A Glimpse Inside the Inner Sanctum of ID

David Heddle posted something that made me go, “Wow!”.

This is an apparent glimpse into the innermost circle of protean antievolution, the “Phylogenist” email list. Named so because of a weak pun on Phillip Johnson’s name (“phil-a-johnist”), the list has been operating since the early 1990s. Johnson had decreed that there should be such a list to permit the coordination of effort among those pushing (then) “intelligent design”. Around 2002, it moved from the servers at UC Berkeley to a private host.

Heddle relates that William Dembski is its current moderator. He further relates that the “third-rail” of the list is any criticism of young-earth creationism, the topic that led to Heddle getting booted first from this inner sanctum of the movement, and also contributed to his departure from UD.

This sheds some light on commentary Dembski made upon a question I posed to Paul Nelson at the 2002 4th World Skeptics Conference. Nelson had said that science had reached a decision about UFO phenomena, and no, we were not being visited by extraterrestrial aliens. I asked, given that statement that science can decide things, if high school science teachers could legitimately tell their students that science had decided that the earth was 4.5 billion years old, and not 6 to 20 thousand years old. Nelson said, yes, they could. Massimo Pigliucci, the moderator, took it further, asking Nelson for his personal view on the age of the earth. Nelson, after some clear signs of not wishing to answer Pigliucci, said that he believed that the earth was thousands and not billions of years old. The audience was, to say the least, electrified. Both Nelson and Dembski immediately stated that the [b]only[/b] reason I could have for having posed the question I did was to obtain the socio-political embarrassment of Nelson. That was untrue then and now. I was satisfied with the answer I got, which was fully sufficient for the purpose of answering those who would insist upon mealy-mouthed equivocation by science teachers when the topic of the age of the earth came up in classes.

Heddle’s experience related at the link shows that there is far more to the status of the question of the “age of the earth” than the asserted convenience of critics in impeaching spokesmen for ID. A consistent compartmentalization of science’s inquiry into the age of the earth is still a guiding principle of antievolution organization, as well.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

19 thoughts on “A Glimpse Inside the Inner Sanctum of ID

  • 2006/10/04 at 3:32 pm
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    It will take some time getting used to the idea that Heddle is a now “good” guy!

    If so, congratulations to him; it is not often that a leopard changes its spots. Maybe Dr. Buffalo Bill Dembski can take some time away from doing ID Research and calculate the actual probability.

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  • 2006/10/05 at 9:18 am
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    Heddle is a troll on PZs’ and Rosenhouses’ blogs who admits to being an old earth creationist.

  • 2006/10/05 at 3:09 pm
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    SLC

    Troll?

    I haven’t commented on PZ’s blogs for I don’t know how long–a year? Two years? And in total I commented on no more than three or four posts on his site before he told me to go away, which I did. That makes me a troll? I do read his blog now and then, looking for blogging fodder–is that what you mean?

    On Jason’s, I comment on maybe one post every two weeks–I think that is probably fairly accurate–which admittedly leads to many comments on those posts via the N on 1 effect. This makes me a troll? Jason has never asked me to leave–he’s gotten frustrated and angry with me but has never thrown me out. If he did, I would leave and stay away.

    So I am not sure how I qualify as a “troll” on those blogs.

    The other scienceblogs.com blog I frequent is Ed Brayton’s. He has not only never asked me to leave, but has (while maintaining his disagreement with my views) defended me when I am attacked without substance–kind of like you just did.

    And I find your statement “admits to being an old earth creationist” a bit odd, since it would only be valuable and/or insightful if there was some sense in which I was obscuring the fact that I am an OEC.

  • 2006/10/07 at 11:58 am
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    Wesley, I am fully supportive of you here, but I also support the moderator. Both of your questions were appropriate and educational.

    It is good to point out that it is okay to teach that science has decided that the earth is billions of years old, while personally believing that the earth is only thousands of years old. I don’t see why Nelson should be embarassed in the least by pointing this out, and I think it should make people question further why people believe what they believe and how we can be truthful about both our convictions, our facts, and our doubts.

    The real embarrassment should be to the audience for being so shocked at Nelson’s honesty, and the audience should be questioning whether they entertain doubts and seek answers to the questions they have, or whether they are just taking the path of least resistance. Was it Socrates who said “The unexamined life is not worth living”?

    In another thousand years, who knows, we may have science deciding that the earth is only 20,000 years old, and a few people holding out that it is really billions of years old. A bit of skepticism is a healthy thing.

  • 2006/10/08 at 6:00 am
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    In what sense is being aware of the evidence that tells us that the age of the earth is about 4.55 billion years and not 6 to 20 thousand years part of an “unexamined life”? It seems quite a mass calumny that you are making there, and directed in quite the wrong direction.

    In another thousand years, who knows, we may have science deciding that the earth is only 20,000 years old, and a few people holding out that it is really billions of years old. A bit of skepticism is a healthy thing.

