Saturday, September 13, 2014

Let's Bring "Proof" Back to Reality

It's true that I lost track of the subject of the meaning of the words "prove" and "proof" in my last post as I went from Update to Update, which got noted at EvC in the most recent posts on the subject. They keep insisting on formal definitions, stating it all in the abstract, which loses track of what I meant in the first place which is really pretty simple. It's just another way of saying that when you are dealing with the prehistoric past you can never be sure of your hypotheses because they aren't testable, as you can be with those that are testable. This standard objection by creationists is strenuously opposed by evolutionists of course, and it has come up again at EvC here too.

This second link exhibits the tendency of anti-creationists to reduce Christian creationist arguments to Christian belief even when the creationists are sticking to the scientific questions. This is an annoying distraction at best. The argument about the difference between observational and historical/interpretive science is completely valid. You can nitpick about terminology, about the terms "observational" and "historical" and all the rest of it, just as you can about the terms "prove" and "evidence," but there is a legitimate argument here that is being evaded by all this abstract nitpicking.

In all the dithering about the meaning of "prove" the argument itself got lost so let me try to restate it. The main argument I've made along these lines is that both Old Earth Geology and Evolutionist Biology make assertions about what they believe occurred in the distant past that they couldn't possibly PROVE, by which I mean all they have is their conjectures and hypotheses which they have no way of confirming, although they treat their conjectures about these things as if they were solidly proven facts. I've given the explanation for this in terms of the lack of "witnesses" to that past, which I say are necessary to confirming such conjectures and are always present in the tests of the "hard" or laboratory sciences. The structure of DNA for instance has been "proved" in a way you could never prove the scenarios concocted about the distant past that are palmed off on the public as fact.

And I'm using the term "scenarios" here because I think that's where the problem lies. We can reconstruct a Stegosaurus from its bones, but when you go on to describe the supposed habitat of that animal, based on the other contents of the rock in which its bones were found, you are giving your hypothesis about those things. If you go on from there to talk about it as if it were known fact you are asserting theory as fact though it can't be verified; in a word you are committing fraud.

I did make a list of the kind of thing that is presented about the past that is often asserted dogmatically that is nothing but this sort of unverifiable or unprovable conjecture.

Looking for other kinds of examples of unprovables described in dogmatic terms I found the Wikipedia article on Stegosaurus where such unknowable/unprovables are asserted, such as when the creature lived:
They lived during the Late Jurassic period (Kimmeridgian to early Tithonian), some 155 to 150 million year s ago...
This is interpreted simply from the fact that it is found in a particular layer of sedimentary rock. That is the entirety of the evidence for the scenario. This rock with its contents becomes a time period because that's what the theory says it is.

The usual scenario based on fossil contents of the same strata is discussed in the section on Paleoecology:
The Morrison Formation is interpreted as a semiarid environment with distinct wet and dry seasons, and flat floodplains. Vegetation varied from river-lining forests of conifers, tree ferns, and ferns (gallery forests), to fern savannas with occasional trees such as the Araucaria-like conifer Brachyphyllum.The flora of the period has been revealed by fossils of green algae, fungi, mosses, horsetails, ferns, cycads, ginkgoes, and several families of conifers. Animal fossils discovered include bivalves, snails, ray-finned fishes, frogs, salamanders, turtles, sphenodonts, lizards, terrestrial and aquatic crocodylomorphans, several species of pterosaur, numerous dinosaur species, and early mammals such as docodonts, multituberculates, symmetrodonts, and triconodonts.[54]

Dinosaurs that lived alongside Stegosaurus included theropods Allosaurus, Saurophaganax, Torvosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Marshosaurus, Stokesosaurus and Ornitholestes. Sauropods dominated the region, and included Brachiosaurus, Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Camarasaurus, and Barosaurus. Other ornithischians included Camptosaurus, Gargoyleosaurus,Dryosaurus, and Othnielosaurus.[55] Stegosaurus is commonly found at the same sites as Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, and Diplodocus.[56]
The Morrison Formation is a layer of rock. Here it is called an "environment." This is of course because the theory says each of the layers represents a time period. The whole rock "formation" represents a time period, its very own time period. The formations above and below represent different time periods. Slabs of rock interpreted as time periods. Time periods start and stop where the rock ends and another kind of rock begins.

Whatever has been found within that layer along with the bones of the Stegosaurus, goes to make up the interpretation of its "environment," the climate and the kind of vegetation that grew in that "time period."

I am of course emphasizing the rock=time period equation because it is so absurd, but that is a different subject here. I do have to admit that they are less assertive these days in such descriptions. The assertiveness will still be found on signs posted at various natural wonders, however, that inform you that such and such a marvelous phenomenon is so many millions of years old etc.

I will probably come back and expand on this post.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Finishing up the "Proof" and Untestable Past discussion

Just a few brief answers to the latest posts on that thread at EvC about Observational vs. Interpretive Science, which I hope will be the last of it at my end:

Here's Percy in Message 499:
You say you're not using the word prove in any mathematical sense, but you're still using a definition that is tangled up with the concept of "truth" or "correctness". I think the definition of prove that you're using goes something along these lines: To establish the truth of, as by evidence or argument. Do I have that right? If so then you can't really use that definition with science, because science doesn't establish anything with finality. Science is tentative. Truth, once established, doesn't change, but scientific conclusions, once established, can change.
No, it's a lot simpler than that.  All it really means to say you can't prove something is that you don't have the evidence you claim to have.   In this case, the evidence claimed for events in the distant past is all heavily biased, that is, it's bound to interpretations already determined by your theory. The contents of the rock strata are used as evidence for what past eras were like, what creatures lived then, what the climate was like, and so on, but the very idea that the contents of the strata define a time period is already an interpretation based on the theory that the strata represent time periods that succeed one another over hundreds of millions of years. But of course if all the strata represent is a layer of sediment filled with dead creatures deposited during the Flood event, all that is nothing but fairy tale. But I've already said this.

And again it seems important to point out that the very idea that a succession of slabs of rock could represent time periods on the planet is so absurd it takes a massive delusion to maintain the idea. Is time continuing to be represented by such layers? Layers that extend across whole continents? Which built up miles deep over those supposed hundreds of millions of years. But now, for some reason, NOW and only now, that process has stopped and the surface of the earth is not flat like those rocks as one might expect from the Old Earth theory that eras of time are represented in such rocks. For some reason NOW the surface is all mountainous and tectonically disturbed, only now, not during those hundreds of millions of years. Not just in the Grand Canyon but across entire continents. But that can be rationalized away too, at great cost to reason and sanity but who's noticing?

Rationalization is always possible with the unwitnessed past where mere conjecture passes for fact. Which is of course what is meant by the untestability of the unwitnessed past, but fear not, all you have to do is deny that too and assert that it's false. No need for that evidence you keep saying you have, which you can't produce because it doesn't exist.

There's no reason for me to try to answer the next few posts which are the usual accusations I've answered over and over again already. I'll just note that Dr. A in Message 504 is repeating the typical notion that criminal forensics is the scientific method used with the ancient past, but as I've anaswered many times before, it's not the same thing because it deals entirely within the historical past, effectively the present, where there are many witnesses in the sense I've been using the term, such as access to all kinds of documented information from previous events in the historical past. Whereas in the ancient, prehistoric or unwitnessed past there is no such information forthcoming from those time periods. No witnesses from the prehistoric past, but witnesses galore -- in the sense I've been using the term, which is conveniently forgotten -- in the historic past, which is as good as the Present.

