Friday, July 02, 2010

Should scientists demand that others act unscientifically? Further proof that Darwinists are dogmatists

The topic of what we are to think about Rand Paul declining to state his view of how old the earth is at a recent home school conference has been a hot one on this blog for the last few days. Paul has been criticized for being some kind of closet creationist trying not to alienate voters who believe in evolution or for believing in evolution but not wanting to alienate his creationist audience.

Fair enough.

My comments here on this blog on the criticism of Paul for doing this were designed to simply contrast the civility of the creationist response with the incivility of the Darwinist response--an incivility that characterizes much of the Darwinist response to people who differ with them. In the process, I have been asked to state my own position on the age of the earth, to which I have responded that I really don't have one. This has provoked further ire on the part of the advanced ape contingent in the comments section of this blog.

Several of them have demanded that I state my position. I find this rather ironic.

I have said that I don't really have a position on the issue of the age of the earth for a simple reason: I don't know the age of the earth. But this answer has proven unsatisfactory to these champions of scientific certainty. They think that--even though I have no expertise in any field that would bear on the question or any great familiarity with the state of knowledge in this area that I should have a position anyway.

What are we to make of people who profess to be opposed to holding positions based on ignorance but who think a person who doesn't know something is still ethically obliged to hold a position on it?

We can't believe them on scientific grounds because we are not scientists. We have insufficient access to scientific evidence which is the only way we can ground our beliefs, and we don't have the familiarity with the research that would be the only basis for such a sound belief. But they demand it anyway.

I don't know the age of the earth, but I know that someone who thinks that someone who doesn't know the age of the earth should have a position on the age of the earth anyway is a dogmatist. What else could he be?

This is the curious thing about people who hold to Darwinism: they demand that people with no scientific expertise hold scientific opinions. But on what basis? Many people can't hold them on a basis of scientific knowledge, since they don't have sufficient scientific knowledge to hold them. There is only one basis upon which they can hold them, and it is the basis upon which Darwinists demand they hold them: on the basis of authority.

Why is this curious? Because it is precisely authority we are supposed to abandon in this brave new scientific world. Authority is what religious dogmatists practice. It is what scientists are supposed to avoid. Yet here we have people who at least pose as scientific people (many of whom, of course, are not themselves scientists) who demand that we accept their opinions as truth merely on the grounds that they are scientists--or, alternatively, because they are making scientific statements.

We are to believe them because they wear laboratory smocks in the same way religious people used to believe others because they wore priestly robes. But, of course, we're not supposed to notice this parallel.

And the other irony is that, if we did set forth a belief in some scientific question which differed from their own beliefs, we would be criticized for having no scientific basis for the belief or for being scientifically illiterate--or both. Scientific illiteracy is no problem if you hold to the beliefs they champion, but they are grounds for being charged with scientific illiteracy--and treated with verbal abuse--if you disagree with them.

It is common to see reports of evolutionary scientists upset that more Americans don't accept their theories. But why should they accept them? Because a majority of scientists say so? Well, if you believe in adherence to authority, and you accept current scientific opinion as authority, then that's a fine idea.

But there's one problem: whether trust in the scientific establishment is well-placed or not, it's not a scientific idea of how one should form his opinions. There's not a particle of scientific method in it. So why do scientists so often demand it?

Should scientists demand that others act unscientifically in the name of science?

62 comments:

Art said...

"I have said that I don't really have a position on the issue of the age of the earth for a simple reason: I don't know the age of the earth. But this answer has proven unsatisfactory to these champions of scientific certainty. They think that--even though I have no expertise in any field that would bear on the question or any great familiarity with the state of knowledge in this area that I should have a position anyway.
"


LOL.

Perhaps this means that Martin will no longer offer opinions about global warming, a subject that he is even less well-qualified to have an opinion about than the age of the earth.

More likely, this is yet another ploy by Martin to duck a question that is, for him, a lose-lose proposition.

Martin Cothran said...

Of course Art implies that I have questioned the existence of global warming, which I have never done. In fact, I have done on that issue the same thing that I have done on the issue of the age of the earth: pointed out the arrogance and dogmatism of the people who simply cannot tolerate dissent on the issue.

Martin Cothran said...

Art,

Can I take your belief that I am "ducking" the issue that you too think I should accept your view on the age of the earth based on simple authority?

Anonymous said...

If a creationism bill comes before the legislature and is supported by the Family Foundation, will you lobby for it even though you have no expertise in science?

Wonderer said...