    Uh, no. While science may figure out that 4.55 billions years old is not a precise figure for the age of the earth, 20 thousand years is simply inconsistent with the available evidence. There are varves that directly demonstrate ages in the millions of years, and many other lines of evidence that directly refute the notion that the earth is 20 thousand years old or less. Consider this article about the evidence for 100KY periodicity in ice-age cycles. Paul Nelson was on board with the idea that science could actually decide that certain assertions are simply wrong. This is a big point. Phlogiston is dead as a theory, and it is not coming back. The notion that the earth’s age is limited to 20 thousand years or fewer is likewise contradicted by the evidence, and isn’t going to make a future comeback. This is not “closed-mindedness” or a “lack of skepticism”; it is, in fact, a recognition of an essential feature of scientific methodology, that while one may not be able to confirm a particular theory as being correct, we can indeed determine that a conjecture is wrong. That has been done for conjectures of a young earth.

    BTW, entering comments in the wrong threads for the topics is inappropriate.

  • 2006/10/09 at 9:12 am
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    For one, you could ask Paul Nelson. He obviously takes the 4.5 billion year theory very seriously and knows the evidence for it, yet as a result of further examination he thinks it is more likely that the earth is only a few thousand years old. There are obviously some parts of the evidence or the reasoning that he disagrees with, and other factors which point to a shorter age for the earth. The evidence is never all in when you’re dealing with science.

    Given the current assumptions and evidence, science will never change its mind about the billions of years, but the long-term view recognizes that assumptions can change over the years, and new evidence needs to be reconciled somehow with past evidence. That often leads to paradigm shifts and different conclusions. “Sometimes our assumptions are correct.”

    I am sure you are aware that 15-year-old fossils around Mt. St. Helen’s, using traditional assumptions about fossilization, would have been decidedly millions of years old. The new evidence makes us conclude that there is more than one possible time frame for fossilization to occur. This is NOT an example to say that the earth is young; just an example to show how new evidence can change prior assumptions.

    Likewise, through the study of electricity magnetism we have concluded that force fields exist, whereas previous generations would have ridiculed that idea as unscientific and preposterous.

    You wrote, “The notion that the earth’s age is limited to 20 thousand years or fewer is likewise contradicted by the evidence, and isn’t going to make a future comeback.” All it takes is evidence of something new – as revolutionary as force fields – for young earth theory to make that unlikely comeback, even though with what we currently know it is a dead theory. It may or may not – I can’t say for certain either way. But I can be open-minded and examine the possibilities.

  • 2006/10/09 at 9:15 am
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    For instance, in a thousand years or so we may have studied varves on newly-formed planets light years away, and discover that the evidence there mirrors what we find on earth. Such a discovery would challenge our assumptions and make us find new questions and new ways to reconcile the data.

  • 2006/10/09 at 11:51 am
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    Glenn Shrom,

    It’s odd that you think that I haven’t spoken with Paul Nelson. Remember, I’m the guy who has been doing this stuff for twenty years, and you are the guy who has read one book and attended one debate last year. Paul is, like Kurt Wise, of the opinion that the evidence points to an old earth, but his commitment to a literalist interpretation of Genesis leads him to a personal belief in a young earth. This is not a matter of some scientific evidence that is known to Paul and not to me.

    To rehabilitate young-earth conjectures, numerous independent lines of evidence would have to be discarded. This is like saying that our conception of theories of gravity will change in the future because we will decide that all the measurements of falling bodies conducted to date were wrong, and every astronomical observation dealing with planetary motion was wrong, too. Yeah, it is a possibility. It isn’t in any sense something that leads to any tentativeness in saying that a theory of gravity that states that objects tend to repel each other in proportion to their mass and closeness is just plain wrong. The same goes for conjectures of a young earth. They are ruled out by the evidence in hand. It is not simply a matter of “new evidence” that would rehabilitate young earth claims; the existing evidence would have to be tossed out in its entirety. And no, it is not a matter of “assumptions” that excludes young earth conjectures. But thanks anyway for demonstrating that all you do is regurgitate the same old antievolution arguments we’ve heard for decades. Have a look at the sections of the Index to Creationist Claims on assumptions in radiometric dating, “CD000: Radiometric dating makes false assumptions”; “CD103. The geologic column is based on the assumption of evolution”; “CD200. Uniformitarian assumption is untenable”; “CA230.1. Evolutionists interpret evidence on the basis of their preconceptions”; “CA250. Scientific findings are always changing”; “CA310. Scientists find what they expect to find”; and “CA321. Scientists are motivated to support naturalism and reject creationism”.

    Finding that varves form with periodicity to match its planet’s rotation about its primary would mirror what we find here on earth, and would help confirm our quite reasonable assumptions about deposition. I have no clue what “mirroring” our situation on earth could do to “challenge” anything. It would be a great thing for geologists, confirming that similar forces in disparate places produce similar results. You seem to have shot yourself in the foot with this fanciful illustration.

  • 2006/10/09 at 12:03 pm
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    Glenn Shrom,

    I think I see now what your “mirroring” statement was aimed at, given that you likely think of “newly-formed” as “less than 20 thousand years old”. Again, what you are regurgitating here is very old antievolutionary thought, in this case, it dates back 149 years. That’s right, your “challenge” predates the publication of Darwin’s “Origin of Species” by two years. Phillip Gosse’s “Omphalos”, published in 1857, is the book length treatment of your “challenging” idea, wherein Gosse asserted that Adam and Eve would, newly created, have belly buttons, though they would have had no need or history to account for them. This is the topic of creationist claim CH220. The universe was created with apparent age. It is primarily challenging in the theological sphere, as anyone familiar with the reception Gosse’s book received would know, since an inescapable tenet of Gosse’s contention is that the Creator is a liar.

