Monday, 23 June 2014

"Observational Science" and the Bible

Introduction, or why am I writing this?

As a science enthusiast, I am increasingly frustrated when creationists say science can be clearly demarcated into "two types of science": observational and historical science. Why? Because its clearly an arbitrary reason for business tycoons like Ken Ham to partition science into two types, so that his True Christian brethren can be excused for rejecting findings in evolutionary biology, geology, paleontology, astronomy and archaeology. I will focus on refuting this false dichotomy in the near future, but for now lets turn to observational science, which Ken Ham calls the "good, Christian kind"  and the Bible.

First, a little background. Lets say I am quite familiar with this line of argumentation, having been exposed to it. I had been in intense spiritual and emotional pain after recently leaving another religion when a good friend of mine invited me to a church he was attending. Long story short, I got into trouble with the local pastor over matters like evolution and millions of years. It was a very depressing experience, to say the least, and made my inclination to spirituality suffer again. Nevermind.

What I am here to discuss here is, basically, during the infamous debate, Ken Ham's asserted that observational science confirms the Bible. Unfortunately this is only true via deliberate cherry-picking.

So let's play Ken Ham's game. Most slides are taken from the debate directly.

1. An intelligence produced life
No evidence. Why is that? Ken Ham makes this assertion without backing it up. No intelligence has ever communicated with us and proclaimed that He produced the life we say. Of course, if pressed, Ken Ham will retreat to the Bible, but how does he know the Bible is this intelligent agent's method of communicating with him? The same can be said of any other religious text. I am also willing to bet God never directly said to him "Yes I made you!"

In fact, life could have very well been produced by an unconscious supernatural force and the prediction would be just as valid. Or its possible, well, abiogenesis occurred.

2. Animals only producing after their kind
Untenable and unfalsifiable. The Bible never delineates the extent of what a kind is. So Ken Ham must resort to the ultimate flawed, fallible creature, Man, to arbitrarily define the Biblical Kind.

 Of course, they are forced to adopt Linnaean taxonomy (another arbitrary man-made invention) to justify the Biblical kind. In this case, each "kind" corresponds to the Linnaean family hierarchy. Sounds good in theory right?

Take a look at the Elephant Kind. Note something unique, where-else Cat Kind and Dog Kind have their Latin names "Felidae" and "Canidae" respectively, the Elephant Kind has "Order Proboscidea". Why that extra word tacked on?

They have just committed a violation of their own definition of kind and the Linnaean taxonomy it sprung from: an order is above a family in hierarchy. In fact, Order Proboscidea comprises a huge extent of extinct mammals, marked by their inheritance of a proboscis, an "elephant trunk" so to speak. Only one family of Order Proboscidae survives to this day though; the Elephantidae family. The reason is they had to include the mastodon, which belonged to an entire different "family" under this order because mastodon fossils have been found in supposed "post-Flood deposits". Bear in mind that the mastodon has 4 tusks.

Another very serious problem is this. Entire Linnaean families often require hundreds of thousands of years to achieve the enormous diversity of species within them. But for Ken Ham, all this diversity had to be attained within four thousand years. In this case, a few hundred "kinds" of mammals from the Ark have to produce nearly 10,000  living species within 4000 years. I ll illustrate this by example.

At about 41 minutes into the debate, he draws a quote from this article  regarding dog diversity:

"We provide several lines of evidence supporting a single origin for dogs, and disfavoring alternative models in which dog lineages arise separately from geographically distinct wolf populations (Figures 4-5, Table S10)."
And backs it up with this picture:

The whole paper is available on arXiv here.
I do not know why Ken Ham used this paper at all for the origin of dogs.  I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry, after reading the paper. Do you know why?

This is the actual picture:

Image from

What Ken Ham did was, in essence, invert this graph so that we were unable to see the evolutionary timescale of speciation necessary to produce all the ancestral species of modern dogs . You can see the golden jackal (dingo) diverge almost four hundred thousand years ago, then the other ancestral dogs from a time period of 12-15,000 years ago, during a genetic bottleneck that reduced the wolf population from 2000-25000 individuals. No, not 7 pairs!

What saddens me is how deceitful this is. This is an example of Ken Ham's deliberate mis-representation of data to support his view. And to support his hypothetical hyper-evolution, the mutation rate must be sped up three-fold for the other species and almost a hundred times for the golden jackal. This speciation rate is far too quick! Where are the transitional forms? Why dont we see such rapid speciation today? Why dont we see rapid speciation among humans too?

3. Evidence confirming a global flood

Self-refuting. By Ken Ham's own standards, a global flood that occurred in the past would fall under the realm of historical science and based on unprovable assumptions. The only retort Ken Ham can provide is the extremely poor mantra that he asks the children who visit his museum to repeat: billions of dead things buried all over the earth. Of course, having animals living and dying over hundreds of millions of years explains things just as well, if not better, but I ll let that slide for now.  There's a more pressing issue.

