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Posts Tagged ‘creationism’

Creationism is Stupid

July 11, 2011 2 comments

And it’s being taught in schools. I know its an issue that has been around for awhile (and isn’t going away), but I think it’s good to remind people this is happening.

"Doonesbury" by Garry Trudeau

The Adventure of Links: Dec. 6, 2010

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

In this week’s Adventure of Links you’ll find a supernova in a jar, mercury turning birds gay, and injecting pee into yourself to lose weight (yeah, seriously).

Astronomy

Size doesn’t matter. For stars I mean. No seriously, I was talking about stars…

Supernova in a jar. It’s actually not AS cool as it sounds (of course) but it’s still pretty cool.

boomerang shaped galaxy. I guess if you stare at them long enough they start to look like anything.

The amount of stars in the Universe has tripled. Interesting, but not life changing is it?

Creating a wheel for driving around on the surface of the moon is a pretty cool job.

Russia applied $2 billion to help clean up space junk.

Physics

Bank of Montreal gives the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics a hefty bit of funding. Wish I were smart enough to do that.

Canada boosts University research funding. Go Canada!

A dash on cinnamon is not only great in mashed potatoes (trust me) but can also help make gold nanoparticles.

Health

Huge fail found by Skeptic North. Story in the Globe and Mail (they have a high fail rate) about people injecting pregnant women’s pee into themselves to lost weight. Ewwww…

Large scale study shows obesity shortens your life span. I know, we knew that already, but its nice to have more data to back it up.

Harvard scientists reverse ageing in mice. But don’t get your hopes up about eternal life just yet.

Fun/Funny

Restoring the Diamond Sutra, the world’s oldest book.

Professor surgically installs a camera in the back of his head. Sounds comic-bookish, therefore it’s awesome.

Mercury turns birds homosexual. Umm…weird?

It was -30 here a couple of weeks ago. This is what happens to water when it’s that cold out.

Pink Floyd movie. Sweeeeeeet.

Women like romantic music. Thanks science.

Woman in Spain claims to own the Sun. Unsurprisingly, she’s full of crap.

Skepticism

theme park about Creationism. Not only is it stupid, it doesn’t even sound like fun.

Are you a nerd or a geek? Find out here.

Climate change denial comes almost exclusively from Republicans. Oh America, you are screwed.

“There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life.”

December 2, 2010 2 comments

That’s what was postered on the side of buses in Toronto, Calgary and Montreal last year. And they are planning to do it again.

The Centre for Inquiry (CFI) is launching a campaign which would see similar ads on the sides of buses in Toronto starting in January, pending final approval from the Toronto Transit Commission. This  year’s campaign is “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence”, and compares the belief in God and Allah to the belief in Bigfoot and Tarot reading.

Photo From Centre for Inquiry

The campaign’s website says:

Why is belief in Big Foot dismissed as delusional while belief in Allah and Christ is respected and revered? All of these claims are equally extraordinary and demand critical examination

Assuming they get approval to run the ads in Toronto, the CFI hopes to move the campaign into other major Canadian cities. 

Justin Trottier, national executive director of the Centre for Inquiry said about the campaign
 
I’d love it if everyone saw the ads and know the point of the campaign is to emphasize not the kind of knee-jerk debunking to anything suspicious but that we’re interested in a genuine debate, a conversation about so-called extraordinary claims. We’re not here to mock people who believe in these claims
 
But of course, there is mixed reaction from both the religious and atheist communities. Many religious leaders felt that the ads were designed to ridicule people’s faith. Others felt that their beliefs can stand atop the belief in Bigfoot, so a discussion on the topic would be welcome.
 
Some in the scientific and atheist communities felt that the ads were too confrontational, and that this was not the proper way to elicit a discussion on these topics.
 
My opinion is that extraordinary claims certainly do require extraordinary evidence. Bigfoot, psychics and the like all need proof before we can accept them as facts. But religion is built on faith; the belief without proof. I maintain my right to believe in a God or not, just as the rest of the world should. Challenging those beliefs on a bus is not a proper forum for this discussion.
 
Furthermore, if people want to worship a God I do not believe in, it is not my place to challenge them about it. They have as much right to believe as I have not to believe. However, if religion starts to influence government policy, then it definitely becomes fair game to argue the proper place of religion in politics. Thankfully, this is not as big a problem in Canada as it is in the USA.
 
I’d love to hear what  you guys think about this issue, so please take a second and answer this poll below, or leave a comment.
 

A Young Earth Creationist Called Me a “Dim Wheel”…

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m not even sure what that means, but I don’t imagine it is complimentary. It’s also the first openly hostile comment I’ve gotten on my blog, so I figured I’d share my thoughts on it.

The comment appeared on my post called: “Sorry Creationists, Radiometric Dating Still Works”. The post had to do with the recent stories in the news about neutrinos possibly affecting the decay rates of isotopes used in radiometric dating. The results are in still question, and even if true, would not drastically affect the dating of geological samples which have already been performed.

One person, who chose to remain anonymous, commented on the post. They said (all grammatical errors reproduced exactly): 

Guess what Dim Wheel, diamonds have measurable amounts of C-14. You Kind of sound like a scientist, but lets face it, your not.