You have a solid point here. I have found through all my college years that most people who believe in either evolution or creation, and those who try to argue either side are no scientist. The information for their arguments are based upon limited information that they have obtained either through personal research, hearing someone else say it, or reading what someone else wrote. And as with the scientific community who believe in evolution, they are not going back and "updating" their beliefs to match no findings that have proven their old theories wrong. So I say all this to say, your point and position is well stated.

Michael Janocik said...

There truly are very few settled scientific facts. The age of the earth is not one of them. Am I missing something?

Here is the opening sentence from the US Geological Survey on the age of the earth.

"So far scientists have not found a way to determine the exact age of the Earth directly from Earth rocks because Earth's oldest rocks have been recycled and destroyed by the process of plate tectonics. If there are any of Earth's primordial rocks left in their original state, they have not yet been found. Nevertheless, scientists have been able to determine the probable age of the Solar System and to calculate an age for the Earth by assuming that the Earth and the rest of the solid bodies in the Solar System formed at the same time and are, therefore, of the same age."

Now let's take a look here. "Not found a way to determine." "Probably age of the solar system." "Calculate AN age for the earth by ASSUMING"

Seems like we're still working out any number of variables while assuming constants and entertaining probabilities - that's the scientists.

Does evolution only apply to biology? Why does radiometric or even carbon dating assume constants when the entire field of materialistic evolution plants its flag in random mution and natural selection?

So if the USGS doesn't know the age of the earth, with all due respect, why do you all expect Martin Cothran to know it?

Lee said...

I think Dawkins nailed it when he said that evolution makes atheism intellectually respectable.

To paraphrase Nixon, we are all dogmatists now.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Janocik quotes the opening sentence of the non-technical USGS page on the age of the earth, but neglects to cite the webpage. See the page for more information:
http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/age.html
The USGS is not disputing that the earth is 4.5 Ga old. Can Jannocik or Corthan cite any scientific organization that claims the earth has an age significantly less than conventional science claims?

Anonymous said...

http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/contents.html

The USGS site has more popular/non-technical pages on the geological dating techniques.

Art said...

The USGS is not disputing that the earth is 4.5 Ga old. Can Jannocik or Corthan cite any scientific organization that claims the earth has an age significantly less than conventional science claims?

Jannocik and Martin are clearly of the opinion that, if one cannot pinpoint the age of the earth to at least the second (say, 21:48:36.29304959 on April 23, 4,248,758,339 BCE), then any opinion about the age of the earth - 600, 6000, 6 million, 4.5 billion years old - is equally valid. Their approach to information on the subject, readily available and easily digestible facts that leave no reasonable doubt as to the order of magnitude that is correct, is "out of sight, out of mind, doesn't exist, nyah nyah nyah".

Yeah, that's the open-minded approach that we likely see in the classical Christian academy. Information is dangerous and is only doled out sparingly.

Martin Cothran said...

Anonymous,

Why do I need to demonstrate that the earth is not 4.5 million years old when I have not asserted that the earth is not 4.5 million years old?

Now, not only are you people saying that people must take positions on issues in which they have no experience or expertise, you are telling them that they must demonstrate positions which they do not hold.

The dogmatism I'm hearing is simply astounding.

Martin Cothran said...

Art,

Are you saying that I have stated that I think that all views of the age of the earth are equally valid? If so, where did I say that?

Or maybe your saying that some other view I have stated implies that. If so, which view is it and how does it imply this?

You and Human Ape ought to get together. You both take about the same level of care in your characterizations of other people.

Anonymous said...

Martin said:
"Why do I need to demonstrate that the earth is not 4.5 million years old when I have not asserted that the earth is not 4.5 million years old?"

4.5 billion, not million. Did the abreviation "Ga." above confuse you?
Standard use in geology and geochemistry:
Ma. (for megaanum) - one million years
Ga. (for gigaannum) - one billion years

Art said...

Are you saying that I have stated that I think that all views of the age of the earth are equally valid? If so, where did I say that?

Or maybe your saying that some other view I have stated implies that. If so, which view is it and how does it imply this?


Martin, when you defend a curriculum that holds in equal esteem conventional views of the age of the earth and those espoused in the A Beka curriculum, as your school does, you in fact state clearly (beyond implication) that estimates of the age of the earth that range from the absurdly young (as per A Beka) and the very old are equally valid.

Martin Cothran said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for correcting my typo. Am I still obliged to demonstrate something I don't actually have a position on?

Martin Cothran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin Cothran said...

Art,

You are assuming that if a person supports a curriculum that does not take a position on an issue, he must necessarily believe all views on the issue are valid.

Are there any questions in your science department on which the University of Kentucky does not take an official position?

Michael Janocik said...