  • 2006/10/09 at 7:41 pm
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    Let me go back to the question I was answering when I referred you to Paul Nelson. You wrote: “In what sense is being aware of the evidence that tells us that the age of the earth is about 4.55 billion years and not 6 to 20 thousand years part of an “unexamined life”? ” I understood you to mean “In what sense is believing without a doubt that the earth is older than 20,000 years part of an unexamined life?”

    Now that I read your question again, I would simply conclude that you misunderstood me. I never implied that being ignorant of evidence is part of an examined life. I am in total agreement with you, then, if I understand your question better now. A huge part of living the “examined life” is being aware of the evidence that tells us that the age of the earth is about 4.55 billion years. That is why people like Paul Nelson and yourself take the time to become aware of such evidence.

    Since you have spoken to Paul Nelson about this, you are already more than aware of how the examined life has led him to question the 4.55 billion year conclusion in favor of the 20,000 year conclusion. He did not stop at examining the evidence you look at, but went on to examine other evidence, such as the record in Genesis, the population of human beings, the possibility that our assumptions are false, etc.

    I don’t follow you again about all the antievolution accusations. You are in a whole different world on this, and I think you need to take a fresh look from outside your bubble. I am not advocating a young earth position, and personally I believe our planet is billions of years old. What I am advocating is that we keep an open mind, especially to be open to new evidence in the future which could challenge our assumptions. I am very unclear about how that “challenge” relates to anything that tries to prove the earth is young. If you are pointing out that the challenge to keep an open mind is not a new idea, well, obviously not.

    I was making a comparison: We are convinced that fossils are millions of years old, then we see them formed less than fifteen years ago. This challenges our prior assumptions about the age of fossils. So now in the future, if we find data about a new planet (which we could somehow watch being formed), and data about that planet match the same data which we use to conclude that the earth is 4.55 billion years old, we would be forced to rethink our assumptions. Here would be a clash between what we know from one observation, and what we know from another.

    I don’t need to start reading any Creationist claims, antievolution claims, or pro-evolution claims to figure that out. In fact, the whole thing does not rely on biological data, anyway, but rather on non-biological physics.

    If someone else, 149 years ago, contemplated our being able to see the formation of a new planet over the next thousand years, that is fine with me. But it would have nothing to do with belly buttons or challenges to evolution.

  • 2006/10/09 at 7:50 pm
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    Would it help if I went on to conjecture that after seeing the two apparently contradictory observations, we went on to reconcile them and re-confirmed the 4.55 billion year age? Or if I conjecture that science took a turn towards the 20,000 year earth for only about 500 years or so, and then swung back again to old earth theory in 1500 years based on some other fresh evidence?

    You seem to think I have some personal stake in whatever conclusion is reached, but I don’t. You’d understand me better if you thought more with your reason and less with your emotions and past personal experiences.

  • 2006/10/10 at 12:48 am
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    Glenn Shrom,

    He did not stop at examining the evidence you look at, but went on to examine other evidence, such as the record in Genesis, the population of human beings, the possibility that our assumptions are false, etc.

    The “other” things are not evidence. Literalist interpretations of Scripture are not evidence. The argument that human population favors a young earth is an apologetic, and not even a good one at that. The notion that human population growth shows a young earth is just as well supported as the notion that one can accurately derive a person’s birthdate by censusing the E. coli in their gut; that is, not supported at all and contrary to what we do know about population dynamics. I’ve already pointed to the responses to the creationist arguments that “assumptions” mean that anything goes, forever and ever, which is contrary to what science tells us. If you think that stuff is evidence, you need to try to get a refund on what may have been called your education.

    I don’t follow you again about all the antievolution accusations. You are in a whole different world on this, and I think you need to take a fresh look from outside your bubble.

    I am in different place because I have become informed on these issues. I find it rather jarring that you seem to think that your ignorance is a basis for the arrogance needed to make comments about me being in a “bubble”. You don’t even know that you are parroting trite and ancient nonsense.

    I was making a comparison: We are convinced that fossils are millions of years old, then we see them formed less than fifteen years ago. This challenges our prior assumptions about the age of fossils. So now in the future, if we find data about a new planet (which we could somehow watch being formed), and data about that planet match the same data which we use to conclude that the earth is 4.55 billion years old, we would be forced to rethink our assumptions. Here would be a clash between what we know from one observation, and what we know from another.

