Bill Nye Continues To Talk About Things of Which He is Ignorant

Bill Nye, who knows hardly anything about philosophy
Bill Nye, who knows hardly anything about philosophy
Bill Nye is a popular “scilebrity.” Unfortunately, he does an enormous disservice to science, frequently speaking on topics about which he knows very little. He narrated a faked experiment on global warming because he doesn’t understand the physical mechanisms governing how infrared light interacts with matter. If he did, he would have realized that the experiment he narrated couldn’t possibly have worked. He excludes ideas simply because he doesn’t care for them and encourages others to do the same. He wrote a book about evolution that is riddled with errors, and he tried to defend abortion using an argument that is demonstrably false.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes. Instead of educating himself on an issue before discussing it, he continues to pontificate on things about which he knows nearly nothing. His latest silliness is on the subject of philosophy. While Olivia Goldhill has written an excellent discussion of why that video is so ludicrous, I want to add just a couple of thoughts.

A while back, I wrote about Dr. Kevin R. Grazier, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a science consultant for film and television. I briefly mentioned that he confirmed some of my thoughts regarding Bill Nye and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, but Nye’s inane video leads me to expand on that point. In addition to discussing errors that Nye and Tyson have made regarding the science found in film and television, Grazier said that in his view, both Nye and Tyson aren’t really interested in educating the public about science. If they were, they would be more accurate in their pronouncements. Instead, they are just trying to convince the public that they are really smart guys.

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The Inquisition Strikes Again

Karl Aspelin's painting of Martin Luther burning the papal bull that excommunicated him from the Roman Catholic Church.
Karl Aspelin’s painting of Martin Luther burning the papal bull that excommunicated him from the Roman Catholic Church.

There are times when modern scientists act like members of the Inquisition. Such situations can result in people getting removed from their positions in the scientific community, courses being shut down, scientists being fired, or papers being retracted. (see here, here, here, here, and here). Unfortunately, it has happened again, resulting in another scientific paper being retracted.

The paper, Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living, discussed the results of an experiment that tried to figure out the functional link between the architecture of the hand and its coordination. In the experiment, 30 individuals (15 men and 15 women) with apparently healthy hands were given a glove to wear while performing several mundane tasks. The glove measured the angles of the joints in the hand throughout the time each task was being performed. This allowed the researchers to then determine the degree to which the movements of the hand joints were coordinated.

The researchers found that while some joints (particularly those of the thumb) did move independently of the others, there was an enormous amount of coordination between the joints. The authors note:

This suggests that there is no need for the human hand to control each joint independently. If there was not such biomechanical architecture, such as the separated connection of each articular from a single muscle, it would significantly increase the computational burden of the [central nervous system] to make up for the loss of the biomechanical architecture.

In other words, the joints of the hand are coordinated so that the brain doesn’t have to concentrate on controlling each joint independently when the hand is grasping objects.

Why was this scientific paper retracted? Was there a serious methodological error in the experiment? Was the data analysis incorrect? Did the authors commit some sort of fraud? No. It was retracted because the authors dared to do something that scientists have done throughout the vast majority of human history: They dared to mention the Creator in their scientific work!

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Review of Evolution: Still A Theory in Crisis

Dr. Michael Denton's latest book
Dr. Michael Denton’s latest book
Back in January, I read that Dr. Michael Denton was about to release a new book on evolution. I ordered it right away and started reading it as soon as I could, because I thought that his previous book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, was amazing. For a long time, I considered it the best discussion of evolution that was available to the general public. However, like all books on scientific issues, much of the information became outdated over the years, so I was really excited that he was releasing a new book on the same subject.

Dr. Denton earned an M.D. from Bristol University and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from King’s College London. After earning his Ph.D., he was appointed to the faculty at La Trobe University in Australia. He then did pathology work in England, Canada, and Australia. Eventually, he ended up on the faculty at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Currently, he is a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, which tells you he is a member of the “intelligent design” community. His dual training in medicine and biochemistry, as well as his experience working in several different countries, gives him an interesting perspective on science in general and evolution in particular.

Like his previous book, this one is encyclopedic. It covers a wide range of topics, but unlike his previous book, it is focused on the difference between structuralism and functionalism. The way he constructs the two positions, all Darwinists fall into the functionalism camp. They believe that structures develop in nature because they are functional. After all, natural selection is constantly weeding out poor adaptations and preserving useful ones. As a result, whether or not it is functional determines whether or not it exists in the biological world. Denton, however, argues for structuralism, a view that was quite in vogue in the 18th and 19th centuries. In this view, there are certain structures that are inherent in the world, and life makes use of those predefined structures. As Denton writes:

It is hard to imagine two scientific frameworks as diametrically opposed as structuralism and functionalism. Where functionalism suggests that function is prior and determines structure, structuralism suggests that structure is prior and constrains function. (Kindle e-reader, Chapter 1: Introduction)

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Honeybees Are Recovering in the U.S.