From Genesis 6 (KJV):
 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

What can we infer from this passage? 
a. Man had multiplied over the face of the earth
b. sons of God came down and had children with the daughters of man, bearing giants, who were men of renown. 
The rest you should know: God sent the flood to destroy everything, except Noah and his family, plus seven pairs of each clean kind and a pair of unclean ones on the Ark.
Then where are the human fossils? Up to this date not a single one has been found in the vast majority of sedimentary rock. Not even fossils of modern animals, such as domestic dogs and cows, have been found in supposed Flood Deposits. Furthermore, we should expect to find half-giants buried in the rock, but we dont. Even sadder is that creationists have committed fraud to back up the idea humans lived with dinosaurs, see Malachite Man and Paluxy.
Lastly, there are thousands of salt mines all over the world. How can a global flood explain this?     
4. Evidence confirming One Race
This is probably the only prediction that the Bible got right. The assertion is that humans had a single origin (Noah-Babel) so there is only one race of man, so to speak. The homo sapien.  However, what is problematic is when you consider the existence of other species of humans, such as Neanderthal and Homo Habilis

The current AiG stance is that they were post-flood humans that went extinct rapidly, despite many archaeological sites, buried in several layers, where they used to live. Can they be considered part of the race of man? 

5. Evidence confirming the Tower of Babel
Where are the remains of this purported tower? Seriously no Ron Wyatt tricks! This tower was supposed to be enormous in size, and was in the city of Babel. Yet we havent found evidence of its existence!!! 
 I presume what they mean is, the single origin of all languages around the world. This has some basis in reality, except the place of origin is in Africa. From the linked Dailymail article:
Dr Atkinson, of Auckland University, has now come up with fascinating evidence for a single African origin of language.In a paper published today in Science, he counted the number of distinct sounds, or phonemes, used in 504 languages from around the world and charted them on a map.The number of sounds varies hugely from language to language. English, for instance has around 46 sounds, some languages in South America have fewer than 15, while the San bushmen of South Africa use a staggering 200.Dr Atkinson found that the number of distinct sounds in a language tends to increase the closer it is to sub-Saharan Africa.He argues that these differences reflect the patterns of migration of our ancestors when they left Africa 70,000 years ago.Languages change as they are handed down from generation to generation. In a large population, languages are likely to be relatively stable - simply because there are more people to remember what previous generations did, he says.But in a smaller population - such as a splinter group that sets off to find a new home elsewhere - there are more chances that languages will change quickly and that sounds will be lost from generation to generation.
Either way the YEC is presented with a dilemma. To accept this model, he or she will have to agree that humanity's place of origin was from Africa, not the Middle East. To reject it, then its possible languages could have risen spontaneously from different geographic locales. So which is it?  

6. Evidence confirming a Young Universe  

Ken Ham did not present a single point in favor of this during the entire debate. Unfortunately, all the evidence points to an ancient Universe. From the massive levels of impact cratering across the Moon, Mars, Mercury, the Galilean moons Callisto and Ganymede, the Saturnian moon Tethys, (read my previous posts) to the fact that the Milky Way is 40000-50000 light years across. Their winding up of spiral galaxies and comets have been refuted here and here. Besides, a young Universe is on a very different level than a young Earth - spacetime must be dilating by a magnitude of millions to make galaxies appear billions of light years away. Is this the result of a deceitful God?  

Going off on a tangent, I find their dismissal of the Oort Cloud amusing. They have never seen or heard their God, but suddenly when it comes to an undetectable source of long-period comets, they dismiss it and claim the "evolutionists" are making shit up. Read up a brief discussion of the Oort Cloud here. See a more detailed refutation here

What about this.....
Being Answers in Genesis, it makes sense the entire focus of the text would be in Genesis. Let me pull up this part from here:

Genesis 30:31-43

New International Version (NIV)
31 “What shall I give you?” he asked.“Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: 32 Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. 33 And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.34 “Agreed,” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.” 35 That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. 36 Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. 38 Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, 39 they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 40 Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals. 41 Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, 42 but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. 43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

After someone asked me to read this, I cannot help but feel troubled. This shows a) apparently breeding goats in front of striped branches produces striped goats??!!! b) what does this show you about Jacob's integrity to Laban???


One of the greatest obstacles to me converting to the Christian faith is this. Apparently I am supposed to abandon most of my pre-existing acceptance of mainstream scientific views on the age of the Earth and the evolution of man. As someone who has spent years reading science articles and whatnot I find this so hard. Very very painful in fact. I hope that in time Christians will come to realize that there isnt a conspiracy by evil secularists to undermine the Biblical authority just scientists reporting honestly on the data they gathered. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Recommended posts, 19/6/2014

Ha, with the World Cup on, these are top news.
Forgot about the weekly updates lol.

After Spain's devastating loss to the Netherlands, they score yet another defeat against Chile 0-2. Seriously, no offense to him, but Iker Casillas was NOT a good choice to be goalkeeper.

Australia did surprisingly well against the Netherlands, 3-2.

Eye on the ICR evaluates the idea that there was a historical Adam and Eve, particularly as recently as 6000 years ago. Does it really hold up to scrutiny?

There's also this interesting site called Cold Case Christianity whose owner, J. Warner Wallace, that asserts the gospels of the New Testament are trustworthy eyewitness accounts to Jesus' life and resurrection. Interesting, I might comment further on this in the near future.

That's all for this week!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Intelligent Design, Evolution & The Problem of Evil (A response)

This is a response to the wiz, (should I just call you that?)

The purpose of the examples in my previous post was NOT to refute intelligent design, but to highlight potentially very serious theological problems should others arrive to the conclusion of nature being designed. I am going to put aside evolutionary theory for the time being and focus on design.

This is because pathogenic organisms are not examples of bad design.Their purpose is to to multiply, infect, debilitate and/or kill. Even prominent baraminologist Todd Charles Wood also noted this problem before by observing predation and toxicity of animals in the wild a few years back.

Lets turn to protozoan parasite Plasmodium.  You see, the entire Plasmodium genus is parasitic, and targets a huge range of mammals, birds and reptiles. Whats worse is that, being eukaryotes, they have a much more complex life cycle than the average bacterium. They fulfill most of the Discovery Institute's criteria for design, particularly Stephen Meyer's signature in the cell.