    Yeah, that would be “challenging” all right. Let me know when such a fictional situation applies. Until then, the real world is a far more interesting object of study. What we know from study of the real world says that multiple independent lines of evidence indicate that the earth is much, much older than 20 thousand years of age. In many instances, these independent lines of evidence corroborate each other; data from one correlates with another to confirm or calibrate the ages represented. For instance, we see daily accumulation of coral skeletons. These daily accretions are periodic. There are also changes that we see in modern corals that show annual periodicity. In modern corals, there are 365 daily changes per annual change. Several hundred million years ago, corals had 400 such daily changes per annual period. This correlates neatly with the slowing of the earth’s rotation due to tidal friction. The assertion that the earth might be 20 thousand years old or less cannot make sense of this data at all. There is no physical means for the earth to have slowed its rotation from 400 days per year to 365 days per year in 20 thousand years. You would have to falsify both the modern observations of what corals do and all of our physical knowledge of the motion of planetary bodies in order to cast out just that one indicator of the falsity of a young earth conjecture. This is the sort of interlocking of evidence that you have provided no reason to suspect is compromised in any way whatsoever, empirically or philosophically. There are many others. By the time that you get to the point of supporting a young earth conjecture again, you’d be in about the position of the Tasaday tribe so far as having a base of scientific knowledge to work from is concerned; very little of what science has discovered in any field would be left standing.

    If someone else, 149 years ago, contemplated our being able to see the formation of a new planet over the next thousand years, that is fine with me. But it would have nothing to do with belly buttons or challenges to evolution.

    Gosse’s thesis was that a created world would have the appearance of age. His scriptural basis was to discuss whether Adam and Eve, created directly by God, would have belly buttons. Gosse answered that in the affirmative, and also asserted that a created world would show an appearance of age. The “newly formed” and “observed” planet illustration of yours obviously is exactly the sort of thing that fits in Gosse’s argumentation. Just because you are too ignorant to have grasped this doesn’t mean that everyone else is thus handicapped. The “Omphalos” argument is, besides being theologically repugnant, also completely sterile scientifically. If something is created with the appearance of age, our best understanding of it is still to ascribe the mechanism of formation to the secondary processes that the primary cause has mimicked so thoroughly.

    You seem to think I have some personal stake in whatever conclusion is reached, but I don’t. You’d understand me better if you thought more with your reason and less with your emotions and past personal experiences.

    I don’t give a rat’s posterior for what your personal stake might be. I just see someone spouting the very same ignorant claptrap that has been debunked for decades if not centuries and point out that it is still wrong. I will continue to point out that nothing that you’ve managed to say about evolution, whether you personally ascribe to those arguments or not, comes from being informed about the arguments and issues, and almost all of it is credulous repetition of the bogus standard religiously motivated antievolutionary ensemble of arguments. You seem to have altogether too high an opinion of yourself; this isn’t about you, it is about your propagation of well-known falsehoods. It doesn’t matter whether I come to an understanding of you, and I don’t care to take a bunch of abnormal psych courses to prepare for the task. I’ll content myself with pointing out that what you are saying is old, debunked, and not in any way suitable for science classrooms.

  • 2006/10/11 at 11:46 pm
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    Interpretations of Genesis are not evidence, obviously, but I was only saying that the record in Genesis is an evidence. Reasonings about the population is not an evidence, but I was only saying that the population is an evidence. Paul Nelson may have used these two pieces of evidence to form his literal interpretation and his faulty reasoning. I don’t know, but my point is that he didn’t stop at the science facts you stop at. I don’t applaud Nelson’s reasoning or his conclusion, but I do applaud that he has kept an open mind, and has sought to seek answers for himself. On the other hand, a wise man once said that if you have too open of a mind, your brain will fall out! ;-)

    I was trying to put the ball back in your court to tell the readers what Paul Nelson bases his young-earth conclusion on. Part of the problem was that I misunderstood your question, and I apologize. You were setting up a straw man argument when you asked, “What is “unexamined” about being aware of the evidence?” Now that I understand your question, my answer is that nothing is “unexamined” about being aware of the evidence, and I never said it was. You keep trying to put stupid words in my mouth, and then want to call me stupid for saying things you only wish I had said.

    I was not too ignorant to grasp Gosse’s thesis. I understand the logic behind “If God made the world 20,000 years ago, and made it look 4.55 billion years old when we examined it, He’s being deceptive and not truthful.”

    What I didn’t understand was how that fit in with what I was saying. I’m not talking about God, or about a new planet being made to look old, any more than the 15-yr.-old fossilized trees were being made to look millions of years old. It’s just that sometimes new evidence throws us a curve ball, and then it is the job of science to make new hypotheses and find ways to understand why things are the way they are – never to just sit back and think that somebody pulled the wool over our eyes. It was that way when the wave and the particle theories of light came into conflict. Nobody was trying to trick us into thinking light was a wave when it’s really a particle, or vice versa. It just gives us room to get a broader understanding of all the factors that come into play, and sometimes we have to question old assumptions based on new evidence.

    My main points on this topic are:

    1) Your questions to Nelson were appropriate and educational.

    2) Nelson should not be ashamed to hold different views from the mainstream scientific views, nor should the audience be shocked that he dare do so.

    3) We should keep an open mind about new evidence leading us to different conclusions.

    4) I agree with you that the examined life includes knowing the scientific evidence of an old earth.

    5) As far as I can tell, the earth is about 4.55 billion years old based on the evidence.

    In response to this you tell me that what I am saying is old, debunked, and unsuited for science classrooms! What’s up with that?

