As I stated in my previous post, there are a lot of great things in Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist. However, I have to say that he is in rare form as he rakes Sam Harris over the coals in the chapter entitled, “The End of Sam Harris.” This, of course, is a takeoff on the title of Harris’s first book, The End of Faith. I slogged through both that book and his Letter to a Christian Nation, which was supposed to be a response to the feedback he received from his first book. I found both books to be incoherent, but I simply could not eviscerate Harris the way Vox Day has. It is nothing short of magnificent.
As I have said previously, it is hard for me to fathom anyone who has scientific training and does not believe in God. The natural world, in my opinion, screams out His existence to anyone who examines it even in a cursory way. Indeed, it was science that brought me not only to a belief in God, but also to faith in Christianity. Thus, when I encounter someone who actually knows something about the natural world and does not believe in God, I am fascinated.
The only blog I read regularly, for example, is PZ Myers’s blog. He clearly knows a lot about the natural world, and yet he remains an atheist. In the same way, I have read every one of Richard Dawkins’s books. Both Myers and Dawkins are interesting writers – Myers being more of a sledgehammer and Dawkins being more of a jeweler’s hammer – and I think they are both a grand testament to how well people can compartmentalize their thinking. They are both adept at keeping their knowledge of the natural world quite apart from their logic and reasoning. If they were ever to put the three together, they could not remain atheists. Since they resolutely keep their scientific knowledge separate from their logic and reasoning, I have always referred to such atheists as “irrational.”
Enter Vox Day** . I read what seemed to be a ridiculously fawning review of his book The Irrational Atheist and, as a result, I almost didn’t buy it. After all, I seriously doubted that any book about the obvious absurdity of the atheist position could be as good as the reviewer claimed. However, before rejecting his book because the review I read seemed too good to be true, I decided to see what my favorite atheist (PZ Myers) had to say about the book. Now Myers regularly writes long, scathing reviews of books that he thinks he can refute. Thus, I assumed there would be a long review of Day’s book. Instead, all I could find was a short entry saying that he couldn’t even finish the book. Well…any book that is too terrifying for PZ Myers to finish is definitely worth a look!
In my previous entry, I mentioned two options for the person who believes in an ancient earth and still wants to interpret the days of Genesis as 24-hour days. The first is that God created with the appearance of age. However, that goes against God’s nature, because God would have to lie to create the earth with the appearance of age.
The other option is both more interesting and does not conflict with God’s character. That option is to believe the days in Genesis are not given in earth’s frame of reference. Instead, they are given in a completely different frame of reference. This idea, proposed by MIT professor Gerald Schroeder, is probably not correct, but it is incredibly interesting.
As I have written previously, there is some evidence that indicates the earth is old. Both the absence of most short-lived radioisotopes on earth as well as the ratios of certain isotopes in certain kinds of rock point to a very old earth. In addition, while some aspects of geology are best understood in a young-earth framework, others are best understood in an old-earth framework. Hopefully, I will eventually write about these old-earth evidences, as they are important to know and understand. However, for right now, just assume they exist.
Let’s suppose, then, that a person is convinced by the old-earth evidences. He or she thinks the data that indicate the earth is billions of years old outweigh the data that indicate the earth is on the order of ten thousand years old. Even though I disagree with such an assessment, it is a valid position to take. Now, even though it is not necessary to do so, suppose a person who believes the earth is billions of years old also wants to interpret the days of Genesis as 24-hour days. Is it possible to believe both of these premises? Actually, it is. In fact, there are two options such a person has:
1. Believe that God created the earth with an appearance of age.
2. Believe that the 24-hour days in Genesis are not earth days, but are days in another reference frame, such as the rest frame of the universe.
The second option is rather esoteric, but it is definitely feasible scientifically. I hope to write about that next. In this entry, however, I want to address the first question: Could God have created earth with an appearance of age? My answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT.
So far, I have discussed how the earth’s magnetic field, dendrochronology, the amount of sodium in the oceans, and the amount of helium in the atmosphere all indicate a very young earth. The last on my “top five” list is the nature of the thermonuclear fusion that powers the sun.
The sun is the earth’s main source of energy. Nearly all of the energy that powers life on this planet comes from the sun. In addition, the sun’s light and the characteristics of the earth’s atmosphere make our planet a perfect living oasis in the midst of an otherwise dead solar system. While most people know what I have written so far, you might not know that if the earth and sun were billions of years old, most likely the earth would have been simply too cold to support life throughout most of its history.
So far, I have discussed how the earth’s magnetic field, dendrochronology, and the amount of sodium in the oceans all indicate a very young earth. The fourth on my “top five” list is the amount of helium in earth’s atmosphere.