Anonymous - I never said USGS disputed 4.5 billion years. I said that it estimates relied on calculations based on assumptions that may or may not hold. I do not believe the earth is 6,000 years old. I'm quite content to believe what the scientists tell us here, but I also know the age of the solar system is a very challenging scientific question and the history of science is replete with development of knowledge which overturns prior assumptions. So what we can say right now is that scientest believe that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, but we can't say we "know" that because we don't.

KyCobb said...

Michael Janocik,

You are correct that the age of 4.5 billion years is based on the reasonable assumption that the earth formed at about the same time as the other solid bodies in the earth, because scientists have not found original rock on earth. However, there is very old rock in Greenland which has been reliably dated to about 3.6 billion years old.

Rock doesn't evolve the way life does, and we know that the laws of physics have been uniform throughout the observable universe for nearly 14 billion years. In dating the Greenland rock, several different dating methods using different elements all agree, so there simply isn't any scientific basis for thinking that the earth could possibly be significantly younger than about 4 billion years.

Martin would probably say I'm being dogmatic. However, science isn't a divine revelation from authority that one has to accept on faith. Scientists make their reputations by showing other scientists' results were wrong-a scientist would literally eviscerate the work of his own brother if it was flawed. If scientists had such a flawed understanding of physics that they couldn't accurately date rock, then we wouldn't be having this conversation because computers wouldn't work.

Martin Cothran said...

KyCobb,

Accuse you of being dogmatic? When you claim to know how the laws of physics have operated in the universe for 14 billion years? Why would I do that?

Evan Oliver said...

The problem with 'scientifically' determining the age of the earth is that we really do not have a reliable dating method. Dating methods such as Radiometric Age Dating ASSUMES several things that cannot be 'scientifically' proven. We don't and cannot know that there were none of the decayed atoms in the original rocks, nor can we know that the decay rate has been constant over all of earth's history.

Given the technology and equipment we have now, we simply cannot determine the age of the earth based only on material observations of our planet.

Also, just out of curiosity, what about personal research invalidates any conclusions that it produces? Many of the worlds greatest minds have been self educated. I admit that with the advent of the internet, there is a lot of misinformation out there that causes a lot of confusion. I would however, respectfully submit that there is just as much misinformation on the side of evolution as there is on the side of creationism.

Evan Oliver said...

Another interesting fact about this discussion is the strange quality of science that causes it to find invalid or superstitious the beliefs that it held as incontrovertable fact only a few decades before. Science draws its conclusions from its collected data, but the conclusions that it draws are always in danger of being invalidated by the next piece of data.

Anonymous said...

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html

Martin Cothran said...

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/01/solar-system-age/

Anonymous said...

The question to Rand Paul was not if he KNEW how old the earth was, but old he THINKS the earth is.

If someone who is running for public office cannot give an answer to that question they are either a) completely and utterly ignorant, no matter whether they are agnostic, atheist or Christian or b) are trying to dodge the question because they know their answer will make them look stupid.

Again - the question was not if he KNEW the age of the earth (nobody does exactly), but how old he THOUGHT the earth was.

Apologizing for this kind of behaviour from someone who is running for a high public office is nothing short of shameful and intellectually dishonest, especially in the way done here.

James V. West said...

Responding to Evan's post: "Another interesting fact about this discussion is the strange quality of science that causes it to find invalid or superstitious the beliefs that it held as incontrovertable fact only a few decades before. Science draws its conclusions from its collected data, but the conclusions that it draws are always in danger of being invalidated by the next piece of data."

I don't understand what is strange about this. This is just how science works. You find the best answers you can, with the best data of the time and the best tools available. Later you might have better tools and better data and get a different answer.

If science didn't work this way we would still be running around the plains with spears and hiding from lightning storms.

Can you clarify what you mean by "strange?"

Jeremie said...

Wow martin, thanks for that great link. How dare those damn Darwinisits state that they have a good understanding of the age of the universe within a certain degree of errors when they just turn around and "revise" the calculated age by a WHOLE .05%?!? DOGMATISTS!

In all seriousness, it is not at all dogmatic to ask people who in a position which requires knowledge of the facts (such as you) to have reviewed the evidence and either to have agreed with the overwhelming scientific consensus or to come out and tell us what you believe and why. And in the case of Paul, as a politian he should know how to delegate, and to trust the scientific consensus enough to at least be able to say that the earth is certainly not six thousand years old. Had he said he didn't know whether or not the earth is round, I think you would not disagree to people ridiculing him. The fact that one is unwilling to state one's opinion or holds no opinion on such a basic scientific matter not only shows one's ignorance but also one's arrogance, to think that all the scientists must be wrong despite their evidence without presenting an alternative.