    The “bubble” I refer to is that you pounce on me as if you had to defend evolution and science from me, when all I do is support what you are saying. It’s like you’re a broken record about labeling people “anti-evolution” and your having to fight back. Take it easy, you’ll give yourself a heart attack. I have nothing against you or what you are saying, except when you try to label me and everything I say as “anti-evolution” or “Creationist”. That’s a personal attack that is untrue and unkind. If you just stuck to the issues, you’d be better off, and please try to take a more calm approach. We’re all in this together.

    Please try to take each statement for what it’s worth, and only for what it’s worth. You may have to fight arguments, but you never have to fight people.

    It’s as if you saw me share a sandwich with someone, then from that alone you concluded that I was communist, and started ranting and raving about how awful Marxism is and how all his theories failed when the USSR fell apart, accusing me of trying to overthrow the free market economy in America. Slow down and take it easy!

  • 2006/10/13 at 9:57 am
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    Wesley,

    You have said in the past that you are interested in both doing good science, and winning arguments. It is clear to me when you delete my posts in favor of irrational arguments being presented as the last word, that you are much more interested in mudslinging and looking like the winner of personal arguments than you really are in the quest for knowledge and understanding. Good day, sir.

    – Glenn.

  • 2006/10/13 at 10:18 am
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    I am not supporting a young earth conjecture as you claim, but that doesn’t stop me from using my brain. I could believe that Pennsylvania deciduous leaves change color in the fall, and argue that it is caused by clorophyll levels, while rejecting the claim that clorophyll is chemically the same as cyanide which kills the leaves.

    In the same way, I take issue with a point within your arguments. You wrote: “Several hundred million years ago, corals had 400 such daily changes per annual period. … You would have to falsify both the modern observations of what corals do and all of our physical knowledge of the motion of planetary bodies in order to cast out just that one indicator of the falsity of a young earth conjecture.”

    That, Wesley is not very logical. To cast out that one indicator of the falsity of a young earth conjecture, the most likely path would be neither to falsify MODERN observations of what corals do, nor the knowledge of physical planetary motion. The most likely path would be to falsify that several hundred million years ago coral had 400 such daily changes per year. What happened several hundred million years ago was not directly observable by any human, and so we have no foolproof data to prove that. The first place to look if you wanted to question anything, would be to look at what other causes could make it appear as though coral had 400 changes per year. Just a suggestion.

    I have no intention of questioning the 400 changes per year, and I fully agree with the conclusion that the earth had 400 rotations per revolution around the sun several hundred million years ago. I just wanted to point out that you are using another straw man argument. You pick the two most ridiculous things that anyone would try to disprove, and you use them as your example, rather than going for the simplest and most obvious thing that could be wrong about our assumptions.

  • 2006/10/13 at 7:51 pm
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    You have said in the past that you are interested in both doing good science, and winning arguments. It is clear to me when you delete my posts in favor of irrational arguments being presented as the last word, that you are much more interested in mudslinging and looking like the winner of personal arguments than you really are in the quest for knowledge and understanding. Good day, sir.

    So far, Shrom has not identified a single irrational argument on my part. I, on the other hand, have demonstrated that several of Shrom’s argument are unfounded.

    I speak my mind, as Shrom does himself:

    Your efforts at spreading religious bigotry and trying to deny people employment based on their religious beliefs are abhorrent. [GPtCW p.47]

    The problem with Shrom’s statement was that the fellow he was berating hadn’t proposed or endorsed any religious bigotry. That was a complete fiction that Shrom invented.

    Shrom is under a misapprehension. This is my weblog. When the discussion has gone through one or two rounds, I will close the thread. And because it is my weblog, I will reserve for myself the privilege of having the final word here. Shrom is welcome to whine about me on ID-centric weblogs, or start his own to whine about me. But once a thread is closed, it’s over here. Entering off-topic comments on other threads will result in those comments not appearing where they are off-topic. I can’t help it if Shrom thinks that his earlier attempts at bloviation don’t hold up well to scrutiny. This life is finite, and so is the time I can devote to setting Shrom’s errors straight.

  • 2006/10/13 at 9:14 pm
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    Glenn Shrom wrote:

    Interpretations of Genesis are not evidence, obviously, but I was only saying that the record in Genesis is an evidence.

    Sorry, no. There is no “record in Genesis” applicable to the question of the age of the earth that stands apart from a literalist interpretation. For those Christian believers who accept the creation stories of Genesis as allegory, this is not a “record”.

    Reasonings about the population is not an evidence, but I was only saying that the population is an evidence.

    Shrom offered “the population of human beings” as evidence that causes people to believe in a young earth. How does the human population do that without creationist “reasoning” about it? It doesn’t. Nor does human population, on its own, signify that the earth must be young. People who study population dynamics understand that populations can remain in the lag phase for extended periods of time, can have cycles of expansion and decline, and can exponentially increase — and crash. This is why I mentioned that trying to argue that human population implies a young earth is just like trying to say that we can accurately determine anyone’s birthdate by counting up the E. coli in their gut. It just doesn’t work that way.

    Paul Nelson may have used these two pieces of evidence to form his literal interpretation and his faulty reasoning. I don’t know, but my point is that he didn’t stop at the science facts you stop at.