This graph shows the number of honeybee colonies in the U.S. each year.  (click for source)
This graph shows the number of honeybee colonies in the U.S. each year. (click for source)
Have you seen the headlines? “Beekeepers Feel the Sting of Climate Change,” “Climate change crushes bee populations,” and “Bees Are Losing Their Habitat Because of Climate Change.” Yes, the world is running out of bees and “climate change” aka “global warming” is to blame. Of course, the science behind the entire concept of human-induced, catastrophic climate change is shaky at best, so it is hard to understand how anyone can take such headlines seriously. Nevertheless, there are those who think that bees are on their way to extinction, and human-induced climate change is to blame. Of course, like most of the statements made by global warming alarmists, the facts tell us something completely different.

An excellent article published in the journal Science, for example, tells us that the main reason honeybee colonies have struggled recently is because of the spread of a virus called the deformed wing virus. It is carried by a mite called Varroa destructor, which has been infesting Asian honeybee colonies since at least the 1960s. When European honeybees were introduced to Asia, the mite was able to jump to the European species, and as a result, it began spreading around the world.1

Why should we care about bees dying off? Because they are very important pollinators. In order for a flowering plant to produce fruit, pollen from one flower must travel to another flower and fertilize the egg cells found there. While wind can carry pollen, insects are much more efficient at the job. Bees are especially important when it comes to pollination. They are the main pollinators of 130 crop species in the United States and 400 crop species worldwide.2 Bees are so important that a French periodical for beekeepers reported:3

Professor Einstein, the learned scientist, once calculated that if all bees disappeared off the earth, four years later all humans would also have disappeared.

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Gravitational Waves Detected!

This is an artist's conception of two merging black holes and the gravity waves they generate.
This is an artist’s conception of two merging black holes and the gravity waves they generate.

Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity makes some outlandish claims. For example, it says that the rate at which time passes depends on the strength of the gravitational field to which you are being exposed. It also says that gravity isn’t really a force. Instead, it is a consequence of how massive bodies warp spacetime, a four-dimensional mesh in which the three dimensions of space are merged with time. When I first read about this wild theory, the scientist in me was very skeptical. However, its predictions have been verified time and time again, so the scientist in me is forced to accept it as a reasonable description of the natural world.

For example, the global positioning system (GPS) must take relativity into account in order to work properly. Because they are farther from the center of the earth, the satellites that make up the GPS experience a lower force of gravity than we do on the surface of the earth. As a result, time passes more quickly for them than it does for us. If this were not taken into account, the GPS couldn’t accurately determine your absolute position on the surface of the earth.1 (There are many other factors that must be taken into account, including the effect of relative motion on time, but that is a part of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and is not related to this post.)

Of course, there are many other confirmations of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. Mercury’s closest approach to the sun is best explained by general relativity. General relativity gives the only correct description of how a massive object bends the path of light. An experiment first done in 1959 showed that gravity causes a shift in the wavelength of light, which was predicted by general relativity. More recently, satellites confirmed a process called frame dragging, which is also a prediction of general relativity.

Just a few days ago, Physical Review Letters published a paper that provides yet another confirmation of general relativity, but this one is more important than many of the others.

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A Limited-Time Special Offer From Great Homeschool Conventions

Homeschool Event of the Year!
 
2016 – Great Homeschool Conventions

**See special offer at the end of this article – Thanks to Dr. Wile.

Great Homeschool Conventions is excited to partner with National Center for Life and Liberty, with a special thanks to our Title Sponsor, WORLD News Group, to host four regional homeschool conventions once again in 2016!

Why would you want to attend a Great Homeschool Conventions’ event? Each year, we begin to build the coming year’s event with that question in mind. We love our homeschooling families and want to bring the very best to you. We strive to provide top notch homeschool conventions which encourage, inspire, and educate homeschooling families to continue to do what they do best – HOMESCHOOL!

This coming year’s events promise to be packed with GREAT speakers, a HUGE exhibit hall, and family friendly special events.

First, we gather the cream of the crop for speakers and put together the best line up possible. We have 40 – 50 featured speakers each year! There are over 230 speaking sessions presented at each event. Below is just a sample of our amazing speakers in 2016:

Ann Voskamp, John Stonestreet, Dr. Jay Wile, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Dr. Kathy Koch

Visit our featured speakers’ page for a complete listing. We also have other presenters providing general sessions covering a wide variety of topics of interest to homeschooling families.