It would be preferable to just state what one believes and why or to defer to the scientific consensus. Scientists aren't evil dogmatists, a large part of our work is to find flaws in the work of our collegues. Take the scientific consensus until you have evidence to believe otherwise, then present that evidence. Then if your evidence is shown by others to be poor, go back to the current scientific consensus. All you have shown so far is that you are the dogmatist, and that you are unwilling to accept science despite having no good evidence to the contrary.

A good place to start checking your evidence, by the way, is www.talkorigins.org. Pretty much everything is covered there, and it is all very well referenced.

Doug said...

You seem to be a little confused about what is meant by "argument from authority." An argument from authority is one in which a conclusion is reached for which no evidence is offered. In effect, the arguer is saying "X is true because I say it is, and I am an authority on X." Interpreation of religious beliefs rest almost entirely on these types of arguments. In contrast, scientific knowledge is based on observation and experiment, thus an authority in a particular field of science often has an enourmous amount of evidence with which to support an opinion. So, when a geologist or some other relevant scientist says that the earth is a particular age, he or she is not arguing from authority, but arguing from the weight of evidence. But what about someone who is NOT a geologist, or maybe not even a scientist at all? If that person makes an assertion about the age of the earth based on the conclusions of geologists, is this an argument from authority? No, because the ultimate authority in this case is the geologist, who argued from evidence. This is why it's relevant that Rand Paul did not know the age of the earth, and why those who believe that accepting science is the same as accepting dogma are wrong.

Not that Martin said...

Why is this curious? Because it is precisely authority we are supposed to abandon in this brave new scientific world. Authority is what religious dogmatists practice. It is what scientists are supposed to avoid [...]

We are to believe them because they wear laboratory smocks in the same way religious people used to believe others because they wore priestly robes. But, of course, we're not supposed to notice this parallel


Martin, this isn't true, as I suspect you know. Scientific authority does exist, but it's fundamentally different to dogma; first, it's earned, and second, it's open to challenge.

There's a clear difference between saying that any argument based solely on authority should be challenged - the motto of the Royal Society is "nullius in verba", "on the word of nobody" - and saying that authority is impossible.

In fact the wonderful efficiency of scientific knowledge is that we don't have to work things out from first principles, because our best theories have survived active, vigorous challenges from other theories from the moment they were born - "standing on the shoulders of giants" as Newton put it.

That's why we trust scientific theories - note "theories", not "individuals". Any scientist who insists on a theory based on their own reputation while refusing to release data or show their working to other scientists is pretty soon going to be a laughing stock. And that kind of argument from authority is exactly what priests do, which is why they're different from scientists. As I think you know.

onein6billion said...

"the civility of the creationist response"

Hilarious. Those who are ignorant are civil. So what? That certainly does not make them correct.

"the incivility of the Darwinist response"

Scientists expect people to have a certain level of common knowledge. Those who don't are considered scientifically ignorant. Why vote for someone who is that ignorant?

"I have responded that I really don't have one."

What is your excuse for pleading ignorance?

"I should have a position anyway"

Perhaps you should watch "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?"

"We have insufficient access to scientific evidence"

You have only yourself to blame.

"It is what scientists are supposed to avoid."

Hilarious idiocy. You should choose the proper "authority". Science yes. Religion no.

truthspeaker said...

The fact that Rand Paul apparently doesn't have scientific knowledge about the age of the earth is the problem. I don't know about you, but I expect someone running for elected office to have at least graduated high school and made the effort to keep informed about the basics of science. The age of the earth and how it was determined are things that are supposed to be taught no later than high school. I don't expect Paul to take it on faith, I expect him to have used his brain to find the answer. Ignorance is not a virtue.

James said...

Martin, from your Wired link:

"Those differences could mean that current estimates of the age of the solar system overshoot that age by 1 million years or more. Historical estimates place the age at about 4.5 billion years—a number that is not precise enough to show a difference of one million—but more finely honed recent calculations place the age at more like 4.5672 billion years. One million years is still an eyeblink at this scale, representing the difference between 4.566 and 4.567, but this difference is important in understanding the infant solar system." (3rd paragraph)

Do you know what an order of magnitude is?

Also, to everyone saying "we don't have reliable dating methods" or even ". . .nor can we know that the decay rate has been constant over all of earth's history", read this: http://www.amazon.com/Bones-Rocks-Stars-Science-Happened/dp/0230551947/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278438492&sr=1-1

For the record, as Evan is apparently a bit rusty on his physics, decay rates of radioactive elements are related to fundamental constants that affect everything, such as the speed of light or the strength of the weak force. If they had been different in the past, matter itself would have behaved differently. This has not been empirically observed, nor is it likely to. Were any of a list of fundamental constants changed, stars would not be stable, or matter would dissolve into quarks, or some other weird thing would happen.

schumpeter said...

