Katie and I started to watch Creation in Symphony, which is a three tape documentary created by the people at the Creation Evidence Museum. (This is not related directly to Kent Hovind (aka "Dr. Dino") or his Dinosaur Adventure Land in Florida, although the concepts are similar). The basic premise of the series is to disprove the theory of evolution; both rely heavily on an attempt to prove that dinosaurs and mankind lived during the same time period.
- Creation in Symphony
My motivation for watching the series is two-fold. First off, I'm watching it for entertainment value. Second, I am curious what foundation, if any, the documentary presents for challenging evolution (it is, afterall, simply a theory). I've attempted to approach it with an open mind, although clearly I'm also critically evaluating it.
The host of the series (Dr. Carl Baugh) cites quite a few reputable works to help build his argument. Perhaps unsurprising, however, the context of statements is often questionable. More importantly, he presumes that all scientists from all time periods speak as a unified front; for instance, he uses quotes from a couple of reputable and unreputable sources that suggest that creationism and evolution are polarized; i.e., if evolution is not true then creationism must be true; there are no other options. In addition, many of his efforts to disprove evolution are based on challenging individual evidences within evolution which evolution is not innately dependent upon. For instance, he believes that proving that dinosaurs and humans coexisted inherently disproves evolution, where, in fact, it simply disproves the assumptions regarding how long dinosaurs lived for but not how they came to be created. In other words, while our documented path of evolution helps reinforce the theory itself, it is obviously preliminary and dependent on additional evidence. If there was, in fact, conclusive evidence that dinosaurs and humans coexisted then I'm sure certain variables in how evolution is applied to biological history would change but I don't think it would impact the theory of evolution significantly.
One of the most amusing aspects of the series so far is that all of the artifacts, fossils, bones and archeological records reviewed thus far were dug up in the same location, which just happens to be in the back yard of the museum. This doesn't mean it's false, by any means, but it's awfully convenient that in two hundred years of serious archeology there is (almost) no evidence of dinosaurs and humans coexisting, but one creationist digs down a few feet in his own back yard (he is not well funded) and it's all right there.
So far, Dr. Carl Baugh doesn't appear to be quite as fundamental as Dr. Dino, who suggests that the world was created six thousand years ago. He does, however, have evidence suggesting that the granite in the earth (which makes up most of the planet) was crystalized in a few minutes instead of 350 million years. In addition, according to Katie (we haven't gotten this far in the series), he also believes that there was no rain prior to the flood and that, in additon, there was a frozen helium "shell" around the earth's atmosphere (which, upon melting, caused the cycle of water which results in evaporation/rain). I can't wait to get to that section because, as I understand the concept now, it sounds laughably ridiculous. (I'm trying to understand how modern humans/animals, without the aid of evolutionary transformation, survived without fresh water from rain).
One of the things that these Creationists routinely disregard is that science is an approach and that scientific theory often contains conflicting theories. Further, science includes safeguards to allow entire bodies of assumptions to be disproved or dismissed. Not to say that this doesn't require a lot of fighting of the status quo or battling of individual egos, because it does, but science is not a single body of work or doctrine of fundamental and final answers. If the work of these creationist doctors were truly of consequence, it ought to be published in journals and evaluated by the scientific community. Any scientist (regardless of their ideological interests) that proposes the dismissal of well established theories without the publishing of evidence for community criticism and instead publishes media targetting the non-scientific community stating their findings as conclusive is likely not to be taken seriously.
Nonetheless, the presentation and format (thus far), does come across as authorative and rational from the perspective of a non-critical eye or the mind of a biased perspective. It is, for the most part, logical and uses a lot of references from secular sources to build its argument.
Of course, the same can often be said about secular attempts to disregard Creationism. Often, these efforts use rare fundamentalist assumptions (such as the idea that the world was created in exactly six literal days or the idea that the bible was not incluenced by the interpretation or circumstances of its authors) as the basis for their arguments. Similarly, actions from politically minded extemist arms of Christianity (such as the Roman Catholic crusaders or inquisitions) are used to challenge the theology and concept of the bible/spiritualism itself. Also, the idea of documentaries preaching to their choirs and taking evidence out of context is obviously not limited to the Christian right -- the secular left has Michael Moore for that (disproving that narrow-minded non-critical-thinking is not the domain of any particular religious or political agenda, but rather a widespread cultural trait).
One issue the movie does raise (which I'm also asking based on my reading of Guns, Germs and Steel is how carbon dating works. I know the basic premise (of Carbon 16 and Carbon 14 ratios in the earth's atmosphere and the measuring of those ratios against the halflife of Carbon 16) but what I don't understand is why the Carbon 16 halflife begins upon the decomposition of the animal itself. What aspect of life maintains the radioactivity of these elements? It seems to me that the halflife would start when the carbon (in the atmosphere) was ionized by radioactive waves that slip through the outer atmosphere but that it may be quite some time before that carbon is absorbed into a plant or later eaten by an animal. Further, can carbon (once absorbed) not be ionized (or whatever the term is for "making something radioactive"; it's been over a decade since I took chemistry hah)? I'm sure these issues are addressed since this is such a widespread method, but I don't recall the answer.