And Percy again in Message 510:
Good points, though I do think I'll try to keep things more simple in the discussion with Faith where she's claiming we can't prove anything about the distant past. Hopefully she'll eventually come to understand that we're not trying to prove things about the ancient past, we're only trying to examine and analyze evidence from the ancient past to see what it can tell us. It turns out it can tell us quite a bit.
Except that it's all based on conjecture and interpretation as I keep trying to get across. And this reminds me of one more point I forgot to make above, which is that as I've pointed out below, and many times before at EvC as well, the science of the ancient past is frequently expressed in terms of dogmatic fact, far far from the tentativity you keep claiming for it.

And do note, please, that you continue to make assertions, recite the creeds of sciencedom as it were, rather than actually summoning any of the supposed evidence you claim is the important thing. That's all the quoted paragraph above is, a statement of what you believe science does, or wish science did, with the ancient past, without any proof that it does it.

Oh, just one more very brief comment, on dwise's post 512:
Actually, Faith's beliefs are not based on the Bible itself, but rather on her theology.
He's said this before and I have no idea where he gets his own convictions about the Bible and theology -- his entire post is nothing but assertions, apparently completely of his own invention -- but since I have no interest in continuing such debates there all I can say as usual is that he's wrong, and my beliefs are about as standard and traditional Protestant Reformed Bible-based as you can get.

As for the creationist arguments I make, I've never claimed the kind of certainty for them I claim for the Biblical revelation itself, since the Bible gives very scant information about the character of the original Creation and the physical effects of the Flood. Creationists try to stay within both the Biblical descriptions and the known scientific information, but I don't claim any more certainty for my own conjectures than that they seem inherently more plausible than what official science has to say about the ancient past.

But as usual we are just repeating ourselves and I hope this is my last.


Do have to say a word in answer to RAZD's later post about the age of the earth. Yes, there is lots of evidence of a sort for an ancient earth, but as I've said before, that too is untestable evidence since it purports to reveal information about events in a completely opaque unwitnessed past. The methods themselves cannot be confirmed is the point, so what they seem to say remains hypothesis and not fact. As long as there is no other way to confirm a particular age estimate it remains theory or hypothesis. Also, other explanations for some of those numbers have been suggested, also unconfirmable explanations, but that's the way it usually is with the untestable past.

Meanwhile I'm not focused on the question of age as such, my arguments are all about the reasonableness of explanations for phenomena such as the strata and the fossils. Scenarios really, fictional stuff that's all too frequently treated as fact, BECAUSE there's no way to confirm or disconfirm it, without a shred of that highly touted tentativity so often imputed to science. The Old Earth explanations for these things remain absurd apart from the age of the earth.



I don't think there's much point in continuing this discussion but I'll respond to this last one from Percy at least:

Percy responds to the above in Message 519:
I said "No, it's a lot simpler than that. All it really means to say you can't prove something is that you don't have the evidence you claim to have."
and Percy replies: "I think you must have meant to say something else, because this makes no sense. Of course we have the evidence we say we have, so I think you must have meant to say that the evidence we have doesn't lead to the conclusions we claim, especially since your subsequent discussion goes on as if you had said exactly that."
But of course, have it your way if you must but you know what I mean. It isn't evidence if it doesn't lead to the conclusions you claim for it.
[I said] The contents of the rock strata are used as evidence for what past eras were like, what creatures lived then, what the climate was like, and so on, but the very idea that the contents of the strata define a time period is already an interpretation based on the theory that the strata represent time periods that succeed one another over hundreds of millions of years.
[Percy]This is self-evidently false. Sedimentary layers will always contain evidence from where and when they formed. This is true of both flood geology and actual geology (e.g., a limestone layer could only have formed where and when there was calcium carbonate in the environment) and was established well before we knew how much time each layer actually represents.
Limestones do not normally build up as layers among layers, they had to have formed elsewhere and been transported and deposited as a layer. Water, of course, makes sedimentary layers;  this is demonstrated in deltas and along the coastal margins.

The content of a limestone layer shows that it had a marine origin but not that it formed where it is found. The Dover cliffs didn't form where they are either, but just as the entire British Isles are layered like so much of the rest of the planet, that chalk was layered there along with all the rest of them, it didn't form in place, as none of the layers did, which were all laid down one on top of another and then after they were all in place (which took hundreds of millions of years according to standard theory, but only a year or so on Flood theory) the whole stack was upended by tectonic force, as indicated on those diagrams I posted over there.  The order is obvious:   Layers laid down, one after another, horizontally, then tilted or twisted or otherwise deformed. That is the order of things just about wherever we look, and it supports the Flood explanation and NOT the Old Earth explanations.
But of course if all the strata represent is a layer of sediment filled with dead creatures deposited during the Flood event, all that is nothing but fairy tale.
The evidence doesn't support a single flood as responsible for all the sedimentary layers of the Earth for a number of reasons that you invariably ignore or dismiss, so I shan't waste my time listing them yet again, but will gladly do so upon any indication from you of a willingness to discuss them.
Discussed it to death at EvC. Your term "a single flood" as usual totally distorts the Flood arguments, trying to imply that it was like any old flood which of course has been argued down time and time again. Obviously there is no point in continuing the discussion.
[Me] And again it seems important to point out that the very idea that a succession of slabs of rock could represent time periods on the planet is so absurd it takes a massive delusion to maintain the idea. Is time continuing to be represented by such layers?
[Percy]You participated in an entire thread about this ([tid=17517]) and cannot pretend to be unaware of all the evidence that sedimentary layers are accumulating today just like they did in the past.
So it was said but it isn't true. They are "continuing" elsewhere, while the fact is that the strata that define the former time periods span entire continents but sediments are no longer accumulating on that scale in those same locations, which they should if there's anything to the idea that they represent the time periods of the Geologic Time Scale.
Rationalization is always possible with the unwitnessed past where mere conjecture passes for fact. Which is of course what is meant by the untestability of the unwitnessed past...
[Percy]   You have yet to offer any valid arguments for why prehistoric evidence is untestable. You continue on to repeat your argument that makes no sense:
I've made the case many times. Actually, it's intuitively obvious.
[Me]  I'll just note that Dr. A in Message 504 is repeating the typical notion that criminal forensics is the scientific method used with the ancient past, but as I've anaswered many times before, it's not the same thing because it deals entirely within the historical past, effectively the present, where there are many witnesses in the sense I've been using the term, such as access to all kinds of documented information from previous events in the historical past. Whereas in the ancient, prehistoric or unwitnessed past there is no such information forthcoming from those time periods. No witnesses from the prehistoric past, but witnesses galore -- in the sense I've been using the term, which is conveniently forgotten -- in the historic past, which is as good as the Present.
[Percy]   To make clear why this objection makes no sense just take the example of the Laetoli footprints. At a minimum they are evidence that something walked there in the distant past. You've never been able to explain how the absence of any human witnesses changes that.
They ARE witnesses in the sense I've used that term -- there are some, but they can't tell you anything about WHEN they occurred, just that they DID occur -- and they are evidence that something walked there in the past, as you say, such as, for instance, between waves or risings of the tide during the Flood, which I've explained many times, contrary to your assertion.
[Me]  And do note, please, that you continue to make assertions, recite the creeds of sciencedom as it were, rather than actually summoning any of the supposed evidence you claim is the important thing.
And Percy pointed to some other threads which he claims give lots of evidence and prove me wrong. I suppose he believes that.

I think I might try to assemble all the information I can find about the fossil contents of the various layers that are used for evidence of evolutionary progression, whereas all they really show is the accidental collection of living things along with sediments in the Flood waters. This can probably be shown pretty well but it would take quite a bit of work.



Now I'm hearing that back at my blog I revert to my old ways which they think get cured or at least modified while I'm at EvC. It's true that when they keep insisting on a particular idea I accommodate at least to their language, but if there's more to it than that I'd have to go review those other threads which isn't on my schedule at the moment.

