Sunday, 21 December 2014

Creationists and science - they do it wrong, sometimes dishonestly so

Creationists and evolutionists use the same evidence,
but evolutionists use all the evidence.

From Boingboing, of all places, comes a tale of an encounter with a creationist at the American Geophysical Union conference.  The author meet a man at the poster section.
A name badge declaring him to be Hugh Miller, the first author on the poster.He asked if I had any questions. I asked if he could just give me a quick summary of the work. He talked about performing mass spectrometry on samples of various dinosaur bones that produced age estimates ranging from 15,000 to 50,000 years. My spidey-sense tingled. I peered over his shoulder, searching for bullet points to figure out what was going on here.
That's when I read it: "humans, neanderthals, and dinosaurs existed together."
The author continues:
Now, here's the thing about Carbon-14 dating. This isotope has a very short half-life (the time necessary for the element to reduce in mass by half) of only 5730 years. Since it decays so quickly, it is useless for dating objects more than about 40-50,000 years old. The background levels of C-14 radiation in the laboratory have to be compensated for. 
The author points out
...often a technique called "bracketing" is used where the igneous rock on either side of the fossil is dated with radioactive isotopes that have half-lives on the order of millions of years. This give scientists a range of time in which the animal could have lived. The poster authors, Hugh included, were basing their attack on one technique in the geological toolkit, and disregarding all other evidence that would have undermined their conclusions.
In Australia there were engineers that were trying to search out about a coal mine, so they drilled down and they found a basalt layer, or lava flow that had woody material in it, branches and twigs and so on, and when Dr. Andrew Snelling, our PhD geologist sent that to a lab in Massachusetts in 1994, they used the potassium-argon dating method and dated it at 45 million years old. Well, we also sent the wood to the radiocarbon section of the same lab, and they dated it at 45,000 years old. 45,000 year old wood in 45 million year old rock. The point is, there is a problem.
Sewell also argued that Darwinism runs afoul of the laws of thermodynamics. Evolution requires a decrease in entropy over time, whereas a cherished principle of physics says that is impossible. Since Sewell recognizes that the second law applies only to closed systems (which the Earth is not), it is unclear what the problem is. His claim that “natural forces do not cause extremely improbable things to happen” is pure gibberish. Does Sewell invoke spuernatural forces to explain the winning numbers in last night’s lottery?The fact is that natural forces routinely lead to local decreases in entropy. Water freezes into ice and fertilized eggs turn into babies. Plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen, but Sewell does not invoke divine intervention to explain the process.