You can tell that the question has a hidden agenda from the reference to 'darwinists', not 'biologists'.

Anonymous said...

The point isn't knowing the age of the Earth. The point is whether or not someone is a young-Earth creationist. That is what he was really waffling on.

Alex said...

I have said that I don't really have a position on the issue of whether the Earth if flat or round for a simple reason: I don't know the shape of the Earth. But this answer has proven unsatisfactory to these champions of scientific certainty. They think that--even though I have no expertise in any field that would bear on the question or any great familiarity with the state of knowledge in this area that I should have a position anyway.

Joe_Agnost said...

@Alex: This is fun eh? Let me try...

Since I'm not a physicist I have no position on the rotation of the earth. How can I be expected to form an opinion on something I'm clearly not an expert in??
Therefore, I am resolute in my statement that I don't know if the earth rotates or not...

truthspeaker said...

And yes, I am uncivil toward people who are wilfully ignorant, especially when they are running for elected office. Citizens of a republic have a civic duty to educate and inform themselves. A functioning republic depends on an educated population. This is not a new idea.

Anonymous said...

I would never want to be a dogmatist. Therefore:

I am not sure old the earth is (I wasnt there in the beginning).

I am not sure as to its shape(flat or round), since I have traveled its extent.

I am not sure as to its position (relative to the sun), since I have never been to outer space.

I am not sure of its composition, since I havent been to its center.

I am also not sure whether earth has an atmosphere or a firmament to hold back the water, having never really been up there to check myself.


There you go. I am civil and non-dogmatic, and you can be too. We can all be ignorant friends together!

Anonymous said...

I have no background in cellular biology, it's not my major. So clearly I don't know if plants have cell walls, and can't take a position on it.

I have no background on geology, really never taken a single course in it, so clearly I can't comment on granite being igneous rock. Granite could be sedimentary, forget what all those "scientists" with their so called "evidence" say, if I have no expertise in the field, I can maintain a position of "they very well might be wrong".

I have never preformed mass-spectroscopy, so clearly when asked "is it possible to identify incredibly tiny trace amounts of elements in certain materials" the answer is a resounding "I don't know, maybe, maybe not", despite the technique being widely used and a staple in many labs.

It's not dogmatic to accept basic scientific facts. To say "they might be wrong, but I believe them" is admitting that you give more weight to the arguments of people who study a field than those who don't.

You may not KNOW the age of the earth, but you certainly should think it is on the order of 4.5 billion years old, or else you are rejecting the work of people who study the subject in lieu of your own (admitted) uninformed position.

So do you really hold no opinions on anything you're not an expert in? You probably can't begin to describe gravity, you're not a physicist, and gravity is hard, but does that mean you doubt the earth orbits the sun? Does that mean you doubt gravity itself?

Tell me, do you "believe" in gravity? Do you believe the "force" that holds the solar system in orbit around the sun is the same "force" as what keeps you held down to the ground? You're not an expert in physics, you cannot begin to describe gravity in such a way that would lend credence to the idea, you probably can't even create the Newtonian formulation of it, but does that mean you have any doubts regarding gravity?

Anyone should be able to reasonably cite an approximate age of the earth. "Somewhere on the order of 4 billion years", or something akin to that, within an order of magnitude, is not exact, but it is well within the reach of normal people to be able to justify.

Any position calling for "scientists are off by over an order of magnitude", or even "scientists are off by 7 orders of magnitude" as would be the case with young earth creationists, is an incredibly disingenuous and absurd position. It's like saying "I don't know the distance between LA and New York, it could be roughly 3000 miles, or 10 feet, I don't know". You may not know, but you're expected to know that "3000 miles" is a hell of a lot more supported than "10 feet".

MS said...

I doubt very seriously that Rand Paul doesn't know, within a reasonable margin of error, what the age of the earth is. However, he can't come out and say so. If he tells the truth, he alienates a large part of his base. If he asserts that is only a few thousand years old, he exposes himself to ridicule from the educated. Hence, he weasels. All politicians weasel to some extent or other, I suppose, but it's still not a good thing.

And the information requested is common knowledge, and should be known to any person claiming to be educated. It's not a "gotcha" question, like asking him to opine on some obscure controversy about quarks or bosons. There simply is no controversy among scientists about the (approximate) age of the earth. It is disingenuous at best to pretend otherwise.