What comes to mind is the lengthy discussion about whether the Geologic Time Scale has come to an end as I was saying it obviously has, or the Geologic Column. They kept insisting that as long as sedimentary deposition is continuing anywhere that's the continuation of the Geologic Time Scale, even if the deposition is not on anywhere near the same geographic scale -- covering whole continents -- and not anywhere near the same locations -- now at the bottom of the sea or willy-nilly here and there and so on. So basically they've defined away my argument. Which of course is still convincing to me so I'll continue to state it from time to time.

They also argue that there is evidence of volcanic activity lower in the column than I'd seen before, and that may be the case, but the only actual evidence of that is a typed sheet that indicates "tuff" in two locations in the Grand Canyon, in the Muav formation, no photos, no other references. Still it may be true. Other evidence they supplied of volcanic activity during the laying down of the column occurs at the very top, indicating, on the Flood model, that it occurred in the last stages of the Flood. Someone produced a picture that at first looked like an actual layer of magma between layers but it turned out that the whole formation was volcanic so it wasn't a volcanic layer between sedimentary layers, which is the same situation with the evidence they produced from Ascension Island. And there is still the Cardenas layer at the base of the Grand Canyon which they insist is an actual layer and not a sill because of the way the edges interact with the sediment on either side. But I still have questions about that since a layer that formed at the surface and then hardened before the next sedimentary layer was laid down just wouldn't be straight and flat like that is. Lava is pretty lumpy stuff at the surface of the earth. But it's a question, not a definite opinion yet.

They also insist that just because faults don't penetrate through all the layers of a given geologic column / stack of strata, that is evidence that the layers were not already in place when the faults occurred, and I'm definitely skeptical of that. It's a lack of evidence, not positive evidence. And other cross sections are similarly subject to interpretation, so all that remains inconclusive.

Still looks to me like the strata are good evidence for the Flood.

Friday, August 29, 2014

That annoying complaint about the terms "prove" and "proof"

UPDATE 9/1 #2: So for the time being it's keeping on keeping on. Percy continues:
I'm sorry, Faith, but I was only trying to explain how you're using the word "prove" incorrectly.
You know what, Percy, I am not using it incorrectly. I'm using it the way it is used in ordinary English, and for conveying what I want to convey it is correct. Instead of insisting on your strict scientific definitions, which are only used to mystify and talk down to people, it's time you all bent a bit to ordinary English, which is what most of us speak. You all don't even agree with each other about terminology but you don't mind using it to put down creationists. In this case it is only serving to obscure the point I've made clearly enough.
As I said, scientists use the word "prove" all the time, but they don't mean it in any mathematical sense. Nothing in science is ever proven in any mathematical sense.
I have reached the point where "what scientists think" is becoming obnoxious. I am not using the concept of proof in any mathematical sense either so your remark is pure mystification. I am using it the way it is used in ordinary everyday English. I suspect that if you made an effort to break out of your Science shackles even you would know what I am talking about instead of having to circumvent it with your tiresome and irrelevant definitions.
Science is tentative.
I'm sure you can't imagine just how sick to death I am of this kind of recitation of the Science Creed, the usual abstraction we're all supposed to salute, while in reality it is not true. I've given examples of those horrific flat-out declarations one finds everywhere that such and such animal evolved from this that or the other in such and such a time frame, which is pure fiction being stated as if it were fact. No, when it comes to the ToE and the Old Earth there is nothing tentative about it, which is odd because of all scientific work these pieces of lore are the most tentative, the least confirmable, which is what this argument6 is all about. Some bits of flotsam found in a layer of rock is your evidence for all this stuff, which is all far better interpreted in terms of the Flood. You don't have the kind of evidence for these things you have for the hard sciences, yet you all keep denying this flat out.
When scientists use the word "prove" all they mean is that they can provide persuasive evidence.
Get real. Deal with the issues on the table instead of reciting your articles of faith. You do not have the kind of evidence you seem to think you have, what you have is what I just described, not hard evidence at all but stuff that is better interpreted by the Flood.

The issue on the table is that you can never have the kind of certainty about speculations about events in the past that you have about scientific questions you can test in the laboratory. This is really quite obvious and should be conceded.

But I see that now you are trying to grant my request by suggesting how I might rephrase my point. Thanks for that, but now I'm beyond caring.
Avoid the word "prove" altogether. I think it would work much better to say that interpretations of evidence are tentative, and that some interpretations are better supported by evidence than others.
First you need to concede that most of the time statements about events that supposedly occurred millions of years ago according to the Old Earth theory, and supposed evolutionary history of various creatures, are not presented tentatively but as fact, which of course the public swallows whole because golly gee, Scientists said it. And again, there is no evidence for any of it but the flotsam found in the strata. That's it. Concede that for starters.


UPDATE 9/1: Percy has "answered" this post, and of course NOT by doing what I requested at the end of it, that is, by providing the terminology to make the point I'm making. In other words, I have a point I'm making with perfectly reasonable ordinary usage of the word "prove," and if it can be made in more accurate terminology, fine. But helping me make my point is not on Percy's agenda, obscuring it is the agenda. The M.O. at EvC is sophistry and semantics, and in this case the very refusal to read in context I say below is the problem. So much for that, and so much for EvC.

P.S. I'm coming to the conclusion that EvC with its science jargonizing and mystification has made itself utterly irrelevant not only to creationists but to ordinary nonscientists of all beliefs.

Oh and one more thing. The evidence you keep touting can only be interpreted, not proved. Creationists have a different interpretation (talking about the unwitnessed/prehistoric past here) and since you can't prove yours, so much for your evidence. And (answering Coyote in this case) this is what is meant when we say all you have is theory too. It's unprovable interpretation. This has been explained many times but you continue to recite the party line and claim your theory is more substantial than that. It gets tiresome repeating these simple obvious points.



And HBD in Message 457 touches on another common theme that is used against creationists, which is that we do often use the words "prove" and "proof" in our discussions, which is verboten according to strict scientific standards. science we don't deal with proof, we deal with evidence.
But this is really just their refusal to read in context, how we are using the terms. There is really no way to discuss the difference between the conclusions that are possible from testable science versus from science that studies the prehistoric past, without pointing out that you CAN prove testable hypotheses in a sense that is simply not possible in the other case.

That is, you CAN "prove" that blood circulates in the body, that material objects always fall to the ground, that the DNA is a spiral double helix, in a sense that you can NEVER prove that the Great Unconformity was once the root of a mountain range, that the stegosaurus lived during a particular time period when the climate was thus and so and it shared the planet with thus and so range of other living things. THERE you only have hypotheticals.

Now, if anyone would like to rephrase the distinction I'm trying to make to *prove* that other terminology would serve the point better, have at it.

Selection always reduces genetic diversity

UPDATE 2, 8/30: I figured out what PaulK meant and I do have to admit that it's odd I didn't know what he meant right away. Of course he simply meant that it is conceded that selection reduces genetic diversity but that this is corrected by mutations. Yes the greater part of the arguments about this issue were about whether mutations could actually do this. I guess it's odd this isn't the first thing that came to mind and the only explanation I have is that I could never take that argument seriously.

It's purely hypothetical for one thing, whereas the reduction in genetic diversity brought about by a population formed from a reduced number of individuals, by selection or any other cause that isolates such a daughter population, isn't in question at all. In the end it's an empirical question that can only be answered by some kind of empirical test, such as the laboratory test I've often suggested.