I evolved from a swastika.
You put way too much thought into all of this nonsense. None of it really matters. It's quite possible that everything we know is part of a great big experiment, where the earth really is only 6,000 years old. All that stuff the evolutionists present as truth could have been faked. The whole purpose might simply be to see how billions of people react to contradictory evidence about their origins. If that's true, then there is probably nothing we can do about it, because it's very similar to there being no escape for the inhabitants of a computer simulation.
One of the things that these Creationists routinely disregard is that science is an approach and that scientific theory often contains conflicting theories.
If you actually said this to a real scientist, he would scoff at the word "theory". For something like evolution, they see it as an indisputable set of facts.
Further, science includes safeguards to allow entire bodies of assumptions to be disproved or dismissed.
It also allows for many scientists to fit the data to their theories, while disregarding the data which doesn't.
Oh, trust me, I hardly take any of this stuff seriously (although I personally believe that evolution is the most likely option, I consider such topics of purely academic/philisophical interest to my own life and hardly waste too much time on them anymore). Although, existential variations on the theme generally bore me beyond consideration, where as at least topics like creationism maintain some minimal interest if only because of their widespread popularity and thus cultural impact.
I think it's ridiculous that any scientist would consider evolution factual. That violates the entire basis of scientific process. Yes, it's the most reasonable and supported option available but I don't understand how anyone could deem it as factual. We simply don't have enough information.
re: Data munging: I agree. And having known a lot of people who work in labs, I'm aware that this is FAR more common than people like to admit. Despite an alleged cultural rejection of data manipulation, I know that results are often cooked in order to ensure that additional funding is received.
I think it's ridiculous that any scientist would consider evolution factual.
I've seen the reaction of scientists when asked about creationism, and why it's not the same as evolution, considering that evolution is just a theory. They then usually get all indignant, with their response indicating that "theory" should be equated with "fact". I don't remember the exact answers, but it was like they were saying that anyone who knows anything about science doesn't see the word "theory" in the colloquial sense.
Carbon-14 is kept at a constant percentage in living tissue, so its constantly being replentished as long as the tissue is alive. (Don't ask me the WHY of this, but its an established fact). This percentage is universal to all living tissue.
The beta decay process begins relative to this percentage onnce the tissue dies and stops keeping this constant percentage.
So, uh, that's the limits of my chem knowledge anymore. Anybody know why living things keep a constant C14 percentage? heh
"Let's say that a tree lived 5730 years ago. In the process of living, that tree would take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen, with BOTH KINDS of the carbon atoms becoming parts of the structure of the tree. As long as the tree lived, this process would continue, so the proportion of Carbon-14 to carbon-12 in the wood of the tree would be constant (at the expected proportions). However, after the tree died, it no longer collected any carbon atoms from the carbon dioxide of the atmosphere. Its carbon content would be fixed at what it was when it died. However, AFTER it died, the Carbon-14 atoms in it would do their radioactive decay thing."
OK. That makes sense. But wouldn't the atmosphere be filled with varying levels of C16 halflifes (all the way up through to their synthesis into N16 or C14, depending on how far abstracted by plant life they are)? And thus, wouldn't that pose a serious challenge to radiocarbon dating? Or does the process take this into account and measure the most radioactive (e.g., newest) carbon matter only? I can imagine a method (since it's all based on ratios) using probability based on a distribution chart where it takes into account only the greatest significant value of the left side (oldest) of the curve.
Man, I'm going to have to actually look this up if no one knows that answer ;-). I've found a few references to this (including one in the book I'm reading) but all of them skip over the mechanics of it, simply stating it as an assumption that this is true. I believe that it's true, but am really curious why the decaying process would be dependent on living processes (and why it doesn't start decaying prior to entering living tissue either).
OK, I think the basis of my confusion may stem from a misunderstanding of how half-live's work.
I was assuming that at the half life, one molecule is one half as radioactive as it was previously; but that doesn't make sense because that would mean it has lost a neutron at which point it would have reverted back to Nitrogen (since you can't lose half a neutron).
In reality a half life seems to be more of a statistical matter representing one half of a sample. I'm assuming that the sample size must be significant for this method to work, but even in a seed you have millions of molecules so that probably helps satisfy statistical sample size requirements.
I will need to research this a bit more, although it's more of a question of how half-live's work than an issue of carbon dating specifically.
Reading that through is pretty interesting, actually. I'd be curious to see how scientists that back these dating methods address these issues. I know that there are considerations with radiometric dating, but some of the findings noted in their references seem to be significant issues.
Now I'm really confused. I thought I was twenty-nine years old, and celebrated accordingly in October. Perhaps I'm actually 29 Ma old, though?! What if we carbon date Katie and she turns out to be underage?! WHAT DO I DO??