Monday, December 09, 2013

Of Comet Tails and Cat Tails

We've all heard of Schrödinger's cat, so let me introduce you to Ken’s Kat.

A comically fallacious argument goes thus:
1)      No cat has eight tails.
2)      A cat has one tail more than no cat.
3)      Therefore, a cat has nine tails.
Under the watch of fundamentalist theme park manager Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis is using logic of this quality.

In a blog post about the disintegration of a recent comet Ham and one of his tame research gurus (Danny Faulkner) respectively conclude:

The good news?  Well, Comet ISON’s recent decay gives us even more evidence confirming a young universe.
….the catastrophic loss of Comet ISON underscores the major point of the planetarium show—that comets indicate that the solar system is far younger than most scientists think. Comets are very fragile. Many astronomers thought that Comet ISON was making its first pass by the sun, yet it couldn’t survive even one trip. If the solar system is billions of years old, there ought not to be any comets left…. if the solar system is only thousands of years old, then there is no problem with comets still being here, despite the rapid rate at which we’re losing them.

Notice that these quotes use vague terms like “a young universe, “far younger” and a Solar System “only thousands of years old”. No explicit mention is made here of a 6000 year old Solar System and no claim is made that this figure can be derived from cometary data. In fact the number of ways a Solar System can be “only thousands or years old” ranges right up to and well beyond 100,000 years. Compare that with AiG's Biblical literalist claim that the Solar System is far less than 100,000 years old or even an Egyptian dynasty accommodating 10,000 years (*1), and instead is a mere 6000 years!

The failure by these literalists to provide compelling cometary evidence for their 6000 year old Solar System (and universe?) is no surprise because to use comets to put an estimated age limit on the Solar System we would have to know amongst other things:

a)      The rate of comet consumption as a function of time. (*2)
b)      The source/origins of comets.

We perhaps know a little about (a), but (b) is the subject of hypothesis. In a similar vein: The current consumption rate of meteors entering our atmosphere doesn't in itself tell us a great deal about their origins let alone the age of the Solar System.  There is therefore no evidential basis for making claims like "there ought to be no comets left". The unkowns surrounding comet origins is weak evidence for AiG''s 6000 year time scale.

Needless to say AiG advances no positive theory of comet formation and destruction, but considers it sufficient to engage in the negative activity of simply pointing to a lack of evidence about the origins of these objects. AiG is, after all, an anti-science organisation. Of course, we know the hidden subtext here; AiG's “theory” - surely an abuse of the term -  is likely to be mature creation; that is “God did it! Just like that!

Ken Ham and his research gurus depend on their ignorant followers filling in the holes in their arguments with non-sequiturs; in this case the non-sequitur is that absence of evidence is evidence of a 6000 year old Solar System! All Ham and his staff of gurus need do is endeavour to undermine and subvert established science: Under this perceived imprimatur their gullible followers will do the rest for them by rushing in to fill in the logical gaps with their 6000 year time scale.*3

Theism of any kind is going to always be treated with derisory contempt by some sections of society, but at the very least Christians are advised to stay away from the anti-scientific clowning we get from Biblical literalists and which rightly draws criticism and derision. The bottom line is that the kind of logic Ken Ham presides over is nothing but a huge embarrassment to Christianity and tempts mockery of the faith.

*1 With their mere 6000 year old Earth and commitment to a global flood that occurred about 4300 years ago the Biblical literalists of AiG have to adjust established Egyptian history to fit.
*2 That is, we would need to know the second differential in time. This differential has the effect of “de-localising” the phenomenon in time and extending it into history – yet another reason why the Biblical literalist’s “observational vs. historical science” distinction is a red herring. See also:
*3 I guess that Ham's tame research guru would understand the weakness of their logic here, but we have to recall that he is probably payrolled.


Diogenes said...

This is way off topic, and I hope you don't mind. But I was reading your old posts from > 1 year ago about Jason Lisle and his "solution" to the Starlight problem. On Sept. 11, 2012, he wrote a comment on his blog that your counter-argument about the gravity field was "easy to refute" and he would refute it in "several" blog posts.

Has he written a single word on that since then?

Timothy V Reeves said...

In a blog post of mine (which you may have already seen - See: I quote Lisle as follows:

I had already planned to deal with this in detail in a future blog entry. But the short answer is: no, ASC does not require a gravitational field. It is simply a coordinate transformation from the ESC. And coordinate transformations do not introduce any real forces. [My emphasis]

That’s the nearest Lisle has come to a refutation that I have seen. I’m not aware of him writing anything else and I have seen no sign of the promised blog post (and any other promised posts). So the question remains: Is there a detectable difference between a radially infinite speed of light contrived merely with the appropriate coordinate system and a putatively real radial asymmetry in the speed of light? To my knowledge Lisle hasn’t addressed this question.

But in any case this is just the start of Lisle’s problems. Major issues revolve around his awkward ASC model which obfuscates what is essentially a “mature creation theory” using liberal dollops of in transit signal creation. See here: His “theory” (It’s not really worthy of that word) with its technicalities that confounds his following considerably muddies the waters. It probably benefits from the inadvertent deceptive effects of blinding people with casuistry. To his following it looks as though he has done something really clever.

Lisle’s “theory” lacks scientific and rational integrity. As I have said before (see, if we are to make a judgement on scientific integrity Ross Humphrys’ model is a much more authentic piece of theorizing than is Lisle’s work of obfuscation.

But there is one thing I’m not clear about with Humphrys’ model. Although it presents a self-consistent model for the universe as a whole I don’t know how he would deal with the formation of the solar system and the Earth – does he have to resort to mature creation theory for this?

Diogenes said...


This is a comment I left at Sensuous Curmudgeon, which I'll re-copy here.

Along with Kitzmas and Paul Nelson day, I propose a new evolutionist holiday: Unsolvable Starlight Problem Day! aka Jason Lisle Day. To be celebrated annually on Sept. 11.

As you know, the creationists are furious that starlight from stars more than 6,000 light-years away took more than 6,000 years to get here-- so they concocted a bunch of hand-waving arguments. The most recent is the Asynchronous Synchrony Convention, by Jason Lisle of ICR, which doctors up special relativity be defining whatever we see happening at a distant star as happening right "now", by definition.

Defining simultaneity makes Special Relativity very counter-intuitive, but self-consistent. There are other, bigger problems. To start with: Lisle defines "simultaneity" in a relative way, so the stars we see that are more than 3,000 light years away can't see us-- they would see a big black space when they look Earthward-- because God hasn't created us yet, no Adam or Eve yet, and the Fall of Adam and Eve has never happened from the point of view of, say, the Crab Nebula and all points farther away. If the Crab Nebula held up a mirror toward Earth, in that mirror we would see blackness because we don't exist yet for them. We could see some other stars in the mirror, but not Earth. Either those distant points don't see us and don't feel our gravity, or if they do, than God created fake photons and gravitons going from us in their direction.

The frass really hits the fan when it comes to General Relativity. Lisle believes and says that all he did was a coordinate change, but in fact he made the speed of light dependent on the coordinates of the location of each photon and the observer, so if you jump to the left, the speed of every photon in the universe changes. He thinks that's just a coordinate change. In fact, in General Relativity, that position-dependent speed of light introduces a gravity field. The problems with Lisle's Relativity were pointed out three, that's 3, years ago by Quantum Non-Linearity (Timothy Reeves.)

This was pointed out to Lisle on his pompous blog where he censors critics. He replied on Sept. 11, 2012, more than a year ago:

"I’ve seen this criticism [Reeves'] but I haven’t responded yet. It is very easy to refute. I plan on doing a series on this blog on the topic of ASC, in which I will refute this and other criticisms made by those who have not studied the topic." [Jason Lisle, comment Sept. 11, 2012]

Of course, his critics understand relativity much better than Lisle does.

Again, that was more than a year ago. We should celebrate Jason Lisle Day each Sept. 11.

Timothy V Reeves said...

Thanks! That should help keep the matter on the boil!

I liked Sam Trenholme's thought experiment with the mirror; elegant and very telling.

Jason Lisle needs to address one question: Does a real radial asymmetry in the speed of light (as opposed to one contrived with the appropriate coordinate system) produce a gravitational effect and thus distinguish itself from mere definition?