I've made a number of objections to the idea that mutations could make a difference, one being that if they did they would only interfere with the phenotype formed by the selection or isolating processes, another being that useful mutations don't occur frequently enough to make a difference anyway. And so on. The idea that mutations do anything useful, that mutations are the cause of all the functioning alleles in all species for instance, is pure theory, and utterly ridiculous theory too, because it's impossible.


UPDATE 1, 8/30: Occurred to me that maybe PaulK was saying I was wrong to say that they fail to take the loss of genetic diversity into account. If so he'd have to show where anyone did take it into account as all I recall is endless arguments about this. If one or two did concede the point it must have been after all that argument AND I'd guess it was a highly compromised concession. But since he doesn't explain what he meant, who knows?



And since I've been accused of lying, I'll just take a moment to answer this one too, Paul K in Message 452 :
[I said} (Over and over they fail to take into account that you lose genetic potentials or information with every selection event, which is OBVIOUS, PEOPLE!)
[And PK answered] No Faith you know perfectly well that that's not the case. But that's typical creationist behaviour, Unable to support their argument they just grossly misrepresent the opposition.
Well, farther up thread Moose gave an example of natural selection in which the catching of large fish in fishermen's nets eventually led to the population of fish being characterized by smaller fish. At the time I noticed that he didn't take into account that of course the genetic diversity was reduced, meaning now there are fewer genetic possibilities of larger fish being produced in the population. Perhaps it hasn't been reduced to NO possibility, as whatever combination of genetic material is necessary for the larger version may still be possible in the population and could even be selected under future conditions. But the point remains that the current selection event of removing the larger fish has also removed or severely reduced the genetic basis for the larger size fish from the population as a whole. This HAS to happen.

Paul K loves to accuse me of knowing something I'm denying but as usual I have no idea what he thinks I'm denying.  There have been many attempts to answer this claim but I haven't found any of them convincing.  The answer usually given to my argument that genetic diversity has to be reduced by selection is that it is not actually observed. But the only actual example anyone gave for that was the rapid spread of a small number of rabbits introduced into Australia, whose genetic diversity is supposed to have increased along with their numbers. By observation. But this cannot happen. If you start with a small number of individuals you are starting with a gene pool that is severely reduced in diversity. And by the end of that discussion somebody had even raised a doubt that the actual facts about the original small population were true at all.

There is no way that you are going to increase the genetic diversity of a population that starts out with severely reduced genetic diversity which is always the case when you start with a small number of individuals. The cheetah and the elephant seal are cases in point. Both have apparently thrived in spite of their depleted genetic diversity but nothing has occurred to increase that diversity. By all known genetic standards it cannot happen. The usual idea is that mutation is the way new genetic material arises, but everyone concedes that beneficial mutations are extremely rare. The cheetah could wait a very long time to get a mutation tnat would improve its severely depleted genetic diversity.


And to Percy:  When I use the word Plausibilities I'm talking about the plausibility of a theory or hypothesis or interpretation.  Perhaps Probability should be left out of it as it relates to another subject.

What I mean by the Unwitnessed Past

Oh well, so I'm giving in and answering one of them. Too hard to resist. Maybe I'll get smart later. So here's Taq in Message 459:
A general observation I have made is that creationists misrepresent how the scientific method works, either purposefully or unknowingly. One of the big hangups they seem to have is the relationship between hypothesis, observation, and repeatability

For those of us familiar with the scientific method, we know that repeatability refers to the data/observations. For people like Faith, they think repeatability refers to the hypothesis. They think that in order for a hypothesis to be scientific you need to be able to observe the hypothesis in action multiple times.

Of course, you don't observe the hypothesis. You test the hypothesis. Nowhere in the scientific method is there an expiration date on valid observations. A 100 million year old fossil is as valid a piece of evidence as a 1 hour old ELISA plate. Both are repeatable observations, and both can be used to test hypotheses.
This is the usual abstract statement that sounds like it means something in answer to what I've said but it only succeeds in garbling the issues further. I can't imagine that I ever said anything to suggest I make the mistakes he's imputing to creationists. But again, the statement is so abstract it's hard to know what he's saying or if it applies to anything I said or anyone said or in fact anything that is done in science by anybody.

What I'm trying to say about the unwitnessed or prehistoric past is that there is no witness IN the past to confirm the interpretation/hypothesis of the observations made in the present about a phenomenon that occurred in the past.   No historical documents, no landmark with ancient writing, nothing. With material in the present, a repeatable experiment in physics or chemistry perhaps, or clues to a crime committed within historical time even, there is no such problem. You have multiple witnesses to the events being studied. This is also true in the case of ancient bones of an unknown animal, which Dr. A kept insisting falsifies my claims, but it doesn't if all you are doing is reconstructing this creature from its bones because you have enough actual material for that job and anyone who understands principles of anatomy could do it. The problems with the prehistoric past that I'm trying to keep in view enter when you speculate about events in time: nwhen it lived, what other creatures occupied the planet at the same time, what the weather was like at that time and so on.

So the problems have to do with TIME and with EVENTS in the past, and all that can only be speculative. Events in the past are not repeatable in the present. All you have with respect to EVENTS in the prehistoric past is speculations and interpretations from the point of view of witnesses in the present. In the case of reconstructing time periods in the distant past from the rock layers, first you have the assumption that the layer represents a particular time period, and that's the first thing you can't confirm, that has to remain a speculation or hypothesis.

Then once you've accepted this unconfirmable hypothesis you go on to compound the problem of unconfirmability / untestability by assuming the contents of the rock can reveal the planetary environment of the supposed time period in which the bones supposedly originated. You assume that whatever other fossils are found in that same rock can tell you what other creatures lived during that time period, and plant fossils in particular suggest what sort of climate prevailed, and so on. All based on the unconfirmable assumption that the rock represents a time period, and apparently a worldwide time period at that.

All this was assumed even before radiometric dating came along to confirm the supposed ages of the rocks, in some cases setting them back even further in time. And here's a point I also keep trying to make. These dating methods also can't be confirmed from the past itself because there is no "witness" from that past to confirm their conclusions. The order of the fossils LOOKS convincing, and so does the apparent order derived from radiometric dating, but none of it can be confirmed for sure. It remains speculative. All the more so since the sedimentary rocks themselves can't be dated but only volcanic material that occurs in proximity to them. AND that the results obtained are not as consistent as they often like to claim either.

I'd like to think this clears up a misconception but I know from experience that it isn't going to happen.


UPDATE: And of course I was right. And all I'm going to say here on the subject is that I thought I did answer the weird complaint that I'd somehow forgotten that nobody witnessed the formation of the Grand Canyon either. But in any case so what? I didn't say you can't do science on the unwitnessed past, all I said was that you can't be sure of your results with one-time unwitnessed past events the way you can with replicable testable phenomena and that all you have in such a case is interpretations and hypotheses, more or less plausibility thereof.

Oh, and I also never said that you can't know SOME things about the past.  Dinosaur footprints are like Stegosaurus bones, you can show that they are indeed dinosaur footprints.  But that in itself isn't what you want to know, which is how and when they got there, and for that all you have is hypotheses.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Historical and Interpretive Science Garbled at EvC as usual

UPDATE. A gaggle of EvCers has "answered" this. Wow, speaking of galloping misconceptions. Full-blown Wonderland. All I did was try to correct some strange ways they were misconstruing what I'd said, straightforward enough stuff they could just have conceded, I would have thought, but off they go with another whole raft of accusations. I didn't get to any of the meatier issues in this post, and the earlier post wasn't finished anyway, but that doesn't stop them from accusing me of avoiding them.

I'm SO glad I'm not posting there any more and I think since they are answering me at a distance the best policy would be just to let this blog cool off for a while before I post here again, since the whole point of leaving was to stop the abuse. Unbelievable.

