The Creationists Came, pt 2
Ok, so we took our seats for Bruce Malone's second talk (the first being The Evolution Delusion the previous evening) and I obviously didn't expect too much, but he managed to sink beneath even my limbo bar of flaming crap.
This talk was titled Astounding Evidence for a Young Earth and he started with likening the belief in the existence of God with the belief in the existence of gravity. Yes, you read that correctly. He saw no difference between believing in an imaginary man in the sky and "believing" in the force that makes objects fall to the lowest point available. That was one of the more "astounding" things this delusional fellow said during his speech.
He regurgitated the old Dostoevsky bit about "no God = everything goes", but re-worded it to say, "If truth is relative, then we make our own rules". It's like he thought this was a bad thing, even though we've made our own rules in societies for generations now and generally speaking, we're doing ok. This was painful to sit through, let me tell you.
Malone said that the age of the earth is about 10,000 years, tops, and was created by God in six 24-hour days. Again, yes you read that correctly. He used this lovely little argument for the Sabbath:
If God made the entire Universe and all in six days and rested on the seventh, it's 24 hours. If 'days' equals 'millions of years' then you could not rest on the seventh 'day' because it would be millions of years.
This was part of his argument against old-Earth creationism that says, as I'm sure you all know, that God made everything, but time is relative and "day" could have meant a huge amount of time to the Creator. Malone thinks that is revisionist bullpucky. God said it, I believe it.
Malone then went on at length about the radiometric dating methods for both old and young (as in 6000 years) material and how these are flawed. He mentioned that in old rocks, specifically zircon ("supposedly" up to 3 or 4 billion years old), when radioactive material breaks down, it leaves helium as a by-product and there are way too many helium atoms in rocks for there to be an old old Earth. There you go, case solved. That's proof, right?
Well at the end of his talk I got the chance to ask another question which I think was phrased something like this:
The way that the scientific method works, the best way for a scientist to gain popularity, become noticed, and win the highest awards - like the Nobel Prizes - is to take a well-established scientific theory or idea and overturn it. Tweak it to show that it isn't quite correct. What you've said about there being too much helium in supposedly old rocks is physical, tangible proof that can be measured. My question is why hasn't anyone come forward in the science world to show this and open up a new area of scientific study and perhaps win a Nobel Prize in chemistry?
He said a bunch of stuff in an attempt to answer, but it boiled down to a conspiracy theory. He suggested that I was naive about the workings of the scientific community and said something to the effect of, "Do you think all those people in geology, astrophysics, and biology want to lose their jobs?" I believe I may have seen a straw over his head, floating just out of reach, his fingertips flickering in desparation trying to grasp it, tightly, lovingly to his chest for reassurance.
It was a sad sight.
Obviously I wasn't there to change minds and I don't think anyone was going to say, "wow, that was an excellent point...I think I'll go home and learn more about radiometric dating methods to check if Dr Malone was correct." See, if they did and spent, oh, maybe 17 seconds looking online, they may have come across an article from Talk Origins on how the dating method used by creationists, specifically Dr. D. R. Humphreys is horribly flawed. Here's a taste to whet the appetite for destruction (and man do I wish I had read this before I went to the lecture):
...his helium diffusion experiments were performed under a vacuum rather than at realistic pressures that model the subsurface conditions at Fenton Hill (about 200 to 1,200 bars; Winkler, 1979, p. 5). McDougall and Harrison (1999), Dalrymple and Lanphere (1969) and many other researchers have already shown that the diffusion of noble gases in silicate minerals may decrease by at least 3-6 orders of magnitude at a given temperature if the studies are performed under pressure rather than in a vacuum.
Yeah, three to six orders of magnitude. If that Humphreys fella is a scientist and didn't even know to look for that, or didn't pay attention when other scientists looked at his work and went, "Hey, Hump, maybe you wanna take a look over here...you didn't account for the added pressure, fucknut", then he's not a person worth trusting - particularily when he obviously has a creationist agenda.
Damn I wish I had read that before I went.
Malone said that there was a dinosaur discovered that hadn't decayed. That was a shocker to me; he had a video clip of Ron Reagan Jr. interviewing the paleontologist loaded but the audio wouldn't cooperate (damn modern technology). He had to just talk about how the dinosaur was found with flesh still on it and he was incredulous - "How does that happen in an old Earth?" he asked. I just didn't know...
Until I looked around online for about 21 seconds and found an article about a mummified dinosaur found in Montana with the "flesh" still on the bones and the last meal still in its stomach. However:
The actual tissue has decayed over the millennia, and has been replaced by minerals. What's left for scientists to study is a fossil of a dinosaur mummy...
A fossil?! How'd that get there? But maybe he wasn't talking about that one in particular. Another 19 seconds led me to a short article about a fossilized baby dinosaur found in Italy in 1983:
The intestines, the colon, the liver, some muscles, and the windpipe are intact. Though fossilized, they allow scientists to study the anatomy of the dinosaur as if it were truly a mummy with soft tissue.
Dammit, another fossil. I wonder it that one is "transitional"?
Then, however, I found what Malone had been talking about. Actual, seemingly soft tissue in a T-Rex discovered in Montana, sample name MOR 1125. The other articles I found that didn't have a religious lean to them all reported that the remains were 70 million years old, dated by the location the skeleton was excavated from, sandstone called the Hell Creek Formation.
When I looked at the Answers in Genesis site, they said it was proof that the Earth was young, because, "It is inconceivable that such things should be preserved for (in this case) '70 million years'. We're just flummoxed by the whole situation, so God did it!" Ok, I added that last sentence in there for a lark, but you get the meaning. They also said that, "Unfortunately, the long-age paradigm is so dominant that facts alone will not readily overturn it." They seem to be leaving out the whole, it was dated by geology, not biology bit.
Is it a question, yes. Does one interesting discovery overturn all the other evidence, no. But you'll never convince them of that. And when the situation is explained, it'll just fade away and never be mentioned again, except in lectures like this one from Bruce Malone. PZ Myers at the time had this to say:
So, basically, these cells were entombed in a thick mineral sarcophagus, protected from bacteria and other external insults. There have to have been other factors at play—cells are full of enzymes that trigger a very thorough self-destruct sequence at death—so I'm definitely looking forward to the molecular analysis. Even if their form was preserved, I expect these cells to be denatured monomer soup on the inside.
The other stuff from the lecture was just retarded. He said that "sheer plastic shifting" after the biblical flood would have caused rapid continental drift (like, moved everything around in years, rather than millenia), and with respect to a question about global warming Malone said, "Look at the evidence through biblical glasses and it'll all come clear." Yeah, just be biased right up front so we can all smell it on you. As Penn Jillette says, "Well there it is, just hanging out all pink and naked."
Ok, so that's it for part two, there's one more to come on the hate-filled Dave Hunt and the tale of how a bible meeting rapidly turned into a clan-rally. Stay tuned.