    See, here Shrom slips out the rhetorical knife and hopes that his action was smooth enough that nobody will notice. Shrom asserts here, with no evidence whatsoever, that Paul Nelson has considered more evidence relating to the age of the earth than I have. The clear implication is that Nelson’s personal conclusion is based upon a broader review of evidence and thus should be treated as superior to my conclusion, which Shrom asserts in ignorance is not as broad in its basis. This is pathetic on Shrom’s part, and belies his other comment about “mudslinging”. It appears that much of Shrom’s comments about others are based on simple projection. When he is unable to argue competently, he accuses his opponent of “irrational” arguments. When he takes a break from denigrating his opponent in some fashion, he may accuse him of “mudslinging”. This sort of behavior, too, is common in antievolution writers.

    I have considered the “record” of the creation stories of Genesis. I have also taken the time to learn about the documentary hypothesis and the temporal history of the first five books of the Bible. It is because I am familiar with these issues that I do not agree with literalism with respect to the creation stories of Genesis. This is not a gap in my review of possible “evidence”.

    I have considered the creationist argument that asserts that human population implies a young earth. I even wrote a detailed analysis of such a claim that dated from 1925. I concluded, “While I worked from Williams’ example, any similar argument will produce a similar set of counter-factual intermediate values. What the real values tell us is that human population does not always increase exponentially, and thus current population cannot tell us an initial population time.” Shrom has given no reason why my analysis should be considered faulty, much less a reason why my analysis should be considered non-existent, as his dismissive comment about Nelson considering things I have not would assert. This, again, is no gap in my review of the evidence.

    I don’t applaud Nelson’s reasoning or his conclusion, but I do applaud that he has kept an open mind, and has sought to seek answers for himself. On the other hand, a wise man once said that if you have too open of a mind, your brain will fall out! ;-)

    Paul Nelson simply values the revelation of Scripture above the scientific evidence. I doubt that Nelson would try to use the human population example as a support for his young earth views; the supposed argumentation there is far too flimsy to interest Nelson. And that was my point earlier: Nelson’s personal belief in a young earth is founded upon his faith, and not upon scientific evidence that he is privy to and that I am not.

    I was trying to put the ball back in your court to tell the readers what Paul Nelson bases his young-earth conclusion on. Part of the problem was that I misunderstood your question, and I apologize. You were setting up a straw man argument when you asked, “What is “unexamined” about being aware of the evidence?” Now that I understand your question, my answer is that nothing is “unexamined” about being aware of the evidence, and I never said it was. You keep trying to put stupid words in my mouth, and then want to call me stupid for saying things you only wish I had said.

    Let’s review what Shrom did say earlier:

    The real embarrassment should be to the audience for being so shocked at Nelson’s honesty, and the audience should be questioning whether they entertain doubts and seek answers to the questions they have, or whether they are just taking the path of least resistance. Was it Socrates who said “The unexamined life is not worth living”?

    Shrom’s original statement asserts that the audience in 2002 were unaware of the evidence relating to the age of the earth, so much so that trotting out the “unexamined life” quote was something Shrom felt was apropos. Yes, that was a stupid thing for Shrom to say. No, I did not put those words in Shrom’s mouth.

    I was not too ignorant to grasp Gosse’s thesis. I understand the logic behind “If God made the world 20,000 years ago, and made it look 4.55 billion years old when we examined it, He’s being deceptive and not truthful.”

    What I didn’t understand was how that fit in with what I was saying. I’m not talking about God, or about a new planet being made to look old, any more than the 15-yr.-old fossilized trees were being made to look millions of years old.

    Shrom’s example was a “newly formed” planet that, somehow, someway, did look old.

    I was making a comparison: We are convinced that fossils are millions of years old, then we see them formed less than fifteen years ago. This challenges our prior assumptions about the age of fossils. So now in the future, if we find data about a new planet (which we could somehow watch being formed), and data about that planet match the same data which we use to conclude that the earth is 4.55 billion years old, we would be forced to rethink our assumptions. Here would be a clash between what we know from one observation, and what we know from another.

    It’s just that sometimes new evidence throws us a curve ball, and then it is the job of science to make new hypotheses and find ways to understand why things are the way they are – never to just sit back and think that somebody pulled the wool over our eyes.

    That was, in fact, my point: “If something is created with the appearance of age, our best understanding of it is still to ascribe the mechanism of formation to the secondary processes that the primary cause has mimicked so thoroughly.” Science can’t act on the assumption that Gosse was right. But the only people I know who talk about hypotheticals like “newly formed” planets that look just like they are ancient are people who are promoting Omphalos-type arguments.

    It was that way when the wave and the particle theories of light came into conflict. Nobody was trying to trick us into thinking light was a wave when it’s really a particle, or vice versa. It just gives us room to get a broader understanding of all the factors that come into play, and sometimes we have to question old assumptions based on new evidence.

    None of that, though, has anything to do with the age of the earth question. There is no challenging new evidence, and certainly no mass exclusion of all the multitude of lines of evidence that says that thinking of the earth’s age in terms of thousands of years is simply ludicrous.

    My main points on this topic are:

    1) Your questions to Nelson were appropriate and educational.