Amazing, unbelievable, funny-sad. They're even accusing me of not having the guts to continue posting over there, after I posted there this last time for well over two years. Of course they continue misrepresenting my position (Taq does a bang-up job of that), but trying to answer all that again would just prolong the nonsense that is the reason I left._

Original Post.

So over at EvC they are supposedly answering my post below, which tempts me to go there and try to straighten out their usual strange misconceptions. But I know from experience that will only multiply the misconceptions and get us deep into Alice's rabbit hole in short order.

Some idea that I'm saying you can't do science inductively? But I'm not. That conclusions arrived at inductively can be dismissed out of hand? But I'm saying no such thing. I'm going by what everyone agrees with about inductive reasoning, including Wikipedia from which I quoted, that it can't lead to certainty but is good for hypothesis formation. Of course you do science inductively when that's all that's possible, which is the case with sciences that are trying to reconstruct the prehistoric, or as I like to refer to it, unwitnessed, past. The point is only that it can't lead to the more solid conclusions you get with the hard sciences, which have the benefit of multiple witnesses, and you end up with interpretations that can't be tested, leaving the conclusion far more open to alternative probabilities and plausibilities than ever happens with the testable sciences.

Also some idea I'm saying inductive reasoning isn't a part of all sciences? Where did I say that? We're talking about testing major theory here, or at least I am. For the Theory of Evolution you have a web of interpretations, for the Old Earth, including radiometric dating, you also have a web of interpretations, a network of Plausibilities.* If that's all you've got that's all you've got. I'm not saying it's not science, I'm saying that it's so far from conclusive that it's open to question at every point.

Also some idea that I exempt creationist attempts to understand the past, argue that creationists can test the past but old earthers can't? But I don't. That I think there's more certainty in the Flood explanation for the phenomena that Old Earthers explain in terms of long ages is true, of course, but not because our methods are different. In fact I thought I'd said it quite frequently over there that when it comes to trying to explain the unwitnessed past we're all in the same boat: it's a contest of plausibilities. I think theirs are ridiculous, and the Flood nicely explains what they need complicated Rube-Goldberg style risings and fallings of land and sea to explain, but it isn't because there's anything intrinsically more reliable about the methods available to creationists. It's just that since it's all a web of interpretations of the evidence and nothing can be definitively proved, my argument is that the creationist interpretations are more plausible.


*Web of interpretations, network of plausibilities

The whole point of this line of argument is to make the case that these theories about the past which are often treated as if they were established Fact, simply aren't and should never be spoken of in such definite terms, which only serves to mystify and deceive the public.

Me, I laugh when I read the typical presentation of information about some natural phenomenon, when such and such a creature evolved for instance, or encounter one of those helpful signs at some natural wonder that tells me in such certain terms that it was formed such and such millions of years ago. But people who don't have a clue about this debate just swallow it whole.

They don't know that the Theory of Evolution is nothing but a heap of speculations treated as Fact, about what the fossils mean particularly, but also based on the unwarranted assumption that the variation we see within Species can continue indefinitely from Species to Species. (Over and over they fail to take into account that you lose genetic potentials or information with every selection event, which is OBVIOUS, PEOPLE!) And the Old Earth rests on such things as an interpretation of how angular unconformities form -- it can only be interpretation or speculation, plausible perhaps but far far from certain, because nobody has ever seen one form -- and leads to bizarre ideas about what life forms lived on this planet in some supposed era in the distant past, from its supposed animal and plant life to its supposed climate, all concocted/interpreted from a slab of rock and the dead things contained in it. Even that the absence of some fossils that had been present in the previous layer of rock means that there was a great extinction event between those eras, when really, folks, if all those slabs of rock are nothing but the sedimentary layering brought about by the Flood, all they are doing is making up a Fairy Tale. The Emperor's New Clothes. But boy do they defend it as if it WERE actually proved.

Later: Feel I must add that there are specific isolated issues that can be proven, such as, for instance, that you can tell from a given cross section that all the strata were laid down before tectonic or other disturbance occurred.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Historical and interpretive science versus observational testable science

The question of the difference between a historical and interpretive science and an observational or testable science has been run through the EvC standard variety of misinterpretations -- I hope all possible misinterpretations, meaning I hope they've run out of them.  As often happens with subjects that matter to me, I thought the distinction was pretty clear from the beginning but soon found out how many different ways there are to misconstrue my meaning. 

I thought for instance that because the concepts were described in a paper published in a Geological publication as a critical view of Geology held by members of the scientific community, though the author disagreed with them, that should suffice to pin down what I had in mind.  Nope.

Then along comes a working Geologist who is all put out at me for calling his science interpretive although that's the term used by other people too, even those who oppose me, and when he described what he actually does to find oil  I had concluded that was a good example of real observational science and not interpretive science, because everything he described had to do with the physical position of the rocks and nothing to do with Old Earth assumptions.  I guess he didn't believe me?

Then I was informed that Historical Geology simply IS Geology, ALL Geology, so that my making a distinction between theoretical or Old Earth Geology as historical and interpretive science, on the one hand, and on the other practical working Geology that is done in the field, which I was calling Observational Science, is unacceptable. 

Somebody else then makes the pedantic point that all science is both observational and interpretive in some sense, without bothering to inquire how I was using the terms or taking seriously anything I'd said to try to define them.  He also argues that my classification of the discovery of the DNA double helix structure as observational science isn't correct because that scientific discovery requires interpretation, since the evidence is the x-ray diffraction pattern, a photograph not being possible. OF COURSE you have to be able to interpret the x-ray diffraction pattern, but my point is that what you are studying is IN THE PRESENT, bazillions of examples of it, and anybody who can learn to interpret that pattern is a WITNESS to it and having so many witnesses is what makes the discovery testable and provable.  But I'll get to the witness idea farther down.

Then he totally misinterpreted my interest in the paper about Geology as an interpretive and historical science as if I didn't know the paper was arguing against the denigration of Geology for that reason.   Even if such a misunderstanding is inadvertent it's a wearing experience to have to deal with it along with all the other misunderstandings.

Then another poster at least made an attempt to correct that misunderstanding but added one of his own in the process:
Faith's point was that the paper acknowledged that other people held biology in lower regard as a science. Of course she took the point as being supportive of her efforts to dismiss all geology that is not Genesis friendly.
Oh I guess you could put it that way, but of course it implies that I just made it up. I'd been trying for a long time already to get across my own view of Old Earthism as interpretive and therefore unprovable.  It was fascinating then to find that there are noncreationists who also see Geology that way.

But he goes on to make an interesting point nevertheless:
Today's sciences rely on a tremendous amount of inductive reasoning, a skill that geology has perfected Inductive reasoning is because such reasoning is the only available strategy. We have to live with both the strength and weaknesses of such reasoning, the primary weakness being that nothing generalization is ever proven and no conclusion is inescapable.
I don't know to what extent inductive reasoning may describe the phenomena I had been imputing to historical and interpretive science but perhaps at least to some extent.  The Wikipedia discussion says two things I'd been saying about Old Earthism for quite some time.  First, that this debate is about a war of Plausibilities.  They make the point that inductive reasoning doesn't lead to a certain conclusion as deductive reasoning is supposed to, but is considered to be probable.  Probabilities would work where I say plausibilities, but it also goes on to use the term "credible" which is even closer:  
Inductive reasoning, as opposed to deductive reasoning, is reasoning in which the premises seek to supply strong evidence for (not absolute proof of) the truth of the conclusion. While the conclusion of a deductive argument is supposed to be certain, the truth of the conclusion of an inductive argument is supposed to be probable, based upon the evidence given.