Life cycle of the malaria parasite
Image from

Can you see how complex malaria actually is?  Its design is to the point parasite is capable of changing between asexual and sexual reproduction at specific stages in its life cycle. The worst part is the deadliest malaria strain, P. falciparum, has stunning capability to adapt to the body's immune response.  Descent with modification causes their sporozoites (see above) to change their surface antigens once in a while, increasing likelihood of resistance to our immune system.

The core problem is that it is very difficult to imagine how all strains of Plasmodium could have had a different prior function, like having once been symbiotic with their hosts, particularly when one just cannot see how they simply offer any benefit prior to adapting pathogenicity. It shows every sign of having been designed to be a parasite, if it was actually designed.

Another fundamental problem, is that if they were designed to be initially symbiotic, they would have been very poor at it. Blood is a sterile environment, because of our immune system that targets all foreign micro-organisms, good or bad. How could Plasmodium be beneficial then? Surely you couldn't say the immune system didnt exist before the Fall; that would mean that after the Fall, we experienced a huge gain in "information" by developing an immune system.

Look at the criteria for design and apply it to P.falciparum:
a) specificity of function : to infect, kill and spread. What makes P.falciparum so deadly is that it causes infected red blood cells to stick to the walls of blood vessels (cytoadherence) and lead to dangerous blood clots in critical organs.  Even worse is that the transmission vector, the Anopheles mosquito is efficient - small, silent and fecund.

b) contingency plans: as above, mutations cause shift in antigens on its offspring and hinders immune response. Troublingly, even as I write this, chloroquine (anti malarial medicine)-resistant strains of malaria continue to grow......

c) irreducible complexity: the parasite being unable to go through infecting at any stage : mosquito cells/liver cells/human red blood cell would effectively destroy its chances of reproducing.

I find this very troubling, but would genuinely appreciate it if you pointed out mistakes in my article.


Can evolution account for the emergence of this? Yes. The sad fact is that parasites often undergo co-evolution with the hosts they target. In the case of P.falciparum it was an outlier, it emerged from a mutant strain of Plasmodium that originally targeted gorillas. (I guess you could say it was an organism outstepping its boundaries). In fact, the whole Plasmodium genus has been evolving for millions of years, slowly developing its complex life cycle and its preference for specific hosts.

It was found that Plasmodium was closely related to protozoan intestinal parasites. Regardless, there is a paucity of data for the origins of malaria, so I ll leave it at that.

There is one more thing to note: many pathogens (HIV, ebola) were originally zoonotically transmitted from apes.......


I be lying if I said there wasnt a personal reason I drew attention to the problem of evil. Its the greatest problem I find in believing in a loving God. Both natural evil and moral evil are just so ubiquitous in our world.....

You are right. What purpose something was designed for - does not change the reality that it was designed.  But taking this argument to its extreme conclusion - it becomes an argument for cold, apathetic deism.

I hope we can respectfully agree to disagree on this. Yes I think there are good arguments for and against design. But the reason above is why I am firmly on the pro-evo side.

Irregardless, there are flaws in the design argument which I hope to address in the future.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Bio Geo: An Introduction

 Whew! After 3 lengthy posts on planetary science, I ve decided to take a short break and discuss something else entirely. A quick quiz before you proceed to read the rest:

How many Brazilian orangutans does it take to change a lightbulb ? Why?
None! There are no orangutans in Brazil!

He's a man-eater, I tell you

If you got it right, congratulations! Give yourself a cookie! :3

Alfred Russell Wallace,
badass enough to formulate
the theory of natural selection
when suffering a bout of malaria
 Now lets move onto biogeography. The study of the distribution of extant species across various locales. Although it was Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus who first hinted at it, it was heavy popularized by Alfred Russell Wallace (co-discoverer of Darwin's theory of evolution) as he travelled and studied fauna of the Amazon rainforest, then later Indonesia, it remains a fascinating topic to this day. Charles Darwin also developed his theory of evolution by natural selection by studying biogeographic distributions of species (such as his finches) across various South American species.

Modern biogeography integrates knowledge from various fields of scientific inquiry :  geography, evolutionary biology, geology and ecology to name a few.

Ah, enough of that, let's talk about how it supports probably the most controversial scientific theory in existence : evolution.

Lets look at island biogeography. All around, we see unique, endemic species on island populations: the Madagascar lemurs, the Galapagos finches and giant tortoise, the Hawaiian hawk to name a few. How does this support evolution? Well, it highlights the concept of peripatric speciation, which is when an isolated population possesses much fewer numbers  than the main population. Islands provide the important factor of geographical isolation which leads to speciation in two different ways:

a) Reproductive isolation: the flora and fauna that find their ways to islands often do so by accident: animals carried by driftwood or floating mats of vegetation, or birds flying over. Plant spores may arrive by seed dispersal. As you can see, animals that do are effectively cut off from the mainland. So what happens is there is little to no gene flow, and previously recessive genotypes may be expressed as phenotypes.

b) environmental conditions-may be different from the mainland, leading to different selective pressures. Mutations that may otherwise be detrimental in the main population may be beneficial adaptations to the new environment.

I ll throw in some thoughts about ID and baraminology at the end.

Nevertheless, I will list only a specific few species and name them here:

The Galapagos

Anyone familiar with the creation-evolution controversy would know of these, so I ll try to keep it short and sweet, only naming a few of the truly endemic species to this amazing place. No wonder its such a popular tourist destination.