We have several “tracks” which address very specific interests to homeschooling families:

Homeschool 101 Track will be presented by Janice Campbell.

Our Real Faith for the Real World Teen Track helps teens learn how to defend their faith in today’s world. John Stonestreet, Mark Mittleburg, Brett Kunkle, and Dr. Jay Wile will provide your teens with a wealth of information on how to address the tough issues they are faced with today.

We also have a Special Needs Track and Parenting Track.

At the Homeschool EVENT of the YEAR, you will also have the opportunity to shop ‘til you drop in the HUGE exhibit hall. The exhibit hall is filled with hundreds of booths that often offer special “convention discounts” on homeschool curriculum.

Giant Cow Ministries offers an action packed vacation Bible school type program complete with skits, songs, and a full range of activities. With a separate registration, your children can be signed up to attend this special “children’s conference” for children ages 3-12 at the SouthEast, Texas, and MidWest events, and ages 6 – 12 at the California event.

Each year, we search for special events which offer a learning experience or a fun night out for families to spend time together. This coming year, we are happy to have:

The Willis Clan performing at the SouthEast, Texas, and MidWest Homeschool Conventions.

Holocaust survivor, Dr. Inge Auerbacher will be educating families about the Holocaust and will be sharing her experience as a young child living in a concentration camp for three years. Dr. Auerbacher will be joining us for the SouthEast and MidWest events.

Comedian Bob Smiley will be performing for those attendees at the Texas Homeschool Convention.

Comedian Dennis Regan will be entertaining at the California Homeschool Convention.

At all four GHC events, professional Christian theatrical company, Friends of the Groom will perform their version of C.S. Lewis’ popular novel, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

We will see you there!

**SPECIAL OFFER: We greatly appreciate Dr. Wile speaking and exhibiting with Great Homeschool Conventions each year! In honor of Dr. Wile, we would like to offer his readers up to $30 off of special event tickets with the purchase of a family registration.

Register NOW >>> www.greathomeschoolconventions.com.
Use the coupon code: drwile2016. Thanks Dr. Wile!!

This limited time offer is only good for new registrations only. Prior purchases cannot be included. No refunds or exchanges / cannot be combined with any other offers. This offer expires on Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 at midnight.

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SOUTHEAST Homeschool Convention, TD Convention Center, Greenville, SC, March 10-12, 2016

TEXAS Homeschool Convention, Fort Worth Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX – March 17-19, 2016

MIDWEST Homeschool Convention, Duke Energy Convention Center, Cincinnati, OH, March 31 – April 2, 2016

CALIFORNIA Homeschool Convention, Ontario Convention Center, Ontario, CA, June 16 – 18, 2016

What are the differences between my old chemistry course and my new chemistry course?

The cover of my new chemistry course.
The cover of my new chemistry course.
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you might know that I recently wrote a new chemistry course. The publisher of my old chemistry course came out with a new edition, and they did not consult me. This happened with another course, and the result was excellent. However, the new edition of the chemistry course was riddled with errors. Many of the errors weren’t just typos or minor mistakes in the solutions to the problems. They were serious scientific errors that would put students at a disadvantage in their future studies. I asked the publisher to make my old chemistry course available for those who wanted to avoid such errors, but it refused. As a result, I wrote a new chemistry course, Discovering Design with Chemistry.

I was recently asked on Facebook about the differences between my old chemistry course and my new one. While I have touched on that issue in a couple of other posts, I thought I would provide a thorough answer to that question here.

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Jupiter May Not Shield Earth from Comets

An image of Jupiter as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.
An image of Jupiter as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Years ago, I was editing an elementary-level science text, and I ran across a statement that didn’t make a much sense to me. The author said that Jupiter acted as a “shield,” protecting earth from comets that could hit it. I am not an expert in orbital mechanics, but I couldn’t understand how that would work. It’s true that Jupiter is quite massive; therefore, its gravity would tend to attract comets towards it. However, it seemed to me that its gravity could just as easily attract comets toward the inner solar system (where the earth is) as deflect them away from it. Thus, I didn’t see how Jupiter could do what the author suggested.

So I did a little research, and I found a paper from 1995 that seemed to support the author’s contention. The focus of the paper was the hypothetical formation of gas giant planets like Jupiter, but one thing it noted was:1

…terrestrial planet systems physically similar to ours may be abundant but hazardous unless protected by gas giant planets.

This seemed to support the idea that Jupiter “protects” earth from comets, so I didn’t suggest any changes to the author’s statement. However, I still avoided making such a statement in my own textbooks (as least I think I did), because the physics of the claim still did not make any sense to me.