...Inductive reasoning is inherently uncertain. It only deals in degrees to which, given the premises, the conclusion is credible according to some theory of evidence.
And the other point I've tried to make is that you can't ever get past theory or hypothesis with the sciences of the prehistoric past, and the Wikipedia article says essentially the same thing about inductive reasoning:
Inductive reasoning is also known as hypothesis construction because any conclusions made are based on current knowledge and predictions. As with deductive arguments, biases can distort the proper application of inductive argument, thereby preventing the reasoner from forming the most logical conclusion based on the clues.
I'm not going to argue that the article is making the exact same point I'm making, but the similarity of terminology certainly suggests a general affinity.

I've been arguing for ages that Old Earthism -- AND the Theory of Evolution --  can never be proved because they are about the untestable past.  The best they can ever offer is hypothesis or theory, never certainty the way the "hard" sciences can.

To be continued.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Winding Down the Chronic Antagonism of EvC

I don't want to post at EvC any more but as usual there are posts there I feel I must answer, so I've got to answer them here now. If I answered them there I would just get back responses that I'd feel I have to answer anyway, but if I answer them here that will probably be the end of it. And WHY do I feel this need? Well, maybe I should just be able to ignore them but they typically so horribly misrepresent my arguments there, or give such inadequate objections to them, I feel I have to correct the record. But that's a treadmill; that feeling has kept me posting there for over two years this time. Enough is enough.

Oh, to be fair, there have been periods where I just enjoy getting to work out my thoughts, and their raising of new problems helps with that. Too bad that isn't the majority of the time. After a while of having my thoughts trashed and my motives impugned over and over I reach the point where I just can't take it any more.

I know, I know, Christians aren't supposed to react to personal insults anyway, if they insult us they are really insulting the Lord, and in any case we are never to give evil for evil, and I feel terrible when I do that because the Lord never did and I don't want to bring disgrace on Him. That's a big reason to get out of there since I always eventually fall into it. Then I'm smarting in the flesh and feeling guilty toward the Lord at the same time. Seems to me I go quite a long while not reacting, responding in a neutral tone, just trying to be clear, but eventually I come unglued and start insulting them back. Maybe it's because I'm not spending enough time with the Lord but I just *can't take it any more* and blow up at them. Forgive me, Lord, I'm not able to do it right. Teach me how to rely on YOUR strength for these things, and if you want me to go back and love them all through their insults THEN send me back, but please not before, and that could be a very long time given my record. The flesh is very very weak.

Anyway, again I feel I *must* answer some strange stuff they've written recently.

There were three issues on the table as I left there: first the claim that there is evidence of volcanic activity during the laying down of the sedimentary strata; second, the cross sections that I put up that at least in some places show the strata were all laid down before the tectonic and volcanic disturbances; and third the question of historical versus observational science.

I was going to try to cover all that in this one post but I think I'll leave it and post only this much for now.


There's a post at EvC today that suggests I find it so hard to leave there because I like the attention, while my blogs don't get many readers. He might be surprised how many readers I get out here, though. It depends on the subject and I can almost predict what subjects will attract readers off the search engines. But that's not the same as getting immediate responses, he's right about that. I do enjoy discussion, conversation, give and take, but the problem with EvC is that it's become nothing but a punishing experience for me, which is easily enough evidenced in this very post I'm talking about, where he describes what I post as "nonsense." I've survived it, I've done what I could with it, it got to be too much to take, it's over.

I will try to say something about that when I post on the historical versus observational science question, which should be next. If I posted on it at EvC it would only attract the kind of responses that are the reason I've left. Enough is enough.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Multiply the California flooding a million times for Noah's Flood

Just had to embed a news report on the flooding in Southern California for all those silly people who think you can compare a worldwide Flood that covered all the land mass on earth with a local flood. "The Flood would have done such and such, they say, because that's what happens in floods, but we don't see any evidence of that." What can I do but roll my eyes?

The California flooding comes from ONE day of heavy rain in the mountains, which caused flash floods and mudslides, stranding 3000 and killing one.    Just  ONE DAY. The Flood of Noah started with forty days and nights of rain ALL OVER THE EARTH, not just in a limited locale like Southern California. We're talking thousands, millions of local floods all running together, carrying mud down from high places for over a month until the land should have been scoured down to bedrock and the rising ocean water thick with sediments.

Anyway, here's one of the many news reports out there. Some good video of the flooding and mudslides.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Asteroid craters and evolutionist confusion of interpretation with fact

The problem with leaving EvC, which I finally did recently, is that inevitably somebody posts something I'd like to talk about.  And I've been tempted a couple times recently to go back and join a thread.  What keeps me from it is the very reason I left:  the attitude there is hard to take, and it's a waste of time.  The dragged-out frustrating struggle just to get a simple point across, which often ends in failure anyway, is not worth it any more, and the expressions of hatred against creationists and Christians seem to have escalated and I don't want to be guilty of provoking more of it, let alone my own breakdowns of patience.

But I suppose there may continue to be issues raised I'll want to follow.  This one about asteroid craters I think I'd be foolish to debate anyway -- the mere thought of how it would play out is exhausting -- but I have a few thoughts about it so I'll write them here and leave it at that.   
YECs and Asteroids
...A recent topic on the subject of impact craters on the Moon got me thinking about the impact craters on Earth. On another forum, I posed this question to the creationists in attendance

Something I’ve been pondering, recently.Most people know about the meteor impact that ‘killed’ the dinosaurs. What they often don’t know is that many, many other things died out around this time, too - fish, plants, even certain mammals and birds - it was a worldwide extinction event ...
One of the main things a YEC has to say, and keep saying, to this sort of presentation, is that this idea of a great extinction event rests purely on the evolutionist interpretation of the fossil record. As usual it is presented as fact although the evidence for it is nothing but the absence of those supposedly extinct life forms from some of the sedimentary layers. That's all. Dinosaur fossils don't appear in a certain layer where they are expected according to the theory of the strata as representing long ages of time. They aren't in that sedimentary rock, therefore they didn't live in the era of time the theory assigns to that rock, therefore they must have all died out. Now we're informed that "many, many other things died out around this time, too -- fish, plants, even certain mammals and birds -- it was a worldwide extinction event..." Which means ONLY that these other creatures ALSO aren't present in sedimentary layers where evolutionist theory expects them to be.
... and it left its mark in the Yucatan. [Here he posts a map of the Yucatan peninsula and an aerial shot of the outlines of a crater at that location.]
So this supposed extinction event -- again, merely an interpretation of the absence of some fossils in some sedimentary layers though treated as unquestionable fact as usual -- is interpreted to have been the result of an asteroid or meteor impact on the Yucatan peninsula. Millions upon millions of years ago of course, as the theory goes.

So now we get some information about the evidence for such impacts. Yes, this is REAL evidence. There WERE such impacts on the earth, lots of craters to prove it. I wouldn't take anything they say about WHEN they occurred very seriously of course.

One bit of evidence for such impacts is the presence of a fine layer of iridium on the surface of one of the sedimentary layers, above which dinosaurs do not occur, iridium being known to result from meteoric impacts. This is probably real evidence of meteoric impact but not necessarily of any supposed extinction event as a result of it, which, again, is evidenced ONLY by the LACK of certain fossils in the layer above.
That’s about 170 km wide - quite an impressive impact, and it would have had effects all over the earth, both immediate and longer-term.
This assertion also rests on an assumption that is not necessarily true, which I'll get to.
I’m absolutely not the person to tell you about them...I suck at math. But, fortunately, Purdue University developed this really cool website that actually lets you calculate such things. So we can see what effects such an impact would have, here.Impact: Earth!

