Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Abrupt Warming

In an article that can only be described as peculiar, a study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states:

"Earth's climate is undergoing an abrupt change, ending a cooler period that began with a swift "cold snap" in the tropics 5,200 years ago that coincided with the start of cities, the beginning of calendars and the biblical great flood, a leading expert on glaciers has concluded."

Eh? Shades of "Day After Tomorrow!" Given the pervasive lack of geological support for the world-wide flood, one wonders why he inserted that last tidbit.

Another scientist, Gavin Schmidt, notes:

"You would have to put that argument as more intriguing rather than definitive," Schmidt said. "There are a number of issues in the tropical ice cores that are problematic for dating things 4,000 to 5,000 years ago."

If the Recent Earth Creation camp is paying attention, they will take this and run with it.

A PowerPoint Presentation on the Age of the Universe and the Earth

A local group that calls themselves GENESTN.ORG has put together a PowerPoint presentation explaining evidence for the age of the universe and of the earth. It is technically a bit dense but very informative. This group is dedicated to spreading the word about the lack of support behind YEC arguments.

Monday, June 26, 2006

No More Links From the NYT

Today begins my boycott of the New York Times. I will neither read it on the web, nor will I ever pick up another copy of it. While it has been awhile since I have actively read the paper, I will no longer link to posts that appear there. Such is my disgust with the paper. The LA Times does not present as much a problem since little of interest ever emerges from that paper. Ditto the WSJ. Instapundit has a good roundup.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

IAP Statement on the Teaching of Evolution

Here is the link for the statement that I mentioned in the previous post.

"Scientists Urge Evolution Lessons"

The BBC reports that 67 national science academies have signed a statement urging better education of evolution and natural science. One scientist, Yves Quere, is quoted as saying:

"We know of schools in various parts of the world where the children are told that the Earth is about 8,000 years old," said Yves Quere, co-chair of the Inter Academy Panel on International Issues, the global network of science academies.

"So in this statement we say you cannot teach this to children, it is wrong."

The article has user comments which are interesting.

Hat tip to R.L. Macklin

Friday, June 16, 2006

Radiometric Dating

I just finished reading Roger Wiens' excellent essay Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective. He effectively lays out the case for accepting the basis behind radiometric dating and what the evidence shows. I am also reading up on the RATE project, an ICR-related think tank that put out a book titled Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth a year back. More in a bit.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

More From the Primordial Soup People

Foxnews reports on new thoughts involving the origin of life. He writes:

"Life could have started up from the small molecules that nature provided," says Robert Shapiro, a chemist from New York University. Shapiro and others insist that the first life forms were self-contained chemistry experiments that grew, reproduced and even evolved without needing the complicated molecules that define biology as we now know it.

Very speculative, but interesting. It is important to note that his area of research, biopoesis, does not involve evolutionary theory. Read the whole thing.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Can We Talk?

For reasons too numerous to mention, my wife Melanie and I are homeschooling our oldest child Marcus. We are using the Sonlight Curriculum which, while unabashedly Christian in slant, does not present revisionist history and mixes historical context with novels from the time, so the child gets the look and feel of what went on. The math curriculum has also been well-regarded. Naturally, though, I was apprehensive about the science curriculum. Imagine my surprise when I read, in the back of the science workbook, the following chapter title: Young and Old Earth Creationists: Can We Even Talk Together. The first few paragraphs are illuminating and, sadly, very true. The author, John Holtzmann, writes:

Over the last few years, it appears that the vast majority of evangelical Christian homeschoolers--and certainly the majority of leaders in the evangelical Christian homeschool movement--have aligned themselves with a particular interpretation of Genesis 1-11. Specifically, they have aligned themselves with what is known as a Young-Earth Creationist (YEC) perspective.

I wrote the following paper because, it seems, the move to a YEC perspective has been so strong that any Bible-believing Christian who dares publicly to raise serious questions about the YEC model risks social ostracism and possible official exclusion from Homeschool groups or events on that ground alone.