    2) Nelson should not be ashamed to hold different views from the mainstream scientific views, nor should the audience be shocked that he dare do so.

    3) We should keep an open mind about new evidence leading us to different conclusions.

    4) I agree with you that the examined life includes knowing the scientific evidence of an old earth.

    5) As far as I can tell, the earth is about 4.55 billion years old based on the evidence.

    In response to this you tell me that what I am saying is old, debunked, and unsuited for science classrooms! What’s up with that?

    Because Shrom didn’t restrict what he said to the five points he enumerates there, nor did he always state those five points in the way he does in his list. When someone says that the “record of Genesis” is evidence concerning a scientific evaluation of the age of the earth, that’s just plain wrong. When someone says that “human population” is evidence for a young earth, that is just plain wrong. When someone makes up hypotheticals that only make sense when coupled with Omphalian assumptions, that’s just plain wrong. And when someone asserts, as Shrom does, that science cannot decide that certain conjectures are false in a definitive way, that is just plain wrong. These assertions, and other credulous repetitions of bogus arguments long made by antievolutionists, are things that Shrom says that are old, debunked, and unsuitable for the science classroom.

    The “bubble” I refer to is that you pounce on me as if you had to defend evolution and science from me, when all I do is support what you are saying.

    How is saying that science can’t figure out that some things are false supporting what I say?

    The evidence is never all in when you’re dealing with science.

    This is a half-truth: science cannot confirm the truth of a conjecture, but it can, on observation of a contradictory datum, exclude a conjecture with all the confidence with which the contradictory observation is made. Trying to teach students that science can decide nothing at all is an anti-science stance.

    It’s like you’re a broken record about labeling people “anti-evolution” and your having to fight back.

    Shrom hasn’t been paying attention. I label the various arguments that Shrom repeats from the antievolutionary literature as being antievolutionary. I don’t have any need to label “people” as antievolutionary; anyone can work out that someone that consistently advocates a certain type of argument is an advocate for the position.

    Take it easy, you’ll give yourself a heart attack.

    It’s not likely that Shrom’s efforts will do the trick. I’ve seen worse.

    I have nothing against you or what you are saying, except when you try to label me and everything I say as “anti-evolution” or “Creationist”.

    I’m not “trying” anything. I am showing, in great detail, that what Shrom has offered comes from antievolutionary sources, decades or centuries old. If he doesn’t want to have arguments correctly recognized for what they are, he should stop credulously repeating them.

    That’s a personal attack that is untrue and unkind.

    So far, Shrom has not demonstrated that I have said even one untrue thing about the arguments that he has been making. As for “unkind”, as I explained to the Calvin “evolution” list some years ago, I am all for politeness, except for when it becomes complicity. Ignoring the clear antievolutionary origins of much of Shrom’s stances would make me complicit in advancing those antievolution arguments, and I will have none of that.

    If you just stuck to the issues, you’d be better off, and please try to take a more calm approach. We’re all in this together.

    Projection again, I see.

    Please try to take each statement for what it’s worth, and only for what it’s worth. You may have to fight arguments, but you never have to fight people.

    Yes, I am fighting the old, bogus arguments that Shrom continues to promote. He seems to take it personally.

    It’s as if you saw me share a sandwich with someone, then from that alone you concluded that I was communist, and started ranting and raving about how awful Marxism is and how all his theories failed when the USSR fell apart, accusing me of trying to overthrow the free market economy in America. Slow down and take it easy!

    What is it with the completely dis-analogous analogies that Shrom trots out? Let’s see if I can restate the situation so that there is some analogy… Let’s say that Shrom were to write a book on economics, wherein he advocated the abolition of personal property, the overthrow of the elite classes, and the rule of the working class. Perhaps Shrom could come up with a pithy catchphrase, like, “To each person as he has a need, and each person contributes as they can.” When a reviewer points out that these stances correspond to Marxist thought, Shrom responds that of course it is not Marxist thought in the least, and that he has never read any Marx, anyway. That would be an analogy that was worth a bit.

  • 2006/10/14 at 6:02 am
    Permalink

    Glenn Shrom writes:

    I am not supporting a young earth conjecture as you claim, but that doesn’t stop me from using my brain.

    What I’ve claimed is that Shrom is repeating the old, debunked arguments of the antievolutionary ensemble. Is the “human population implies a young earth” an argument in the antievolutionary ensemble? Why, yes, of course it is. Is the “appearance of age” argument part of the antievolutionary ensemble? Why, yes, of course it is. Is the “science is based on assumptions that change” argument part of the antievolutionary ensemble? Why, yes, of course it is. I think the reader will have gotten the picture by now.

    I could believe that Pennsylvania deciduous leaves change color in the fall, and argue that it is caused by clorophyll levels, while rejecting the claim that clorophyll is chemically the same as cyanide which kills the leaves.

    Which, of course, has nothing at all to do with the fact that Shrom has been repeating old, bogus arguments from the antievolutionary ensemble. At best, Shrom is asserting that he personally doesn’t ascribe to those arguments, but that other people do. That is still ascribing value to the old, debunked arguments.

