppm, Ar-40 exists in an abundance of 1.2 ppm. Argon, however, is a gas, and therefore, would escape from the lithosphere into the atmosphere, explaining its low levels there. Argon makes up approximately 1% of the earth’s atmosphere.
* U-235 (0.017 ppm, 7.04E+8 year half-life; 6.39 half-life in 4.5 billion years) decays into Pb-207. U-235 should’ve produced 1.42 ppm of Pb-207. Pb-207 exists in an abundance of 3.08 ppm.

In none of these cases is there insufficient decay product.

The conclusion of all this is that assuming the earth *really is* 4.5 billion years allows you to make amazingly accurate predictions about the radionuclides you’d find on earth and their abundances. If the earth is truly is 6,000 years old, it means God created the earth with radionuclide abundances at precise levels that would match values we’d expect of an old earth, and the fact that you can use the assumption of an old earth to predict abundances of these materials is just an amazing coincidence. (I just can’t help but be reminded of the Pope’s advice to Galileo: that he’s allowed to assume the earth goes around the sun for the purpose of calculating orbits, but he isn’t allowed to claim it’s actually true.)

AnswersInGenesis attempts to answer these types of geological problems for the young earth hypothesis. I found it particularly amusing how they constantly play the “believe God, not man” game. Example:

Superficially, Hayward amasses an impressive battery of arguments as to why the Bible can’t mean what it says. Perhaps the single most important lesson from his book is his strategy itself. Each of his attacks on the Word of God elevates some other ‘authority’, whether derived from geology, astronomy, secular history or theology, above the Bible. This approach is as old as the Garden of Eden. True knowledge begins with the Bible (Proverbs 1:7, Psalms 119:160; 138:2), and that is where we need to start. God was there when He created the world.

The only foolproof method for determining the age of something is based on eyewitness reports and a written record. We have both in the Bible. And that is why creationists use the historical evidence in the Bible to constrain their interpretations of the geological evidence.

I find these answers to be particularly anti-intellectual, and disturbingly flexible. According to their argument, anything that contradicts the Bible is a-priori wrong. Now please disconnect your brains.

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