Pictured here: the famous Galapagos tortoise of which the island got its namesake, (Galapagos is Spanish for tortoise), the marine iguana, the lava lizard and the flightless cormorant. All images are taken courtesy of Mother Nature Network.


Now, I am going to carefully compare and contrast the adaptations of the flightless cormorant and the marine iguana. Lets look at the truly unique flightless cormorant first. Leave it to CMI to faithfully report their adaptations:

The changes that the flightless cormorant underwent are similar to that of other flightless birds; the keel on the breast bone which supports the muscles used for flight is much smaller, and its legs are much stronger than those of other cormorants. Not needing to use its wings for flight, its wings have deteriorated in ways that would have been eliminated in flying birds. For example, its feathers are softer and more hair-like, much like the feathers of other flightless birds.2
And further below:

This would be similar to the case of flightless beetles on windy islands that are more likely to survive, while the beetles that can fly are more likely to be swept away.4 Or else it may simply have been a case of reduced selection pressure—with none of the mainland predators and plentiful food in the sea, loss of flight would be a less serious disadvantage, much like cave creatures that lose their sight over generations.5However, this would not be an example of evolution; the mutation that caused the flightless cormorant to lose the ability to fly is an example of a loss of genetic information. Goo-to-you evolution would require changes that result in new genetic information.
Im not going to comment on "goo-to-you" evolution, but I would like to thank CMI for some useful info. Here this is clearly an adaptation in which the cormorant lost a function (flying), in this case they have lost too much muscle mass on their wings to allow them to fly. The trade-off is that a) they have, thicker, softer, denser body feathers to insulate their body b) they have thicker, stronger legs for swimming.

 Nevertheless, let us look at our next specimen: the marine iguana. A truly unique species endemic to Galapagos, it is the only species of iguana that enters saltwater to eat marine plants. Note that no other iguana does this. 

This quote (taken from here) explains it well enough: 

Marine iguanas have many adaptations for their survival. The teeth of the marine iguana are flattened laterally and lie in single rows along the sides of the jaws immediately inside of the labial scales. Along with their short and blunt snout, the iguana is able to get its jaws into close contact with the substrate for feeding. They also have long, sharp, curved claws that allow them to keep a firm hold of the ground during rough seas or when submerged. The marine iguana also has dark colored scales to help absorb as much heat as possible because they are cold-blooded. To do this they flatten themselves against the lava rocks, exposing as much skin surface as possible to the sun. The flow of heat is regulated by vessels in the chest which close and open to regulate body temperature. The marine iguana has also developed a pair of salt glands beneath the skin between the eye and the nostril on each side of the head which periodically ejects forcibly a fine spray of highly saline secretion. It can project this spray to over a foot in distance.
What are a few adaptations, based on this? a) it has a shorter snout than mainland iguanas b) it has longer, curved claws c) most surprisingly, the have a pair of salt glands that expel salt.

The last adaptation that clearly gives a gain in function that allows our marine iguana to thrive in the predator-free environment of the Galapagos. 

Do you see now? Evolution can lead to adaptations either way: it can lead to a loss of a redundant function, or a gain in a new useful function. Natural selection takes care of the rate of phenotype expression. That's all!

Which is why I dont understand CMI's MO. They claim that mutations cannot increase information, yet they dont actually define give a specific definition what information is. It could mean anything: is it a new protein? A new function? 

One more thing: throughout the Galapagos, you will notice that: a) there are no amphibians on the island b) there are many fewer species of mammals c) flora consists of mostly desert type plants. Why?

Amphibians require warm, moist environments to survive. None would have survived the trip to Galapagos: the sun and saltwater would have baked them dry. This is in contrast to reptiles, whose dry and scaly skin would have allowed them to conserve enough water to survive. This has  ramifications for the newly established field of baraminology (a field that I actually respect), in particular for explaining the enormous diversity of amphibians in the Amazon (to be further highlighted in a future post). 

In the case of many South American islands Charles Darwin visited, he also noted a conspicuous absence of mammals, with the exception of a) bats b) rodents (often introduced by ships actually). 

As for desert plants, simple! Wind dispersal maximizes the chances of seeds arriving on the island. Animal-dispersed angiosperm seeds rarely ever reached the islands. Desert-like plants would also thrive on water-poor soils on the Galapagos. 

I realise this has went a little off-topic, (it was originally going to pontificate on the beauty of these animals) but in the next post, I am going to bring up even better examples of biogeographic island biota. Stay tuned!

P.S remember that Alfred Russell Wallace himself was a deeply spiritual man. 

Friday, 13 June 2014

Is Our Solar System Young? (Part 3)

Now for the Ice Giants! No, not you.

Before we start, I would recommend watching this old video by Bill Nye.  Get the actual distance between planets now? Good.


 As we can see here, this magnificent monument to instantaneous creation has its poles oriented the wrong way, having an axial tilt of 97.77 degrees, as opposed to Earth's humble 23.5 degrees.  \Another oddity is that, as you can see in this picture, the rings and moons orbit in line with the equator and perpendicular to the ecliptic.  Although consisting mostly of hydrogen and helium in its relatively thin atmosphere, the overall composition of these two gases throughout the entire planet is only about 15%. The rest consists of ammonia, methane and water ice. Something to note is that its significantly less dense than Neptune, at 1.27 g cm^-3 as opposed to 1.64 g cm^-3.