    In the same way, I take issue with a point within your arguments. You wrote: “Several hundred million years ago, corals had 400 such daily changes per annual period. … You would have to falsify both the modern observations of what corals do and all of our physical knowledge of the motion of planetary bodies in order to cast out just that one indicator of the falsity of a young earth conjecture.”

    That, Wesley is not very logical. To cast out that one indicator of the falsity of a young earth conjecture, the most likely path would be neither to falsify MODERN observations of what corals do, nor the knowledge of physical planetary motion. The most likely path would be to falsify that several hundred million years ago coral had 400 such daily changes per year. What happened several hundred million years ago was not directly observable by any human, and so we have no foolproof data to prove that.

    Shrom’s objection here is what is not logical. It is, in fact, simply the antievolution objection that runs, “Were you there?”, and which is answered, among other places, in Mark Isaak’s Index to Creationist Claims, Claim CA221:
    (In response to any claim about the history of life) Were you there?
    . Science relies only in very small part on testimonial evidence. Science prefers circumstantial evidence.

    Now that we have discovered the source of the “no observer present” objection as the old, bogus antievolution ensemble, let’s move on to a discussion of whether there’s anything left over. Can we “falsify that several hundred million years ago coral had 400 such daily changes per year” without rejecting one or both of the things I said would need to be rejected? As I said earlier, the coral material itself has the structure that shows both daily and annual periods. Finding out that some number n of daily periods are found within each annual period is just a matter of (tedious) counting under the microscope. Given the same sample, the next researcher over can confirm that the first researcher did, indeed, count correctly. So, what’s left? Why, simply the two items I originally mentioned: the fact of daily deposition and the fact of physical motions of celestial bodies, including tidal braking. With just those two items, one obtains an absolute age reference, which may only be overturned by dismissing one or the other of the two. It turns out that Shrom has identified no alternate means of “falsifying” anything here; the “no observer was present” objection is simply an ignorant and anti-scientific stance that has no bearing on the status of any question in science.

    The first place to look if you wanted to question anything, would be to look at what other causes could make it appear as though coral had 400 changes per year. Just a suggestion.

    Which is what the researchers considered and eliminated when finding out about the topic of the structure of coral growth. Maybe Shrom should, like, know something of what he is talking about before asserting that something has not already been done? A radical suggestion, I know.

    I have no intention of questioning the 400 changes per year,

    Really? Why did Shrom enter this comment of his, then? It seems the only point it tries to make is that the evidence that coral growth and tidal braking deliver is somehow not solid.

    and I fully agree with the conclusion that the earth had 400 rotations per revolution around the sun several hundred million years ago. I just wanted to point out that you are using another straw man argument. You pick the two most ridiculous things that anyone would try to disprove, and you use them as your example, rather than going for the simplest and most obvious thing that could be wrong about our assumptions.

    Projection yet again. There is no “strawman” in what I have offered; Shrom is advised to get a clue about what the terms describing logical fallacies mean, rather than issuing those terms at random. The issue, should Shrom have become confused, was Shrom’s insistence that a young earth conjecture might, at some future time, become the position that science takes once again. In order for that to happen, every line of evidence that shows that the earth is much older than 6 to 20 thousand years of age would have to be, separately and individually, determined to be false. Showing a piece of evidence to be false has broad-ranging consequences, as the coral growth and tidal braking example shows. It is Shrom’s argument that relies critically upon the reader not having enough knowledge to realize that return to a young earth stance cannot be accomplished with some minor change in an assumption somewhere, but rather entails a wholesale rejection of scientific principles and fields of study. The coral growth and tidal braking example is but one of a multitude of lines of evidence that shows that a young earth is an untenable stance; any rehabilitation of a young earth conjecture has to, at the very minimum, somehow also show why that particular line of evidence did not actually show an older earth. And then do the same job, individually and separately, for each other independent line of evidence that shows that the earth is far older than a few thousand years. There simply is no other means by which a young earth conjecture could become a scientific stance in the future.

    Here I will point out a difference between Shrom’s methods of argumentation and my own. When Shrom said that science might return to a young earth stance in the future, he offered no justification for that whatsoever. When I challenged that, I mentioned a specific form of evidence, varves that are known to have annual layers totaling far more than the paltry few thousand years that would be the extent of a young earth. Shrom’s response was to invent a hypothetical “newly formed” planet that might, if such a fictional place existed, show that varves only have the appearance of age (another antievolution chestnut). When I detailed the corroborative power of multiple lines of evidence using the coral growth and tidal braking example, Shrom again stayed far away from any discussion of the actual evidence and instead offered yet another antievolution chestnut, the “were you there?” strategy, in his case phrased as ‘not directly observable by any human’. Rather than defend his argument that science could take up young earth conjectures once again in the future by dealing with the evidence in hand, Shrom simply asserts that there are (once again, fictional) fallacies in what has been argued against his stance and its inescapable corollaries.

    And that, I think, will bring this thread to its close. I, at least, am satisfied that I have stated my arguments here sufficiently well, have responded to each of Shrom’s rejoinders and shown them to be baseless, repetitions of antievolution stances, or ignorant of the actual science in each case, and have given far too much of my time over to this little project so far. The original point here, that young earth creationism is a privileged position in antievolution, has in no case been challenged by Shrom anyway.

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