What can happen to you would depend on your proximity to the object - for instance, I put in 1,000 km away, and it informed me of all sorts of pleasant things, like my clothes igniting, a fiery hellstorm raining death upon from the skies, and being drowned and/or crushed by the resultant tsunami. Really, really unpleasant stuff. But the thing is, that’s not the first time this happened - most people also don’t know that the KT impact isn’t the only big impact the Earth’s taken, nor is it the biggest.

There are two craters which are even bigger than the one in the Yucatan - the one in Sudbury is about 250 km, and the one in Vredefort is a whopping 300 km.List of impact craters on Earth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaAnd keep in mind - these are just confirmed craters. There unconfirmed ones that we haven’t found yet, that could drawf even that, but for the sake of argument we’ll just stick to what’s been confirmed. So, you’ll notice that there’s quite a few big impacts that would have done huge damage to the earth - not all as drastic as the top five, but still quite noticeable. Forest fire, tsunamis, tremors, et cetera. This would have been quite noticeable to anyone alive at the time.

Now, with an old-earth model, I don’t see it a major problem. When the big first two hit, life on Earth wasn’t [sic] still microbial, and wouldn’t have been affected by it too much, I don’t think. These impacts are few and far between - there are a lot of them, but that’s about what you’d expect if the planet’s been around billions of years. You can only dodge the bullet so many times.

I’m not sure how this works with a young-earth model, though, and I’m curious if any of the reside YECs could proffer an explanation. Obviously, these meteors haven’t hit since the flood - if they’d all struck within a relatively short amount of time, they would have utterly annihilated life on this planet.

Just one big one, like the one in the Yucatan, is enough to cause mass extinctions worldwides. Two, within 4,000 years, would be utterly devastating. The top five largest craters are quite close to or exceeding the Yucatan’s in size, and there are dozens of smaller, but still significant craters around the globe. Clearly, they haven’t hit in recorded history, so what does that leave us? Before the Flood?

If they’d happened before the flood, there wouldn’t even need to be a Flood - everything would be dead, not to mention that it’s not given note anywhere in the Bible. I think I recall someone saying that the Flood could have caused the meteor impacts in the first place, but I don’t see how that make even a little sense, not to mention that the acid rain, massive fish extinctions, and fireballs raining all over the place are something that Noah would have made notice off.

So I’m curious what the YEC ‘interpretation’ is for these impacts. I really didn't get much of a response - one of them talked about angels holding battles inside of protective barriers, but it wasn't very serious, and none of the creationists seemed interested in providing any real feedback, which is odd since they're usually a chatty bunch on that forum. So in interest of refining the argument, I thought I might bring it here to see how well it stacks up and what possible objections there might be.
All I can do is guess from a Floodist perspective of course.  If these meteors hit during the Flood they'd have hit land that was under water, and the lower the land the deeper the water above it, which could have mitigated the drastic effects predicted above.  I checked all the craters referred to and they are all a few thousand miles away from where Noah would have been (even assuming the continents had not yet split).  I didn't check the altitude of the areas where they hit but obviously a few of them hit in lower altitudes.  So these hits might have rocked the water enough to make Noah and family seasick but most likely they wouldn't have produced flame or even as much heat as supposed here. 

If they all occurred during the Flood event, especially if some occurred during the first phase of the forty days and night of constant rain, the result might have been surprisingly minimal. Perhaps a lot of steam rose, which turned into rain in its turn. (The timing would have to take into account when the strata were laid down, and I don't know how to calculate any of that.)

Since I think the strata were all produced by the Flood I also think the iridium layer was deposited during the Flood. What got deposited in any given layer of course is simply a matter of what the Flood happened to deposit there, and nothing to do with great aeons of time.

There's my guess.  SO glad I don't have to "debate" it with all the usual misreadings and angry denunciations and weird denials of the obvious. 

The main point here I think is the way the interpretation of the absence of fossils in a certain layer is treated as undeniable proof that there was a huge extinction event in the distant past. Typical presentation not of FACT, not of simple PHENOMENA, but always of interpretation, of theory, masquerading as fact.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Compromising the Bible to Accommodate Science

On a thread at EvC Forums I was presented with the information that some of the greatest Christian preachers of the 19th and early 20th centuries had accepted certain compromising ideas about the Bible in reaction to the claims of science of their day.  They believed what science was saying about the Old Earth, though not about evolution, and they came up with various ways to make the Bible fit the claims.  I don't know how many resisted the claims altogether, that would be interesting to know, but the fact is that there were some of the best of the best who came up with ideas that accommodate the Bible to science. Spurgeon was one for instance.

There was an exchange of posts on the subject, starting with a post by "kbertsche" HERE:
From about the mid-19th to mid-20th century, most conservative Christians accepted the geologic evidence for an old earth and incorporated it into a view known as the "Gap Theory". This view was popularized by Thomas Chalmers in the early 19th century, and became the de facto view of conservative Christians after C.I. Scofield incorporated it into his reference Bible in the early 20th century. As Bernard Ramm wrote in 1954 (see the wikipedia article referenced above):
"The gap theory has become the standard interpretation throughout hyper-orthodoxy, appearing in an endless stream of books, booklets, Bible studies, and periodical articles. In fact, it has become so sacrosanct with some that to question it is equivalent to tampering with Sacred Scripture or to manifest modernistic leanings".
Who held to an old earth in this period (mid-19th to mid-20th century)? Most of the conservative Christian scholars and Bible teachers, including most of the scholars who opposed the Tuebingen school and modernism. Here are a few of them:
  • James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000). Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia; chairman of International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.
  • William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925). Prominent anti-evolutionist; prosecutor in Scopes “monkey trial”.
  • A.A. Hodge (1823-1886). Old Princeton Theologian.
  • Charles Hodge (1797-1878). Old Princeton Theologian.
  • H. A. Ironside (1876-1951). Bible preacher, commentator, and author.
  • C.S. Lewis (1898-1963). Literature professor and Christian apologist.
  • J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937). Theologian.
  • J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988). Founder of Thru the Bible ministry.
  • C.I. Scofield (1843-1921). Known for his Scofield Reference Bible.
  • Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892). Known as “the prince of preachers”.
  • R.A. Torrey (1856-1928). Editor of "The Fundamentals"
  • Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921). Theologian; Champion of biblical inerrancy.
  • Edward J. Young (1907-1968). Theologian; Champion of biblical inerrancy.
In a subsequent post kbertsche explains that not all of them adhered to Gap Theory, some arguing for Day-Age theory that makes the word "day" in the first chapter of Genesis refer to a very long period of time, and in one case Theistic Evolution.

The last post in the sequence to this point was mine, which follows:
[Ringo quoting me] All I see in this barely plausible scenario is the desperation of these men in the face of the science of the day that they were unable to criticize.

[Ringo] That's a pretty good description of creationism in general.
[Faith} I agree in general with this.  The turn of science to antibiblical assertions put Bible believers in a difficult position.  Having always admired science, and thinking it a gift from God, many scrambled to accommodate their beliefs to what the scientists were saying.  I believe this was a fatal error, understandable though it is.  By coming up with accommodating ideas like Gap Theory they avoided the conflict and appeared to find common ground sufficient to let them continue in their faith and preach their faith to their congregations.

But the conflict is inevitable and can't be avoided.  Gap theory is a wild speculative solution that ends up being no solution.  Same with the other ways the Bible was compromised to accommodate science.  I hadn't known until kbertsche demonstrated it that so many of the greatest preachers had succumbed to this kind of solution, and it was quite startling because those men preach solidly Biblical sermons, the best of the best.  I had no idea there was a rotten spot in the floorboards as it were, that could bring the whole house down.  That's the problem with ALL compromising efforts. 