 So, because of its irregularities, Answers in Genesis published a paper back in 2002 showing how it was, yet again, another problem for naturalism (why am I not surprised anymore?). I have  neither the time nor inclination to perform a detailed breakdown, but their assertions are:

1. Evolutionists cannot explain how it formed by natural processes!
2. Since they cant, they invoke a planetesimal colliding with Uranus to explain its tilt!
3. But that's impossible, because a collision would have greatly increased its orbital eccentricity!
4. Also, its moons are orbiting around its equator! And there's not enough debris for a planetary collision! How is this possible??!!
5. Its radiating considerably less heat than it should be!!
6. Its magnetic field is tilted 60 degrees from its axis of rotation!
7. It's moon, Miranda, is heavily scarred!! (they are actually shooting themselves in the foot with this)
8. Therefore Goddidit!

What annoys me to no end is when the Goddidit argument becomes so ubiquitous I cannot resist saying something negative. So, to divert my attention I ve decided to defend the validity of planetesimal collision and address their accusations.

Warning: Armchair Speculation and Philosophical Ramblings Ahead

Before we begin, let's take at the orbit of the not-planet Pluto. As we can see, Pluto's orbit possesses a very high eccentricity, meaning it is very elliptical. Another feature you can see is that its orbit is also not aligned like the other planets, having a rather hefty 17 degree tilt to the ecliptic. 

How is this relevant to Uranus? Now, imagine a rogue Trans-Neptunian object, larger than Pluto, tilted to a greater extent and possessing a higher orbital eccentricity. In all likelihood its orbit was skewed by Neptune (like Pluto). Now let it collide with Uranus in its orbit. 

Imagine the angle of collision. It explains the axial tilt that would result wouldnt it?
Now let us look at the other complaints. Of course a collision doesnt necessitate a massive change in its orbit. Many of the other planets, early in their formation, experienced large collisions of their own. Yet we dont see them have highly elliptical orbits. Why is that? 

As for why the mass of Uranus' moons is so low: what would you expect, from a collision with a gaseous planet? Most of the material blasted out was probably from the planet's rocky, icy core. 
This also explains why Uranus would radiate less heat than Neptune: the collision would have resulted in a loss of momentum of the planet's rotation, resulting in less friction and heat between the atmospheric layers (which is probably why Uranus is the coldest of all planets-its surface temperature is about -223.4C).  
Let me draw a quote from the article:

If all of this wasn’t bad enough, evolutionists received a further series of rude shocks when Voyager 2 flew by the Uranus system in 1986, taking many photographs and measurements. “To the complete astonishment of scientists, the magnetic axis [of Uranus] is tilted approximately 60 degrees with respect to its axis of rotation. It is not known why.”6The strength of the magnetic field was also a surprise to evolutionists, though not to creationists, as creationist astrophysicist Dr Russell Humphreys, using Biblical assumptions, had accurately predicted the strength two years previously!7
Well, Im not sure about Mr Humphrey's predictions (couldnt find the linked article), but Uranus had long been predicted to possess a very different magnetosphere. So, no, the "evilutionists" did not receive the "rude shock" as the article claims. It seems AiG takes every opportunity to mock and deride the godless heathens right? And look here for more of Humphrey's "predictions" like where he speculates that God used water to create the heavenly bodies. Seriously. 

An interesting note is that Uranus doesn't spin about its poles, but its orbit around the Sun causes each pole to be exposed to the Sun for about 21 years apiece. Its equator also get a short, but nifty day-night cycle when Uranus is at the equinox of its 84 year orbit. 

Let us turn to the moon of Uranus: Miranda. As usual, the article continues to pit scientists' words against each other to support its own even more tenuous views.  

With one sheer cliff reaching nearly 10 km (6 miles) high, Miranda has some of the most dramatic terrain in the solar system. Heavily-cratered plains alternate with smooth, largely uncratered areas laced with intricate faulting and grooving, forming a spectacular patchwork, and posing all sorts of problems for naturalistic theories. 
 The author doesnt even notice the theological problems with a literal six day creation any more. If God created Miranda instantaneously, He did so uncaringly. In fact, He created the gas giants, with most of their moons the same way. God's creation was supposed to be "very good". Yet this is not what we see. We see massive, wrecking storms on Jupiter. We see the surface of moons like the Galilean moons Ganymede and Callisto, the Saturnian moon Tethys, and now the Uranian moon Miranda ravaged by millions of impact craters and geological damage. 

We see Enceladus trace giant vapour plumes around Saturn thanks to its brutal cryovolcanism.  We see Titan, raining liquid methane on its cold, dead surface, a gross caricature of Earth's life-giving water cycle. Planet Venus, a Hadean Hell in front,  and Mars, a frosty deadland behind. 

Perhaps its a matter of worldview, but does Psalm 19:1 seem appropriate now? Are we supposed to feel glorious in the midst of all this desolation?

The finale of this series will be next week. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Fossil Preservation and the Global Flood

Right, some quick bytes to take a break from my planetary science series. :)

A common objection to mainstream scientific opinion on fossils and deep time is that a Great Global Flood, happening conveniently about 4300 years ago provides excellent, if not better conditions for fossil preservation. However, this fails explanatory power upon closer inspection of the fossils themselves. I will today focus on fossils recovered, particularly on dinosaur ones and why its extremely unlikely they were preserved in a global flood. 

1) Incomplete fossilization and evidence of scavenging- Sometimes only a dinosaur head is found, or the limbs are missing. Incomplete or partial burial explains this well-some parts decay faster than others if buried at different rates. Why would the global flood do this  if dino fossils are found right smack in the middle of the geological column? Obvious signs of scavenging is compelling evidence that they werent buried by the Flood- these Protoceratops were found to  have Velociraptor teeth on them.
Joel of Naturalis Historia also noted an excellent piece on some recently discovered Titanosaur fossils-with T.Rex teeth embedded in their bones. Is this possible in the middle of a Great Flood? 