Well, yesterday I attended two lectures by Dr. Kevin R. Grazier at Anderson University, where I am an adjunct member of the faculty. Dr. Grazier is a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but that’s not why I wanted to listen to his lectures. He is also a science consultant for television shows and movies, and I wanted to learn more about how that works. I have served as an unofficial science consultant for one yet-to-be-produced screenplay, but I was really interested to learn how the process works in productions that are actually being made.

The more he talked about his experiences, the more interested I became, because I learned that he has consulted for some of my favorite television shows. He was the science consultant for Eureka, Defiance, Falling Skies, and the reboot of Battlestar Galatica. Aside from the first series (which I never really got into), those are some of my favorite television shows! In fact, had Battlestar Galatica ended more reasonably, I would probably call it the best science fiction series that has ever been on television. Because of its awful ending, however, I rank it just under Babylon 5, which every science-fiction fan should watch in its entirety. He also was the science consultant for Gravity (one of the more scientifically-accurate space movies) and will soon start working on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

While his experiences with films and television shows were fascinating, and while he did confirm my thoughts regarding “scilebrities” Bill Nye and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, it was something he said about his scientific research that inspired this post.

Continue reading “Jupiter May Not Shield Earth from Comets”

Is There An Undiscovered Planet in Our Solar System?

This is an artist's depiction of what 'Planet Nine' might look like. (click for credit)
This is an artist’s depiction of what ‘Planet Nine’ might look like. (click for credit)

On August 24, 2006, the the International Astronomical Union (IAU) passed a resolution declaring that Pluto is not a planet. This caused a lot of consternation, since Pluto had been considered a planet for more than 70 years. What caused this “demotion?” Starting in about 1992, astronomers began discovering other bodies orbiting the sun in a similar fashion. Astronomers began to ask, “If Pluto is a planet, should we consider these other bodies to be planets as well?” The issue really came to a head in 2005, when the body now called Eris was discovered. Its orbit around the sun is similar to that of Pluto, and it was originally thought to be more massive. If Pluto is a planet, then, Eris has to be considered a planet as well.

So, a decision had to be made: Are there 10 planets (or more) in the solar system (including Eris and possibly some of these other Pluto-like bodies), or is Pluto not really a planet? In the end, the IAU decided that Pluto and similar bodies in the solar system aren’t really planets. They are dwarf planets, and that brought the number of true planets in our solar system down to eight. Recently, however, two astronomers have suggested that there are actually nine planets in the solar system, because there is a very large, undiscovered planet lurking quite far from the sun.

For many years there have been suggestions that a ninth planet has been out there, but generally speaking, the evidence for its existence has been rather slim. Recently, however, two well-respected astronomers published a paper in a well-respected journal that laid out some indirect evidence for the existence of Planet Nine. While I don’t consider the evidence to be very strong, it’s certainly worth discussing.

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Review of Shadow of Oz

shadow_ozDr. Wayne D. Rossiter earned his Ph.D. in ecology and evolution from Rutgers University in February of 2012 and is currently an assistant professor of biology at Waynesburg University. His book, Shadow of Oz, has already caused me to write two blog posts (here and here). In one of those posts, a commenter called Rossiter’s book a “must read,” and I have to agree. While I have issues with some of the content, on the whole it is a valuable addition to the wealth of information that has already been written on the subject of origins. As a result, I encourage you to read this book and seriously think about its contents.

In some ways, the main thrust of his book is obvious: the standard view of Neo-Darwinism (random mutations filtered by natural selection) is incompatible with the Christian faith. I don’t know many people who would disagree with that statement. Nevertheless, the way Rossiter makes that point is rather profound. Early on in the book, for example, he gives five extended quotations from different authors regarding the history of the universe. The first and fourth are from Dr. Carl Sagan (atheist), the second is from Dr. Richard Feynman (atheist), the third is from Dr. Richard Dawkins (atheist). The fifth is from Dr. Karl Giberson (Christian who is a staunch evolutionist). The passages are indistinguishable, and that’s the point. As Rossiter says:

I could have chosen any number of brief atheistic accounts of the history of the universe, and not one of them would differ in any functional way from the one offered by Giberson. (p. 25)

Rossiter’s discussion of Dr. Kenneth Miller’s views on origins is equally insightful and perhaps even more damning. He shows that, like Giberson, the “creation” account that Miller believes is indistinguishable from that of an atheist. Further, he shows in rather stark terms just how confused Miller is when it comes to what he believes. For example, Rossiter quotes Miller as saying that he tells his students that he believes in Darwin’s God. However, as Rossiter makes clear, that statement is pure nonsense:

…as Miller admits earlier in his book, Darwin was not a believer in God. He became a staunch agnostic, who demanded strict naturalistic answers for life’s workings. As so, it’s quite appropriate that Miller should claim to share Darwin’s view. (p. 163)

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