It's the same problem with the modern Bibles.  Christians can go along for years trusting in those Bibles and then suddenly grasp the implications of the untrustworthiness of the Greek texts that underlie them, and their lack of knowledge of the history of these things, and the corrupted nature of those texts, then cause many to lose their faith and leave them with a bitter cynicism about Christianity. 

Those great preachers who gave into the Old Earth and tried to make the Bible conform to it have built a house of cards that subsequent generations can blow down with a breath, leaving them with very flimsy support for their faith.

I appreciate that they didn't have the time, and it wasn't their calling either, to try to answer the claims of science, but a strong stand on the Bible against the science they couldn't understand might have served us all better in the end.  Others might have been inspired to learn more science earlier, might have seen through the purely interpretive and speculative and unprovable nature of the claims that were being presented as Fact for one thing, might have stayed on top of the claims down the decades instead of being lulled to sleep by a false reconciliation at the expense of the Bible. 
It was quite a shock to me to find out what these men believed. While most of them didn't give in to evolution it is painful to see them accommodating to the Old Earth, which the Bible really can't be made to support without strain.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review of Grand Canyon Argument against Old Earth Geology

UPDATE: Because the argument I'm presenting here based on the Grand Canyon that I try to keep focused on in the debate, is so simple it easily gets dismissed as simply ignoring the other pieces of this enormous puzzle, so I feel I have to explain why that's not the case.

The idea is that I'm pointing out something so essential that nothing else can challenge it no matter how many questions people might want to raise otherwise. If this argument shows as definitively as I believe it does that the strata cannot possibly be hundreds of millions of years old, then no other considerations can undo that conclusion. If this is true, then the particulars such as the angle of repose of the grains of sand in the Coconino Sandstone, for instance, simply cannot be used to prove the Old Earth but are going to have to be understood some other way.

This is the kind of argument I'm always looking for, the pivotal argument, the one that undoes all the others, and I think I've found it in this case (also the genetic argument but that one got garbled in the last debate round at EvC so I'm going to have to work on it some more.)

============================================ The original post: After some months of debate at EvC Forums I feel the need to restate my arguments here.  Over there anything I say is subject to such a barrage of strange objections it's easy to lose track of the simple point I'm trying to make. 

So I want to restate the argument for the Flood which is really mostly against the Old Earth point of view that has the earth about four billion years old. 

I have one very simple argument about that which is based on cross sections of the Grand Canyon - Grand Staircase area that runs from Arizona to Utah.

I've been unable to load any images into my blogs for some time so all I can do is paste a link to one of these cross sections:

Grand Staircase image

This shows the depth of the layers of rock at the north end of the Grand Staircase to be about two miles, and the number of layers to be roughly about 26.  Clearly these layers were originally continuous at that depth for more than two hundred miles to the Grand Canyon area and beyond, but the strata above the Kaibab level eroded away over the Grand Canyon and chunks of the strata above that level also eroded away in the Grand Staircase area, forming the stairs of the staircase.

This shows that all those layers were in place at one time, and this fact is emphasized by the intrusion of the magma dike at the north end of the Grand Staircase which penetrates upward through the entire stack from bottom to top, showing that it did not occur before they were all laid down.   It is also shown by the fault lines that split the whole stack; It is also shown by the distortion of the whole stack as a block as it follows the curve of the mound over the Grand Canyon.  If that rise had occurred before they were all laid down, the upper layers that were laid down later would not have remained parallel with the lower block of layers but would have been horizontal and butted up against the upgrades and curves.  That is not the case.  The entire stack as a whole follows the curves across the entire landscape, the layers all remaining parallel to one another.  It is also shown by the fact that the canyons and stairs were cut after they were all laid down.  Clearly they were all laid down and THEN there was a violent upheaval of some sort, tectonic force no doubt with attendant earthquakes plus the volcanic activity that is shown in the magma.  All this occurred TO THE ENTIRE STACK after it was all laid down.

What is my point?  My point begins with the observation that according to conventional Geology each of those layers represents a time period of millions of years.   Here's another diagram  showing the time periods assigned to the layers in the Grand Canyon. Scroll down about half way to see it.   Really wish I could post just the image, sorry it's so awkward this way.

Now consider that conventional Geology describes the planet Earth as a "very active" planet, and ask yourself why in that case those strata are depicted as so neatly parallel over what adds up to hundreds of millions of years, how ALL of them were obviously laid down one on top of the other before the land was tilted, before the mounded rise formed, before the canyons and stairs or cliffs were cut, before the magma rose up through the layers and before the faulting occurred.

The obvious conclusion is that those hundreds of millions of years did not happen.  It's all a fiction.

When I presented this scenario at EvC of course I got all kinds of objections.  "Well but surely each of those layers would show a great deal of activity if you looked into them minutely" for instance.  But of course that doesn't answer why they ALL follow the same contours as a block.   And "Really there's nothing odd about there being no activity on the planet for hundreds of millions of years, and then a lot of activity all at once."  Really?   They also suggested that this could have happened in this particular area and nowhere else. To this I can only say that you also find blocks of strata everywhere distorted by tectonic force as a block. There is nothing quite like the Grand Canyon of course which shows the Geologic Column to such a great depth. And they objected to the use of a diagram at all, as if the artist wouldn't have known not to draw the strata parallel if they weren't parallel. And of course the usual objections were raised about the Young Earth arguments as well, which became a major distraction from the main point I was making. 

But this one simple observation stands against the whole Old Earth argument.  I think it's open and shut myself.

From there I go on to argue that the actual appearance of the strata in that area is much better explained by the Flood, and that gets into all kinds of other considerations.  But rather than lay those out here I just want to keep it simple, showing that the conventional explanation does not account for the actual formation of the strata.

And yes, there is The Great Unconformity at the base of the Grand Canyon too.  I believe that also occurred at the same time as all the other activity I've described, and there are some posts on this blog about it, but it's not necessary to insist on that to make the point I'm making here.  Many creationists treat the Great Unconformity as already there when the Flood occurred and laid down the strata above it.   I don't, but it doesn't interfere with the point I'm making here to leave it at that.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


I saw it and thought it was well conducted. I thought the CNN moderator did a very good job of keeping time and keeping it moving and not betraying any bias of his own.

I also thought that Ken Ham did a very good job. Bill Nye seemed content to raise the usual questions and objections to creationism that one encounters all the time and that have been answered many times over, so that was frustrating. It would be nice to get past the usual misrepresentations of what a worldwide Flood would have done.

But I'd like to listen to the debate again more carefully when I have the time.

Here's the earlier post:


Coming up at 7 PM Eastern time, 4 PM here in the west.

It's all over the web and there are many sites that will be showing it live. Here's one.

NPR quotes Bill Nye, "the science guy" saying:
— Nye: "I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, that's completely inconsistent with the world we observe, that's fine. But don't make your kids do it. Because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need engineers that can build stuff and solve problems."
This is infuriating misrepresentation, and if there's anything Ken Ham should do it's answer this stupidity so well that it never rears its ugly head again.

The ONLY form of "science" that Creationists have any problem with is the sciences that deal with the prehistoric past, for which there is no observation possible and it's all just a matter of interpretation, a pure exercise in imagination. This is why the Theory of Evolution remains a "theory," because there is no way to replicate and test its theories in a laboratory the way the "hard" sciences can do with theirs. That's why they can get away with their ludicrous theory of evolution and a very ancient Earth -- because there is no way to prove or disprove it, it's all a matter of interpretation and persuasion. Engineers who can build stuff and solve problems do REAL science, not the mental cobweb science of evolution and the Old Earth

THEIR science is NOT science but apparently they don't know the difference.  Creationists DO know the difference and do REAL science.