2)Fossil eggs-Seriously. Note that these fossils of dinosaur eggs have only been found in only Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks. These couldnt have been laid before the supposed Flood-then they would have been found at the bottom of the geologic column. Note that the Flood was supposed to have deposited sediments both above and below them. How is this so? the standard escape hatch is that well, there was a lull in the Flood Waters so maybe the surviving dinos continued breeding and laying eggs. What makes this so unbelievable is that it means that the surviving dinosaurs would have to be standing on top of thousands of feet of Cambrian-Ordovician-Silurian-Devonian-Carboniferous-Permian Flood deposits to continue breeding. Seriously how long were they treading water?

3) Fossil tracks- a form of trace fossils-the idea that footprints could be preserved in the middle of a great flood is personally ridiculous to me. Note that tracks have been excavated from deep within the geologic column. Why didnt the extremely violent flood waters destroy the footprints before subsequently depositing yet another layer of sediments atop? Read a good breakdown here.

4) Coprolites-otherwise known as "fossil poop" they are another problem for the Global Flood. Why?
Simple, they, like any eggs found, had to be laid, well, near the same time the dinosaurs themselves were buried too! Furthermore, its extremely unlikely they could have survived fossilisation, and much more likely to have dissolved or smashed to pieces. And take a look at this turtle coprolite:

Credit to Glenn Morton for this Eocene era turtle coprolite.

Notice the crusting over into layers? Does it remind you of anything? Yes, this is a very obvious sign of dessication. Now how could cracking of this level occur during the Flood?


By far, the most compelling evidence that the fossils were relics of a bygone era is their consistency. You would expect to find giant insects in the Carboniferous-Permian (occasionally along with the peat swamps that they thrived in), and you would find dinosaur coprolites, tracks and eggs along with dinosaur fossils wholly in the Mesozoic.

Is there a better explanation for this?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Is our Solar System young? (Part 2)

Alright, before we start, I ve decided to leave the geology of Mars for the last of this series. Instead, let us turn to the Jovian planets! As well as all the misshapen objects hurtling in between them.

Interesting Appetizer Questions

Position of Mars in the night sky across a period of 6 months
Image borrowed from hyperphysics

1. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, the three planets beyond Earth visible to the naked eye, appear to loop back across the night sky. Shown here, Mars from the 21st of June 2003 to the  25th of March 2004. Can you guess why?

2. The sidereal day of the Jovian planets is very short-for Jupiter its about 9 hours 56 minutes, and for Saturn 10 hours 39 minutes.  Why is this so?

3. Jupiter and Saturn consist mainly of hydrogen and helium, while the ice giants Uranus and Neptune,  contain significantly more ammonia, methane and water ice. Why?

The Asteroid Belt

Image from Wikipedia
There's more than 100,000 asteroids floating between Mars and Jupiter. Astronomers are interested in asteroid families you see, its because sometimes when mommy asteroid and daddy asteroid love each other very much two asteroids will smash into each other and produce daughter asteroids. Maybe their child would even head off to Earth and give us cooties. What a joy!

 Anyway, according to those godless evilutionists the asteroid belt was part of the proto-planetary disk that was circling the Sun some 4.5 billion years ago. At first, they were busy forming planeteismals, but over the next few millions of years, gravitational perturbations from the Jovian planets disrupted them and caused them to smash against each other with velocities too high to cause fusion of any kind.  This was the same mechanism that probably caused the Late Heavy Bombardment of our Solar system. It explains why the combined mass of asteroids in the disk would probably only have 0.1% the mass of our Earth, many were deflected away from the belt. Of course there are problems with this theory, but it remains, by far the most plausible.

There's another very telling sign of the asteroid belt. There are conspicuous absences in  the distribution of main-belt asteroids known as Kirkwood gaps, named after Daniel Kirkwood, their discoverer. In the distant past, when the orbit of Jupiter was still unstable, it would pass closer than normal to the asteroid belt and throw some asteroids off orbit. How are these gaps even explained if our Solar system is so young?

So.........if the Sun and planets/stars were all created simultaneously on the fourth day of Creation Week, why did God create all the space debris too? There's just no reason to! Or does He intend to send one to our doorstep every now and then as an act of divine retribution? Or did He...well, forget to clean up?


Image courtesy of
The biggest and heaviest planet in the Solar System. Having more than 2.5 times the mass of all other planets combined (probably related to the amount of gloop it has gobbled up), in possession of more than 50 named moons, this gargantuan monster of a planet is, well, ugly as hell. The Great Red Spot, pictured as the giant bulge here, is basically a giant storm larger than the Earth, with wind speeds up to . Not only that, it, by far has the largest, most powerful magnetosphere, of all the planets. It stretches all the way to Saturn.  So much so that the solar wind is deflected well before it reaches any of Jupiter's moons. What makes this worse is that its closest moon, Io, is violently volcanic, thanks to tidal heating by Jupiter's intense gravitational field . It continues to spew out a steady stream of particles, which are subsequently picked up and ionized by Jupiter's magnetosphere at the rate of 1 tonne per second. Which makes chance of life on the Galilean moon Europa probably quite slim - the Van Allen radiation belt is lethal. Not to mention that Europa is freezing cold.