By refusing to answer the question, he shows that he doesn't value truth very much, and that he doesn't think science is particularly important, strange positions for a physician, and scary in someone seeking high office.

As it happens, I live in Kentucky. Not that I would be likely to vote for him anyway, but this is one more nail in the coffin. I really hope that as his looniness (and I really can't think of a better word) becomes more widely known, it will throw the election to his opponent.

Jody Wheeler said...

I've never been to Pittsburg. Anyone who says that Pittsburg exists, that they have lived in Pittsburg, that there are even places to live in Pittsburg, are obviously dogmatic and uncivil.

Ric said...

Wow, the blogger who posted this couldn't be more intellectually dishonest if he tried. Take a course on critical thinking. A weak critical thinker is someone who argues and uses his skills only to defend his pre-established conclusions. You wouldn't accept this crappy argument from an opponent, yet you feel fine giving it in support of your views? That's because you are a weak critical thinker.

MW said...

I have said that I don't really have a position on the issue of the age of the earth for a simple reason: I don't know the age of the earth. But this answer has proven unsatisfactory to these champions of scientific certainty. They think that--even though I have no expertise in any field that would bear on the question or any great familiarity with the state of knowledge in this area that I should have a position anyway.

Martin, you seem to be taking some sort of pride in refusing to learn anything from anyone else and in being unable to compare the credibility of different sources of information. Frankly with that level of weirdly over-the-top solipsism it's a wonder you manage to leave the house in the morning.

Robin Lionheart said...

They think that--even though I have no expertise in any field that would bear on the question or any great familiarity with the state of knowledge in this area...

Did you graduate high school?

Anonymous said...

Everyone has missed a key point of evidence in this discussion. It says right in his bio that Martin has an M.A. in Christian Apologetics. That means he is an expert on waffling and being unable to judge good sources from bad. To get an MA in Christian Apologetics you must conclusively demonstrate your ability to not be able to draw any conclusions whatsoever. The "i don't know so who can" is as vital an apologetic tool as is the "i don't know nuthin 'bout no science!"

Anonymous said...

Just like, "you are the dogmatist"/"atheism is a religion"/"it takes just as much faith to believe in evolution"/"we all see the same evidence and just have different interpretations"/"lab coats = preistly vestments" these are all tools in the apologetic bag o' tricks. No one is buying it Martin, not anyone who wasnt homeschooled anyway.

Stan said...

Wow, I can't believe all the hatred and insults this has generated for simply saying you don't know, even though I believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old. Sorry people prefer to verbally assault you instead of pointing to relevant resources. These are probably people that think of themselves as "compassionate" and "tolerant". Here is a book I'd recommend from a religious perspective: "The Bible, Rocks, and Time."

Kinzua Kid said...

"...someone who thinks that someone who doesn't know the age of the earth should have a position on the age of the earth anyway is a dogmatist. What else could he be?"

I don't think dogmatism means what you think it means.

Dogmatism [http://mw4.m-w.com/dictionary/dogmatism]
1 : positiveness in assertion of opinion especially when unwarranted or arrogant
2 : a viewpoint or system of ideas based on insufficiently examined premises

According to definition #2, the guy without the opinion or the background and unwillingness to correct it (maintaining ignorance) is the dogmatist, not the insistent questioner.

That by definition marks the OP as the dogmatist.

Just to be clear, this is my opinion based on a single entry from a single dictionary. I'm happy to change my mind if a suitably researched and cross referenced source can be found with a completely different definition. I suspect this plain documentation won't change OP's inappropriate use of the term, creating an irony vortex as he embraces definition #1 in a death grip.

DaveMcRae said...

I got bored quickly with the comments so I don't know if it's mentioned - but the history involved in calculating the Earth's Age is fascinating - I recommend one read a book or two or more - great yarns and educating as well.

Scientists you'll want to hear the story of: Clair Patterson - anything you can find on this scientist from Iowa will delight - including the yarn about him driving home thinking he was having a heart-attack with excitement after he cracked uranium radioactive dating.
Lord Kelvin - his calculations were all out, but he was looking in the right places but was dying when radioactivity was being proven.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_the_Earth

You don't have to make things up, nor have things made up for you. Do the calculations yourself, read and see the experiments, the evidence for yourself. The stories are riveting too.

Mephisto said...

Tell me Martin, what is your position on whether or not the Earth is flat?

It strikes me that you would require the same level of scientific expertise to accept that the Earth is, in fact, not flat as it would to accept the Earth is 4.5 BILLION years old.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you know what dogmatism means. Nor do I think you know what a scientific theory is. Take some time and look the definitions up.

