I am a nuclear chemist. I chose to be a nuclear chemist because studying the nucleus fascinates me. It’s amazing enough to study something we can never hope to actually see, but the fact that the nucleus is shrouded by clouds of electrons makes the job all the more fun.
Because I am a nuclear chemist, there are certain things I don’t want to believe. For example, I don’t want to believe quantum mechanics is wrong just because it is incompatible with general relativity. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want general relativity to be wrong, either. Black holes, white holes, and wormholes are just far to fun to ever want to give up! Nevertheless, if I have to choose one of those two theories to be wrong (because they are incompatible), I will to choose general relativity, because quantum mechanics works so incredibly well when it is applied to small things like the nucleus.
For a long time, there was something else I didn’t want to believe. I didn’t want to believe that the half-lives of radioactive isotopes could change. It seemed so clear to me at the time: radioactive half-lives depend on the energetics of the nucleus, and the energy levels in the nucleus are (roughly speaking) about 100,000 times that of the electrons in an atom. Thus, if nature exposes a radioactive atom to stress, the electrons should be the ones that deal with the stress, not the nucleus. The nucleus is under the electron cloud, and it deals in energies that are so much greater than electron energies, that the electrons effectively “shield” the nucleus from being affected by most of the stress that nature can throw at it.
Over the years, however, the data have drug me (kicking and screaming the entire way) to the point where I have to admit that radioactive half-lives can change, and in some cases, they can change quite substantially.
Al Gore told a German audience in December of 2008 that the polar ice cap will disappear in FIVE YEARS.1 A Washington Post story from April of this year says
The data on this winter’s ice buildup came on the day that international ministers gathered in Washington to address issues facing Earth’s polar regions, which have been disproportionately affected by global warming. 2
It goes on to quote Norway’s foreign minister that “The ice is melting…We should all be worried.”
Well, Al Gore, the Washington Post, and Norway’s foreign minister should all be breathing a sigh of relief. As all climatologists agree, the poles should be most affected by global warming, and guess what’s happening at the South Pole? The ice just keeps growing!
My favorite atheist, P.Z. Myers, gets very upset over many, many things. A while ago, he got really flustered over the fact that Obama appointed Francis S. Collins to head the National Institutes of Health. You see, Collins is a vocal Christian. Myers can’t stand it when a scientist of faith is (a) significantly more knowledgeable and accomplished than he is and (b) is promoted to a very high-profile position. It destroys his whole “If you believe in religion you are an idiot” argument. Here is what he said when Obama’s appointment of Francis S. Collins became official:
We can also trust him to drape Jesus over every major announcement, use the office as a platform for promoting religiosity, and otherwise taint the whole business with embarrassingly inane nonsense…just as he did with the human genome press conference. Isn’t it about time our government promoted secular values that work over these antique and ineffective superstitions that just make their proponents look goofy? 1
This is a common theme throughout the “new atheist” movement – Christians believe in superstition. Well, like most things the new atheists say, such nonsense is demonstrated wrong by the data.
My grandparents lived in the wonderful little town of Ipswich, Massachusetts. My family would visit them nearly every summer, and I loved it. It was right near the beach, and the seafood was amazing! I remember the first time I saw this kind of device there:
(Photo licensed through www.clipart.com)
I asked my parents what it was, and they told me it was a lobster trap. I was skeptical. After all, it was just a wooden cage with some netting, and the netting had a big hole in it. I asked my parents how it could trap anything. After all, if something could crawl in the hole, it could crawl right back out again, right? My parents told me that lobsters were too stupid to do that. They would crawl in the hole to get the bait inside, but they would not know enough to back out of the hole, and since they couldn’t turn around in the small enclosure, they would end up being trapped. I remained skeptical, but I asked lots of people in that small New England town, and they all gave me the same story my parents gave me. After all, it was “well known.”
Of course, science has a way of telling us that lots of “well known” things are 100% incorrect!
In Darwin’s Racists, authors Sharon Sebastian and Raymond G. Bohlin try to make the case that Darwin’s ideas promote racism. They tie Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and Planned Parenthood to Darwinism. In Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, he tries to tie Darwinism to the holocaust. Answers in Genesis says, “Although racism did not begin with Darwinism, Darwin did more than any person to popularize it.” On the other hand, in Darwin’s Sacred Cause, Adrian Desmond and James Moore argue that Darwin’s main motivation for his scientific investigations was his hatred for slavery. According to these two authors, Darwin wanted to prove that all men have a common ancestor to show that all men should be treated equally.
So who is right? Was Darwin a racist? Did his theory promote racism? Was Darwin an abolitionist who attempted to show that all men are part of the same, happy family? The short answer is that Darwin was a racist, but neither he nor his theory promoted racism. In the same way, neither he nor his theory fought against racism. The long answer, of course, is much more interesting.
Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows two things about me. First, I am a young-earth creationist. Second, I am skeptical of most young-earth creationist theology. For example, as I have written before, while I believe that the days in Genesis 1 are 24-hour days, I do not think they must be interpreted that way. Indeed, a good number of early church fathers didn’t interpret them that way. They didn’t think the days in Genesis 1 had anything to do with time. Instead, they thought the days were simply a means by which Creation could be ordered. Since many in the early church were willing to think that the days in Genesis 1 were not 24-hour days, why do many modern young-earth creationists insist that they must be 24-hour days? Is there something that today’s young-earth creationists know that Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius of Alexandria, Augustine, and Hilary of Poitiers didn’t know?
Unfortunately, the shoddy theology of most young-earth creationists doesn’t stop with the insistence that the days in Genesis must be 24-hour days. Another unfortunate claim most make is that there was no animal death before the Fall. Like the insistence that the days in Genesis 1 are 24-hour days, this claim is based on an incredibly inept view of Scripture.
The creationist view of science is a robust paradigm that has made many predictions regarding the data. Time and time again, those predictions have been demonstrated to be correct. Not all that long ago, I wrote about the fact that the only successful predictions regarding the data related to planetary magnetic fields come from a young-earth creationist model. Well, it turns out that specific creationist predictions have been confirmed again, much to the chagrin of evolutionists.
Argo is the name given to an array of over 3,000 buoys that have been installed throughout the word’s oceans. It is a tribute to how countries can work together toward a common goal, as it is the result of a collaboration among more than 50 scientific institutions in 26 different countries. Of course, as is typical, while the United States is only one of those 26 countries, it contributes over half of the money necessary to fund this ambitious project. As you can see from the image below, the buoys do a good job of covering the majority of earth’s oceans 1:
Argo Buoy System
What do these buoys do? Well, periodically, they dive 3,000 feet into the ocean and, as they rise back up, they measure things about the ocean water, like salt content, pressure, and…oh yeah…temperature. They’ve been measuring these things since 2003, and the scientific community really wanted to start seeing how these measured quantities have changed over the years. Now that they have seen the results, many scientists are shutting their eyes, covering their ears, and yelling as loudly as they can, because the data go squarely against the concept of “Global Warming.”
He’s a music man and he sells clarinets to the kids in the town with the big trombones and the rat-a-tat drums, big barass bass, big brass bass, and the piccolo, the piccolo with uniforms, too with a shiny gold braid on the coat and a big red stripe runnin . . .
If you don’t know what that is, it’s a line from the Broadway Musical called The Music Man. Why am I posting this? Because I was just cast as Harold Hill in our local community theater’s production of this classic Broadway Hit.
Anderson Mainstage’s 2009 Schedule
So…if anyone is in Anderson, Indiana for the first two weekends of October, feel free to come see me make a fool of myself!
When Darwin was around, evolution was science. Darwin made observations, formed a hypothesis, made predictions, and then compared those predictions to the data. In his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, he showed the data that compared favorably to his predictions, and he argued why the data that did not compare favorably to his predictions should not be taken too seriously. Overall, it was an excellent work of science.
The problem is that as time has gone on, more and more data have been shown to be squarely against the predictions of the evolutionary hypothesis. For example, Darwin himself said that if his view was correct, there should be all sorts of vestigial organs (organs that serve no useful purpose) in nature. He reasoned that as variations occurred in organisms, some useful organs would eventually stop becoming useful – their functions would be “overwritten” by new biological structures that made the creature more fit to survive. However, the now useless organs would not necessarily go away. It would take a long time for natural selection to get rid of them, so at any given time, vestigial organs should be around in a variety of creatures. In fact, Darwin compared vestigial organs to the silent letters in a word. Silent letters don’t necessarily serve a function in the word, but they can give you a hint about the word’s origin. In the same way, he reasoned, vestigial organs don’t serve a useful purpose in an organism, but they can give hints to the organism’s origin1.