There is actually an argument that Jupiter was specially created to provide protection from meteors, by acting as a cosmic vacuum cleaner thanks to its large gravity field. Is this true? Well, not really. Unfortunately, Jupiter has a good chance of slinging a rogue comet towards the inner planets as well as devouring it like Shoemaker-Levy 9. Of course,  it ultimately begs the question: why was Jupiter created in the first place if comets and asteroids neednt be created? 

Oh, and the creationist argument that Io could not possibly be as old as the evilutionists claim? Debunked here

Another interesting tidbit : the Galilean moon Callisto. It has the most heavily cratered surface in the entire Solar System, evidence of its age. Methinks it is a captured protoplanet during the aforementioned Late Heavy Bombardment.


Ah, the prettiest of them all. The rings of Saturn, consisting of millions and millions of (mostly water ice) debris. There's probably 12 rings in all. A majesty of creation, wouldnt you think? Pictured below are Saturn's rings and moons close-up. The innermost rings:  A, B, C and D rings are what one would consider the main rings, densely packed with ice particle aggregates, with the D ring the thinnest and nearest to Saturn. The rest are dusty rings, which are much thinner.

Image courtesy of NASA
Funny enough, Saturn, being only slightly smaller than Jupiter, is considerably less dense. It also has a considerably weaker magnetosphere: slightly weaker than even Earth's one.

Of course, like any true creation research society, AiG and CMI both have articles claiming "Saturn's rings couldnt be as old as them evilutionists say, cuz' it would have been sucked into the planet / spread out too far to be visible millions of years ago!" This argument is so silly because they assume the evilutionist believes everything in the Solar System is 4.5 billion years old. Its almost as if they have a pretty cloud of debris circling their own heads too!

Conventional wisdom states that the rings were probably caused when a moon, about 100 million years ago, wandered too close to Saturn's Roche limit and started tearing up due to tidal stresses. I wont go too far into this, as the usual creationist spin has already been addressed here and here and of course, here.

Another argument was about Saturn's largest moon, Titan. The only moon to have an atmosphere (interesting fact-it rains liquid methane on Titan), one odd feature is the apparent lack of cratering on its surface. So CMI recently jumped the gun and proclaimed the lack of apparent craterism on Titan meant it was young. Of course, hilariously, the implications are that they agreed that the number of craters was a reliable estimate of how old a moon was! Now apply this same logic to another of  Saturn's moons, Tethys and the aforementioned Galilean moon Callisto. How old do you think they are now?

Titan. Image from Wikipedia
Now, lets look at Titan. There's strong evidence that it was once geologically active. Andrew Alden of geology.about has written an interesting piece about this. The presence of volcano-like domes and basalt-like flows is a strong indicator Titan once underwent geological recycling, just like Earth.

And of course, there's the remaining problem. We havent identified all craters on Titan yet. Its atmosphere is thick and heavy, seriously hindering visibility of its surface. Weathering processes caused by the methane rain will also weather down the smaller craters on Titan over the years.


Do you actually see how a phenomenon can be so easily mis-interpreted and twisted to support one's pre-conceived conclusions? That's why it's important to think critically about things you are not familiar with and listen to multiple, qualified experts before making a judgement about what's true and what's not. I will admit I am clouded by confirmation bias as well, so I try my best to listen to all sides of an argument.

The standard game for the YEC scientist is on a completely different playing field. If he submits a thesis to the scientific community, it doesn't matter if it is accepted or rejected, he wins. This is also known as the Xanatos Gambit. If his thesis is accepted, he gains repute and further bolsters the YEC layman's confidence in a young earth. If he's rejected, he can play this by further confirming YEC suspicions that the "religion of naturalism" has been integrated into the sciences and "academic discrimination" is rife.  Either way, he gets paid, so whats the harm?

Thats the importance of the peer review process-it helps siphon out bad, bad research and let the lay public know the truth. Scientist reputation alone isnt good enough-quality of his or her latest research must also be subject to rigorous scrutiny. What would you think happen if the works of biologist Peter Duesberg the AIDS denialist was accepted?

Up next: the ice giants and TNOs!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Is our Solar System young? (Part 1)

Warning: If you are offended by this, please read the conclusion of this series. You may be surprised. 

We all know the Genesis creation account. A simple story, short and sublime, detailing the creation of the heavens and the earth, and Man's subsequent fall from grace. The problem is, some people just take it too bloody literally, despite having been forewarned by the ancient church fathers, from  Jewish theologian Philo of Alexandria, to Bishop Origen and even the famous Saint Augustine (who founded the doctrine of original sin, yes!).

Well, lets assume a young age of the Solar System. There is absolutely no natural mechanism that  it could form in 6000 years, therefore we must assume  it was  "poofed" into existence.

Now what are the problems with this? You will notice that, throughout the account of Genesis 1, there are numerous details of the heavens omitted, or sometimes just seemingly downright wrong about. Read a  version here.

The most obvious problems from a literal reading is:

1. How could light appear before the Sun?
2. From Genesis 1:7-8, it implies there was water above the Heavens. How is this even possible? Are the clouds considered to be part of this water?
3.  Why was the Moon considered the "lesser light" when it got its light from the Sun?
4. Why were plants created twice, first time in Genesis 1 and second time in Genesis 2?
5. Why was there only 1 piece of land mentioned,when there's five continents in Real Life?

Nevertheless, YEC organizations like the ICR or AiG have addressed these questions, if somewhat unsatisfactorily.
Even from an exegetical point of view, this could easily be hand-waved as saying this was how the Earth once was during the Creation Week and was different afterward.