Evan Oliver said...

In response to James V. West, first, I would submit that it is open to debate whether or not we are better off by having nuclear bombs instead of spears.
Second, I should have explained myself better. How can people, expert in an incredibly fallible, ever changing, and self contradicting field presume to lecture us on absolute truth.
Third, the difference between saying the earth is round and the earth is 4.5 billion years old is the difference between saying John Kennedy was president, and saying that Lee Harvy Oswald acted alone. One is undeniable truth, having been seen, documented, and well attested. The other is guess work that may be invalidated by new data.

"In order for us to accept the conclusions of science, it is necessary that science should conclude. It is the great boast of science that it never does conclude. To conclude means to shut up, and the very last thing any man of science is likely to do is to shut up." -G.K. Chesterton

Anonymous said...

Evan, you seem to be missing the idea of "orders of magnitude".

We have some reason to doubt the universe is 4.5 billion years old, it might be 4.6, it might be 4.4, it might even be 4.7 or 4.3, though the evidence really doesn't indicate such. However, "the universe is roughly 4.5 billion years old" is about as well evidenced as "Kennedy was president".

There is, of course, a margin of error. But taking that margin to mean "well, the age of the earth is up for debate, so it's very possible it's 6,000 years old" or something akin to that is absurd.

There is no debate over an approximate age of the earth. There's little grounds to argue the earth is younger than 4.3 billion years old, or older than 4.7 billion years old, so any rational human being should be able to provide an answer to "how old is the earth" to at least ONE significant digit.

The questions regarding the age of the earth are concerning third, or forth, or fifth significant figures, not orders of magnitude. You can't pretend that "the earth is 1 million years old" is a reasonable position, nor is "the earth is 50 billion years old", nor is "the earth is 6 thousand years old".

The only reasonable position is within an order of magnitude of what scientists say the age of the earth is, anything else is tantamount to saying "Kennedy never existed", let alone "Kennedy wasn't president".

Mephisto said...

In response to Evan Oliver, first, you seem to misrepresent James V West's point about "...running around the plains with spears...". Far greater good has come from scientific endeavour than bad, and nuclear weapons are but one tiny part of our progress from the plains. Your point was disingenuous to say the least.

Second, I doubt you would find many scientists talking about absolute truths - they talk about best explanations extrapolated from the current data. I think absolute truths are in the realms of religionists. You seem to talk about the scientific method as if it's a bad thing - that to admit its mistakes and build on them is somehow a failure. One thing is for sure, the current dataset tells us that the earth is around 4.5 billion years old. This is a science that is still being worked on - that in itself should tell you that scientists do NOT consider it to be an absolute truth as you allude to. I think we can safely say that what scientist will certainly not find is that the earth is a few thousand years old.

Third, you seem to contradict yourself in your post. You pillory science for lecturing about absolute truths, then proceed to talk about the Earth's shape in term of "undeniable truth". How did you come to this conclusion? Was it because the science tells us so?

G.K. Chesterton was clearly a man who loved the sound of his own rhetoric. The dictionary definition which best fits the scientific meaning of the verb "conclude" is "to reach an opinion based on reasoning" - it doesn't at all mean to shut up, although a little reading on Chesterton would lead anyone to the conclusion that shutting up is exactly what he would have wished on science.

‘The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.’ - G.K. Chesterton

Evidence for miracles?...I'd love to see some.

Evan Oliver said...

Anonymous,
The mistake is actually yours. There is a difference between truth that we can see to be true (i.e. the shape of the earth) and theories based on hypothesis and assumptions (Such as the age of the earth). The idea that the age of the earth is a settled scientific debate is simply wrong. There are numerous credible scientists who do not accept the idea that the earth is 4.5 billion years old.

Mephisto, I cannot agree with you about more good than bad coming from the advancement of science. We have greater starvation, bloodier wars, and more social and personal problems than the Greeks, Persians, and Egyptians ever dreamed of combined. We don't live a lot longer, but we don't particularly enjoy the life we have.

Secondly, I'm glad you agree. So what right does science have to say that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, that the bible is false, or that there is no afterlife? And no, you cannot say that scientists will not find that the earth is only a few thousand years old because you don't know what science will find.

Third, if you had been paying attention, you would have noticed that I was pointing out the contradiction among your arguments. Science cannot claim to be right, to be true, or the authority necessary to dispence with God, because science simply cannot 'know' anything. It can guess, suppose, and be pretty sure, but there is always the danger that the next piece of information to be discovered will invalidate decades, perhaps centuries of research.