Now, I don’t have a problem with comments that disagree with me, but name-calling is just childish. Am I a scientist? Well I have an M.Sc. in Physics, and I work in the technology sector analyzing data, writing code and working my way into the R&D department. But I think the commenter is saying that I don’t wear a lab coat or work at a University, so I suppose I am not a “scientist” by that definition. But ad hominem fallacies aside, lets deal with the diamond argument.

I had actually never heard this argument before, so I looked it up. Diamonds are old. Very, very old. So old in fact, that Carbon-14 should not be present at all in diamonds, it should have all decayed away millions of years ago. So Young Earthers use this argument as evidence that the earth is younger than scientists thought.

Here was my response to the comment:

Diamonds do actually contain Carbon-14. This has been in known for about 30 years now, and is easily explained.

Uranium decay in geological samples can actually trigger the generation of a Carbon-14 isotope in a sample of diamond. This phenomenon has been thoroughly studied and confirmed. Here are a couple references:

Excess carbon-14 abundances in uranium ores: Possible evidence for emission from uranium-series isotopes.
D. Barker, A. J. T. Jull, and D. J. Donahue. Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 12, Issue 10, p. 737-740 (1985)

14C in uranium and thorium minerals: a signature of cluster radioactivity? R. Bonetti et. al.
European Physical Journal A, Vol. 5, No. 2, 235-238 (1999)

If you have any other questions regarding this matter please don’t hesitate to ask. I’d be happy to answer them for you.

So the argument doesn’t hold water, but what gets me more is the hostility. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, and we skeptics have a reputation of being “dicks” sometimes as well. But it is totally counter-productive from either side of the argument to act like a jerk or commit the ad hominem fallacy.

So you can read the comment yourself, and let me know if you think my response was well-handled. I love scientific discussion, but I don’t like confrontation. Discussion makes you learn and question your own beliefs, whereas confrontation just causes you to dig in your heels and become more close-minded.

Can’t we all just get along?

Sorry Creationists, Radiometric Dating Still Works

September 21, 2010 2 comments

About a month ago, there was a story about scientists from Purdue University claiming that they have measured changes in decay rates of certain isotopes. The changes, they claimed, corresponded to the orbit of the Earth around the sun, and the rotation of the core of the sun.

They hypothesized that it could be neutrinos emitted from the sun’s core interacting with the radioactive substances, causing a change in their decay rate.

I’ve written a post previously on radiometric dating. The technique is used to estimate the age of archaeological samples and rocks. It is used to determine the age of skeletons, fossils, and rocks. The geologic history of the Earth is based on these techniques, and it is how we know how old the Earth is.

So any inconsistency with the decay rate of an isotope we use for these dating techniques would be interesting indeed. But, perhaps not surprisingly, I am skeptical.

One of the scientists was quoted as saying,

What we’re suggesting is that something that can’t interact with anything is changing something that can’t be changed.

Very aptly put. Neutrinos are particles emitted by the sun and very nearly massless. Billions of them pass through you every second and do not interact with the atoms and molecules in your body.

So the idea that they may, somehow, be able to change the decay rates of radioactive isotopes is quite an extraordinary claim, and it therefore requires extraordinary evidence.

This article states that

The Purdue team has ruled out the possibility of experimental error or an environmental influence on the detection systems.

That claim, any scientist will tell you, is at best bold, and at worst laughable. Being able to conclusively eliminate all environmental factors is very difficult indeed. Particularly in the work of these scientists, who used data and labs in several different locations.

That the orbit of the Earth could have any measurable effect on these isotopes is very unlikely. Consider this. Some have claimed that because the Earth’s orbit is elliptical,  the Earth is sometimes closer to the sun than at another part of the year. This could increase the flux of neutrinos and possibly account for changing decay rates of isotopes.

The Difference in Earth-Sun distance between aphelion and perihelion is about 4 million km (diagram is not to scale). Picture Credit: NASA

This seems unlikely, since the flux of neutrinos changes by only about 5% though the course of the year (I did that math myself, feel free to check it if you wish).

In addition, their study looked at decay rates of several different isotopes, and used data from a variety of labs. This is not a controlled experiment, but we can’t discount the findings simply because of that. However, they also found that the change of decay rate they measured was not the same for all of the isotopes they studied. So this could mean that the neutrinos are interacting differently with each isotope, or it could mean they are simply getting anomalous readings.

Other scientists are starting to respond as well. A study was recently published which measured the decay rate of Gold-198 over several weeks. The researchers set up the experiment so that one sample got many times more neutrinos bombarding it than the control sample. No detectable change in radioactive decay was measured.

So the question is still largely unsettled. Oh but wait. Even though Creationists and Young Earth Theorists love to take studies like this and spin them to say that the Earth may not be as old as we thought, consider this…

The changes the Purdue researchers measured were fractions of a percent. They would not have any significant effect on the dating of any geological or archaeological sample. So even if their numbers are right (which I don’t think they are) they wouldn’t affect our measurement of the age of the Earth.

But this is what science is all about. Making a discovery and then trying to prove it to the rest of the world. Whether the neutrino theory turns out to be true or not, it is a classic example of why science works.

Carl Sagan on Family Guy

July 14, 2010 2 comments

So, the last few days I’ve noticed a lot of people posting this Carl Sagan video:

I love Carl Sagan, so I thought I would share one of my favourite moments involving the famous scientist. His appearance on Family Guy: