According to Answers in Genesis, an icon of the modern young-earth creationist movement has passed into Glory. Dr. Duane T. Gish was a popular author among creationists, especially in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. I read many of his books over the years, including Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record, Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics, and Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No! While I did not agree with everything he wrote, I found his books incredibly helpful.
He was probably best known for his willingness to debate those who disagreed with him. He is said to have taken part in more than 300 public debates on the creation/evolution controversy. I always admired him for that. I never had the chance to meet Dr. Gish in this life, but I certainly look forward to doing so in the next.
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
For those of you who do not speak nerd, “AFK” means “Away from Keyboard.” I will be traveling for the next three weeks, and for much of that time, I will not have internet access. That means I will not be able to moderate or respond to your comments. However, please feel free to leave your comments. When I have internet access, I will try to do what I can to moderate the comments and answer any questions you might have. I will also try to post new articles, but it’s not clear whether or not that will happen. It’s possible that there won’t be a new article posted for as many as three weeks.
This is a portion of one of the two fossils examined in the study that is discussed in the article below (GMV 2124). It is thought to be a Sinosauropteryx fossil, and the gray region pointed out is interpreted by some to be the remains of primitive feathers. The study strongly disputes that interpretation. (Click for credit.)
Several months ago I wrote an article about the fossil evidence for primitive feathers (often called “protofeathers”) in some dinosaur specimens. The article discussed a study by Theagarten Lingham-Soliar, Alan Feduccia, and Xiaolin Wang that provided strong evidence against the common interpretation that the dinosaur Sinosauropteryx was covered in such protofeathers. In the discussion that followed, Dr. Jonathan Sarfati suggested that I should read another article by Lingham-Soliar.1 Over the holidays, I finally had a chance to do so. As he suggested, this is another very important study in the “feathered dinosaurs” debate. While Dr. Sarfati has his own excellent analysis of this study and a few others, I would like to add some thoughts of my own.
Lingham-Soliar’s study focused on two fossils: NIGP 127587 (identified as a Sinosauropteryx fossil) and GMV 2124 (thought to be a Sinosauropteryx fossil). Both exhibit exceptional preservation. In fact, the latter fossil is so well-preserved that the stomach contents were analyzed and three mammal skulls were found! Two came from mammals in the genus Zhangheotherium, and the third came from the genus Sinobaatar.2 The important aspect of the fossils for this study, however, is the fact that both show some sort of “fuzz” extending from the body of the animal (pointed out in the picture above). This “fuzz” has been routinely interpreted to be the remains of primitive feathers, but Lingham-Soliar and his colleagues strongly dispute that interpretation.
In an attempt to understand precisely what this “fuzz” represents, Lingham-Soliar performed a detailed examination of the fossils and also did a simple experiment. The combination of his fossil analysis and the results of the experiment provide still more evidence that Sinosauropteryx did not have any feathers.
Back in the fourth century BC, Plato argued that any true explanation for a physical process must be teleological. In other words, Plato thought that the processes occurring in nature are driven by design and purpose, and any proper explanation for such processes must include that design and purpose. While most scientists reject such explanations these days, there has been a bit of a resurgence of this school of thought in recent years. Intelligent design advocates as well as creationists, for example, argue that design-based explanations lead to a better understanding of nature.
While most people think that any teleological approach to nature must assume some sort of Creator or Designer, that’s not necessarily the case. Not long ago, I reviewed a book by Dr. Thomas Nagel. Even though he is an atheist, he argues that any explanation of origins must be teleological in nature. He doesn’t know exactly what such an explanation is, but he argues forcefully that any non-teleological approach will never explain everything we currently understand about science.
Interestingly enough, I ran across a psychological study that seems to indicate that teleological explanations appeal to the “gut instincts” of people. Now I am not a huge fan of psychological studies. There are an enormous number of variables involved in studying how and why people think the way that they do. As a result, I am instinctively skeptical of such studies. However, I thought the results of this one were interesting enough to discuss.
Not long ago, I wrote a response to Bill Nye’s anti-science video. A commenter replied by posting a link to a blog that attempted to defend Nye’s indefensible statements. I quickly pointed out the many errors in the article, and the commenter obviously sent my response to the author, Emil Karlsson. He has now written another post in an attempt to defend his position. Unfortunately, it is more error-filled than his original post.
Here is my attempt to correct his errors, in the order he presents them:
1. Mr. Karlsson still tries to make excuses for Nye’s false statement about evolution denial being unique in the U.S.
In his reply to me, he gives Nye’s full quote from the beginning of the video. He then tries to claim that Nye was not saying exactly what he said – that denial of evolution is unique to the U.S. Mr. Karlsson claims:
So Bill Nye is not making the naive claim that denial of evolution is unique to the United States in the sense that it does not exist anywhere else, but rather the claim that United States is unique in being a highly technologically advanced society, yet have [sic] a large proportion of the population being creationist.
Of course, Nye is saying nothing of the sort. Nowhere in Nye’s statement can you find the words “large proportion.” In addition, while Nye certainly mentions technological advancement, he is using it as a descriptor for the United States, not a qualifier for his statement. Regardless of the mental gymnastics of Mr. Karlsson, Nye’s statement is unambiguously false.
However, let’s assume Mr. Nye really did mean what Mr. Karlsson claims, even though Mr. Nye said something completely different. Even if that’s the case, his statement is still a complete fabrication. Would Mr. Karlsson agree that Germany is technologically advanced? The study to which he refers indicates that more than 20% of its population denies evolution. The same is true of Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. In the U.S., a larger percentage (roughly 40%) deny evolution, but that’s not drastically different from the percentage found in many other technologically-advanced nations. Even in the U.K., the percentage of people who deny evolution is greater than 15%.
In the end, then, even in technologically-advanced nations, denial of evolution is common. It is a bit more popular in the U.S., but it is certainly not unique to the U.S. Of course, the U.S. has always been on the cutting edge of science, so it’s not surprising that it holds a slightly higher percentage of people who see the serious scientific problems with evolution!
Most people have heard about Bill Nye the Science Guy. He had a high-energy television show that ran for five years, teaching children about science with cool demonstrations, lots of great interviews, and extreme enthusiasm. Nowadays, he produces videos about science and talks about science at many different venues. While I always thought that his approach was a little short on substance, I have to admit that he has the ability to communicate great scientific truths in an exciting, easy-to-understand manner. It’s no wonder that he has a dedicated following of students and teachers.
He recently made a short video that has become extremely popular (the one posted above). It’s gotten more than 2,000,000 Youtube hits, and I have seen it all over Facebook and my E-MAIL inbox. When I watched the video, my first thought was, “How can someone who knows so much science be so confused as to what science is all about?” As I continued to watch the video, I wondered “How can someone who knows so much science be so misinformed when it comes to creationism?”
Let me start by explaining why that first question came to mind. In essence, Bill Nye is imploring creationists to stop teaching creation to their children. He is saying that we should accept the scientific consensus and move on. The vast majority of scientists today believe in evolution, so we should believe in evolution, too. When you first hear such a thing, it might sound reasonable, but it is amazingly anti-science. What if all scientists had followed the scientific consensus that Newtonian physics was a complete description of the universe, and there were just a few “nagging problems” that still had to be worked out? If they had done that, we would have never learned about quantum mechanics and relativity, which are the guiding theories for most of today’s physics.
What if all scientists had accepted the scientific consensus that it is impossible for a crystalline substance to have a structure that can be rotated by one-fifth or one-tenth and end up looking the same as it did before? If that had happened, we would have never learned about quasicrystals, for which Dr. Dan Shechtman won his Nobel Prize. What if all scientists had accepted the scientific law known as Bateman’s Principle? If they had, we would still be laboring under the false notion that males are promiscuous in their mating habits, while females are more choosy about their mates.
The fact is that those who go against the scientific consensus are often the ones who are responsible for propelling science forward, or at least correcting false notions that had been promulgated by science. To tell people to stop going against the scientific consensus, then, is one of the most unscientific things you can do.
The lines between these two charged particles represent the electric field that they produce. (Click for credit)
The media is abuzz with the announcement that two separate groups have discovered evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson, which has been called “the God particle.” That’s an unfortunate name, because the Higgs boson has nothing more to do with God than any other particle in His creation. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that the Higgs boson is unimportant. Indeed, it is very important, and if the results announced really do indicate the existence of the Higgs boson, it is a major victory for the Standard Model of physics. It just has nothing special to do with God.
To understand what the Higgs boson is, think of something that is probably a little more familiar to you: the electromagnetic force. When two particles are charged, they affect one another through the electromagnetic force. If they are oppositely charged, they will attract one another, and if they both carry the same charge, they will repel one another. We can represent this interaction with a series of field lines, such as those given in the illustration above. Those lines show you the electric field, which causes the charged particles to interact with one another.
But how do these particles interact? How does one charged particle “know” that there is another charged particle out there, and how does it “know” whether to be attracted to it or repelled by it? The answer is that the charged particles exchange photons (particles of light). This exchange allows the electromagnetic force to work. If it weren’t for the exchange of photons, the two charged particles could not affect one another, so without the exchange of photons, there would be no electromagnetic force. In “physics speak,” we say that photons mediate the electromagnetic field.
The Higgs boson is, like the photon, a mediator. It is supposed to mediate the Higgs field, which is what the Standard Model of physics says determines the mass of every particle in the universe.
I had the rare opportunity to watch Venus pass in front of the sun yesterday. This is called a transit, and it’s a rare event because the orbit of Venus around the sun is tilted relative to the earth’s orbit around the sun. As a result, Venus passes between the earth and the sun frequently, but it rarely passes directly between the two. However, every now and then Venus lines up directly between the earth and the sun twice in a period of eight years. When this happens, you can see Venus as a black dot passing across the face of the sun. It happened in 2004, but the weather in my area was too cloudy to see it. It happened again yesterday, and this time, the weather was a bit better. It wasn’t completely sunny, but there were enough patches in the clouds to actually see something. That’s good, since it won’t happen again until 2117, and I doubt that I will be alive then!
Since you can’t look directly at the sun in order to see the transit, I rigged up my own “transit viewer,” made from a pair of binoculars, a camera tripod, a threaded rod, two nuts, a metal ruler, a bungee cord, a sheet of cardboard, a sheet of white paper, a spool of soldering wire, and lots of tape:
As you can see, the binoculars were not made for the tripod, so I used the bungee cord to hold them in place. I used a threaded rod, two nuts, a metal ruler, and tape to hold a screen made from cardboard and white paper behind the binoculars. That way, the image of the sun would be projected through the eyepieces and onto the screen. Because the ruler and screen were heavy, I needed a counterweight to keep the threaded rod hanging straight along the angle at which the binoculars were pointed, and the spool of soldering wire worked great for that.
Below the fold, you will find some pictures of what I saw.
I got an E-MAIL indicating that someone was having trouble posting comments to my latest blog entry. I tried posting the comment as a reader and also had trouble, so I am having someone who knows more about WordPress than me look into what might be the problem. Since I have gotten comments in the past few days, this might not be a problem that affects everyone. Hopefully, it will be cleared up soon.
UPDATE: It seems the problem with posting had to do with a specific link that was in the comment. Removing the link seems to make the comment post fine. If you are having trouble posting, please contact me here to let me know.
I will be unable to spend time on my blog for the next several days. Even though it will be quiet around here, please feel free to leave your comments on any open post. Due to the vulgarity of past commenters, I cannot allow comments without moderation. Thus, your comments won’t appear until my time frees up again. Nevertheless, I will eventually find the time to moderate, approve, and reply, if appropriate.
You have stumbled across Dr. Jay L. Wile's Blog. Dr. Wile holds an earned PhD from the University of Rochester in Nuclear Chemistry. He is best known for the "Exploring Creation with..." series of textbooks written for junior high and high school students who are being educated at home.
Red Wagon Tutorials
This site is run by the most gifted teacher with whom I have ever worked. He has live classes that go with my books as well as recorded classes.
Answers in Genesis
While the theology leaves a lot to be desired, the science discussed on this website is pretty solid.
This website contains works from a good mix of young-earth creationists.
This is the blog of Dr. Todd Wood, one of the leaders in baraminology. He covers current topics of interest to young-earth creationists.
This is the blog of Kevin Nelstead, an old-earth creationist geologist. He covers many topics related to the age of the earth and offers a nice contrast to the young-earth writings listed above.
An interesting "think tank" that contains the major players in Intelligent Design