We all know what helium is. It is a lighter-than-air gas. When we fill a balloon with helium, the balloon floats in air. What you might not know is that there is actually some helium in the earth’s atmosphere. There are roughly 5 atoms of helium for every million atoms (or molecules) in the atmosphere. Obviously, that’s not much helium, and that’s not what you would expect if the earth is ancient.
A good friend of mine who I respect a great deal gave me an article that discussed the growing number of scientists who reject the global warming hysteria that is sweeping the globe. It included a statement about the first woman to get a Ph.D. in meteorology. Her name is Dr. Joanne Simpson, and she is truly remarkable. Her 54-year career was capped off with a 24-year stint at NASA, where she was a team leader for the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission. At the occasion of her retirement, NASA couldn’t say enough good things about her:
In addition to being the first female meteorologist with a Ph.D., she’s been granted membership to the National Academy of Engineering, awarded the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Award (the highest honor bestowed by the American Meteorological Society), presented with a Guggenheim Fellowship, and served as President of the American Meteorological Society. Although Simpson’s praises have been sung publicly as an example of a woman who has defied the odds and the male chauvinism of her profession, surprisingly few people outside of meteorology know precisely what she did for the science. Simpson’s scientific endeavors, aside from being exciting, have had a tremendous impact on meteorology over the years… With both her mind and her desire to work as sharp as ever, Simpson will undoubtedly continue to make important contributions to the study of the atmosphere. 1
So now that she’s retired from NASA, what does she have to say? Well…something I am sure NASA is not too happy about:
Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receive any funding, I can speak quite frankly. For more than a decade now “global warming” and its impacts has become the primary interface between our science and society. A large group of earth scientists, voiced in an IPCC statement, have reached what they claim is a consensus of nearly all atmospheric scientists that man-released greenhouse gases are causing increasing harm to our planet…However, the main basis of the claim…is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system…The term “global warming” itself is very vague. Where and what scales of response are measurable?… as a scientist I remain skeptical. 2
So now that Dr. Simpson has left NASA she can speak “frankly.” You see, if you don’t “toe the party line” at NASA, you get in big trouble. Dr. Roy Spencer used to work for NASA, but he was essentially forced to resign because he was a global warming skeptic, and NASA does not allow such things. In fact, he used to post the NASA satellite data on global temperature on one of NASA’s websites. However, it was taken down because the satellite data do not support the idea of global warming. You now have to go to junkscience.com to get that same data.
Now that Dr. Simpson is speaking “frankly,” she is not advocating that we ignore rising greenhouse gases. She calls the information that we have now “incomplete” and thinks we must act on the information we currently have. Thus, she says we should try to reduce carbon dioxide emissions because if the models are right, bad things will happen. However, at the same time, she is advocating what should be common in science: rigorous debate based on the data. It is unfortunate that Dr. Simpson had to leave NASA before she could become an advocate for good science!
In the previous entries on this subject, I talked about the earth’s magnetic field and dendrochronology as evidence that the earth is on the order of 10,000 years old. I want to continue this discourse now with one of the most well-studied processes used to estimate the age of the earth: the amount of salt in the oceans.
Everyone knows that the water in the oceans is salty. In fact, the average sample of seawater is 2.7% table salt (sodium chloride). To a chemist, the term “salt” includes a lot more than just table salt – it includes any ionic compound. If I include all things that chemist classify as salts, the average sample of seawater is 3.5% salts. It turns out that the amount of salt in the oceans has been studied for almost 300 years1, so we know a lot more about it than most of the other processes used to estimate the age of the earth. What we know indicates that the earth is young.
In order to evaluate the Open Theology trend that is beginning to take root in some parts of modern Christendom, it was decided that the New School of Athens should be formed. Its two founding members, Platica and Aristay, met for the first time today to begin a discussion of the book entitled, The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God. Platica comes from a predominantly Calvinist upbringing, while her student, Aristay, comes from an Arminianist point of view. A report of the lively discussion between them appears below the fold.
The University of California Museum of Paleontology has an online exhibit called DinoBuzz, which is all about dinosaurs. Part of the reason they have this online exhibit is that they think the truth about dinosaurs has been obscured by the “…latest wild hypothesis about dinosaurs” 1 regularly promulgated by the media. Well…in order to correct such problems, they have articles like the one entitled, “Are Birds Really Dinosaurs?” Unfortunately, rather than trying to correct the latest wild hypothesis, they buy right into it, saying:
Ask your average paleontologist who is familiar with the phylogeny of vertebrates and they [sic] will probably tell you that yes, birds (avians) are dinosaurs. Using proper terminology, birds are avian dinosaurs; other dinosaurs are non-avian dinosaurs, and (strange as it may sound) birds are technically considered reptiles. Overly technical? Just semantics? Perhaps, but still good science. In fact, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of birds being the descendants of a maniraptoran dinosaur, probably something similar (but not identical) to a small dromaeosaur. 2