Whoa!! Reading this came as quite a shock to me for exactly the reasons he points out. I figured I was going to have to write my own science curriculum for the older years to combat the pervasiveness of the YEC viewpoint. Interestingly, I have never seen the term YEC used by a Christian before. It is almost always used by opponents of this view in a somewhat pejorative fashion.

Holtzmann points out that many Christians view the age of the earth as being important because of the slippery slope argument, but also that the correct interpretation of Genesis 1-11 (called the Primeval History by most theologians because it differs so radically from the rest of scripture) is exceedingly difficult.

He asks the question of whether it is appropriate to use scientific data to interpret the scriptures. He then, seemingly, answers his own question by using only scriptural passages that lend themselves to a possible Old earth viewpoint. I don't always agree with his conclusions and he relies a bit to heavily on Answers in Genesis, which is home to some of the most ardent YECers in the business. But hats off to him for broaching the subject in an open, thought-provoking fashion.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

'No Croc Left Behind'

I missed this when it came out, but Scott Ott, over at Scrappleface relates the following news item.

'No Croc Left Behind'
by Scott Ott

(2005-02-24) — After the recent discovery of two ancient crocodile skulls which closely resemble modern crocodiles despite 40 million years of evolution, the National Science Foundation (NSF) today issued a grant of $56 million to fund the new ‘No Croc Left Behind’ (NCLB) program.

The program, administered by the American Institute of Biological Science (AIBS) is designed to end the “soft bigotry of low expectations which has kept crocodiles mired in the backwaters of evolutionary progress for tens of millions of years.”

Genetic scientists at AIBS will attempt to “aggressively hyper-evolve” the modern crocodile to “bring it more in line with Darwinian expectations.”

“We’re designing some random mutations to improve the crocodile’s survivability,” said an unnamed AIBS scientist, “Future croc features might include a retractable periscope, a gas-powered outboard motor and perhaps skin that’s unfit for making shoes and purses. Of course, taxonomically, it will still be a crocodile…but we’re just scientists, not miracle workers.”

Friday, June 02, 2006

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back to Georgia

The AP reports that a federal appeals court has returned the Georgia evolution sticker case to the lower court because there was not enough evidence that the government's actions are "religiously neutral." The article relates the following astounding school policy:

It had been the school's policy since 1995 to tear out chapters on evolution from science textbooks out of "respect for the family teachings of a significant number of Cobb County citizens," according to Thursday's opinion. But, in the spring of 2002, when the school district selected a new biology book that contained 101 pages on evolution, school officials decided to affix a disclaimer sticker instead of removing the section.

Tear them Out??? Would you tear out of a physics textbook the chapters on gravity? The article quotes Cobb County schools atrorney Glenn Brock as saying about the sticker: "It was there to promote critical thinking." That is a smokescreen. You should think critically about everything that you learn. To single out evolutionary theory for "critical thinking" means you don't think it bears up under such thinking. Newsflash! It does.

According to the report, the problem that the 11th circuit court of appeals has is procedural:

At the heart of the federal appeals court ruling is whether school officials had been pressured into adopting the stickers. The lower court said school officials responded to a 2,300-signature petition that demanded the disclaimer, but the appeals court panel was never presented a copy of the petition or evidence that one was ever submitted before the school system opted for the stickers.

I would want to see the petition as well, especially in light of the fact that a bunch of copies of Of Pandas and People were trucked in at night when nobody was looking! While I am sure that funny business goes on in the science community, it would not be the first time that there was deception on the part of creationists.

A Disturbing Conversation

I just had lunch with a friend of mine and his fiancee. He teaches human palaeontology at Texas Tech University, in Lubbock. During our conversation, we were talking about the disagreement within the paleo community about fossil human taxonomy. He idly mentioned that he just doesn't address that in his classes because he already has a problem with 80% of the students not believing a word of what he is saying, anyway.

Lubbock, is, evidently, the second most conservative town in the nation (by some standards, at least) behind Provo, Utah. Consequently, creationism teaching is pervasive. This must have a strong impact on the local high schools.