What I would want to discuss here, is what the Bible omitted.

1. Apparently God did not create any spore-producing non-flowering plants, only plants that bore seeds.....
3. What about bacteria?
3. What about them other planets?
Just to name a few.

Point #3 in particular struck me when I first thought about it. Its alright, the average YEC could say, well, it wasnt important to mention them as they weren't relevant, but it gets rather icky when you remember that ancient people once thought that planets were, well, stars.

But I digress. My point is, observation of our planets, and even the Sun itself leads to conclusions that our Solar System is either:
a) ancient, created by natural processes rather than uber-magic
b) if created recently and instantaneously, rather haphazardly and/or halfheartedly,

Let us turn to impact craters in the inner planets shall we?

A Discussion of Impact Craters
There are actually several forms:

1)simple craters- typically small, bow-shaped and smooth-walled. Its what automatically people imagine when they hear "impact crater".

2) complex crater-larger, more complex, with an uplifted centre and concentrated, undulating "terrace" like structures. Check this out. 

3) elongate craters-imagine an asteroid striking at an angle. Leaves a great big scar. Like this.

4) multi-ring craters- the biggest kahunas of all, they generate "ripples" which is basically the shock of the impact deforming the asthenosphere, yup, all the way in the upper mantle!

Irregardless, lets look at the inner planets shall we?

 1) Mercury
Other than Mercury apparently having an unnecessary molten core, something creationists have touted as a young solar system (while neglecting that a) Mercury's core has large amounts of sulphur, lowering the melting point of iron in the core b) tidal heating from the Sun's gravity probably drives heating of the core c) Mercury has a smaller surface area, meaning it loses heat slower ), the evidence, particularly from the vast number of craters on its surface points to its ancient formation. Why do other planets not have the same level of cratering? Simple, early on in the formation of the Solar system, the larger planets had geological activity capable eroding impact craters. That doesnt mean Mercury never had geological activity early on in its history, as evidenced by ancient basalt flows and "ghost craters", but simply means it died sooner than the other rocky worlds.  Either that, or Mercury was created recently with all those craters. Or hilariously, let me draw a quote from Creation wiki on impact craters: (its by creationist astronomer Danny Faulkner)

Faulkner has lately proposed that two episodes of bombardment occurred, the one occurring incident to the fall of man and the other occurring incident to the global flood. The latter episode produced the astroblemes found on earth and also accounts for the markedly uneven distribution of low- and high-energy impacts on the Moon.[1][7] The observed bombardment of the other planetary satellites, according to this model, came from the first bombardment episode and not the second.[1]
  God was so pissed after the Fall He threw a hissy fit and sent huge meteorites to scare Adam & Eve! 

2) Venus

Image courtesy of
What's interesting about Venus is that it is a striking image of what Earth could have been, a literal burning Hell. (And to some, the fate of many in the future.....). Of course, it raises the question onto why it needed to exist in the first place in order for the ancients to mis-characterize it as "the Morning and Evening Star" . I suspect even the ancient Israelites thought so too, the Bible not mentioning planets and all. And it is not evidence of a young solar system, as Prof. Stuart Robbins points out so eloquently. 

3) the Earth-Moon system

Ah, craterism has already been discussed in Mercury. There are more than three hundred thousand craters on the Moon alone, and I pointed out the silly theological problem with a "young Mercury craterism" which applies to our Moon as well. The fact that many more craters on the Moon than the Earth is consistent with an ancient solar system and a geologically active Earth, that continually recycles its surface with the processes of uplift and erosion,  but let me bring up Creation Wiki's infamous hydroplate theory in which they explain how the Global Flood led to massive ejaculation ejection of rocks from the Earth, bombarding the Moon with tons of space debris.

Of course it conveniently ignores the fact that its the Moon's Far side i.e. the side that is perpetually facing away from the Earth that is much more heavily cratered than the Near Side. And also, take a look at this image:

Earth Moon distance, to actual scale,
Image courtesy:

 Just look at the distance between them! I cannot imagine the density of Earthen asteroids needed to create some three hundred thousand craters

  Furthermore, there's this pesky little thing called escape velocity, which is the velocity an object needs to escape the pull of the Earth's gravity. The standard formula, is of course, (2GM/R)^0.5, which, on Earth, translates to roughly 11200 metres per second, which means our Earthly asteroids needed to travel more than thirty times the speed of sound to escape Earth's atmosphere. LOL!

EDIT: Rational Wiki deconstructs this wonderfully. Read their essay on the Lunar Bukkake hypothesis.

4) Mars

Curiosity Rover image of Mount Sharp. Image credit goes to NASA
The Curiosity Rover continues to bring stunning images everyday, so lets discuss this more in detail.
The Red Planet has had its own share of war wounds: battle scars from strikes by asteroids. Being mostly geologically dead however, more than half a million craters remain on its surface. How old do you think it is now?  Regardless, I already discussed craterism to a great extent. In the next post, I will discuss the geological features of Mars and why it points to its ancient grandeur.


 Seriously how could a young Solar system gain so many impact craters? And why does the Earth have so comparably few? It seems so petty for God to begin laying vengeful waste to the surface of the planets He created with millions of asteroids.

The Solar system is ancient!

P.S. Danny Faulkner may be a competent astronomer, but he would make a terrible theologian. Apart from  believing God to have thrown temper tantrums, as shown above, he also once theorized that the
cosmic microwave background could be the remnant of the "light" that God used in the first three days of the Creation Week. Seriously is he saying that the CMBR is the Holy Spirit's malfunctioning flashlight or something?