On 'Conclude', it has multiple meanings. Once you have reached your logical and reasonable opinion you relate to others your "conclusion" and when you have said all you have to say then you "conclude". Science never reaches any of these definitions because it never meets the first step because it never gathers enough evidence to be sure. I am here talking about things like the age of the earth which are determined by tests and calculations built upon assumptions and conjecture about what happened billions of years agod, not things like the shape of the earth and cell walls which can be seen in the here and now.

Also, it is apparent that you have read only a little of G.K. Chesterton, or you would know that he does not want science to shut up, he wants it to stop shouting over history and religion. Science should stick with telling us how the world works, and stop trying to tell us that God does not exist and man came from apes.

Proof of miracles? How about the resurection of Jesus Christ? The evidence for the event is collosal: The disciples changed from cowards to lions who died rather than deny his lordship. The fact that the Pharisees did not simply produce his body and thus crush Christianity before it got started. The writings of the New Testament that appeal to the thousands of people who saw the risen God. What more proof do you want? If you apply the same standard of proof to Julius Caesar that you do to Jesus Christ, he never crossed the Rubicon.

Free Lunch said...

There are numerous credible scientists who do not accept the idea that the earth is 4.5 billion years old.

Please name three that disagree (presumably you mean to a significant degree, say more than 10% variance) with this dating, why they disagree, what evidence they are using and where they wrote of their disagreement.

Proof of miracles? How about the resurection of Jesus Christ? The evidence for the event is collosal: The disciples changed from cowards to lions who died rather than deny his lordship.

So the stories that were written claim.

The fact that the Pharisees did not simply produce his body and thus crush Christianity before it got started.

When did Christianity get started?

The writings of the New Testament that appeal to the thousands of people who saw the risen God. What more proof do you want?

I was under the impression that the best scholarship settled on dates after the destruction of Jerusalem, sometimes substantially later, for the writings in the New Testament. The "thousands who saw the risen God" don't seem to have written anything about it.

Mephisto said...

In response to Evan

Thank you, I really don't need to comment on your last post - it really does speak for itself.

Anonymous said...

Evan,
Evidently your knowledge of Chesterton is not as complete as you might think. He died almost 75 years ago, so he doesn't want anything anymore - unless he is risen, too?

Robin Lionheart said...

The writings of the New Testament that appeal to the thousands of people who saw the risen God. What more proof do you want?

And writings appeal to thousands of Parisians who witnessed Quasimodo save Esmerelda from execution and take refuge in the cathedral of Notre Dame. What more proof do you want?

Trouble is, those crowds were as fictional as the rest of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame".

Robin Lionheart said...

The evidence for the event is collosal: The disciples changed from cowards to lions who died rather than deny his lordship.

So, Evan, martyrdom is evidence of the truth of one's beliefs?

Mohamad Atta and 18 other fervent believers in Wahabi Islam bravely flew planes into skyscrapers, anticipating a martyr's reward in heaven.

The evidence is clear: There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is His prophet.

Anonymous said...

"We can see to be true (i.e. the shape of the earth)"
This is a strange statement. Since when is "sight" so accurate? We "see" by taking in photons passing through a lens projected to the back of our eyes on an upside-down image reinterpreted to create a shape with relatively limited information uptake over a VERY narrow range of frequencies. All you're getting is a single proxy, a bunch of photons painting a picture that might or might not represent what is real. It's quite easy to create optical illusions, our brains will interpret information based on how we expect them to be, real or not.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIZcl8q0u4Q

We can "see" it to be true, but I fail to see why that would be such an amazing source of information, I don't trust my eyes all that much.

But, with regards to the age of the earth, we have far more samples to test the age of the earth than individuals who have "seen" the curvature of the earth. And radiometric dating follows quite nicely from basic quantum mechanical properties of matter, it's simple to understand why it works... But "seeing" is not nearly so simple to explain why it works. I know enough physics to derive decay constants, to explain how particles decay and why the half-life is constant. I don't know nearly enough physics and biology to explain the entire process of "seeing" the curvature of the earth.

You exhibit the classic creationist unwillingness to examine your own concepts of reality. You accept your senses at face value without examining them, yet reject far simpler concepts as being "hypothetical".

Feynman once spoke about magnetic fields keeping two magnets apart. He said he couldn't use an analogy like a rubber-band because while you're more used to the rubber-band, it relies on principles you wish explained in the first place. Your "sight", while may be entirely normal to you, requires a lot more explanation than radiometric dating.

Martin Cothran said...

Robin, et al.:

What criteria of historical scrutiny do the New Testament documents fail to meet?