I’ve finally recevied a reply from the infamous Sirius Knott, in which he addresses what he considers the faults in this earlier post of mine. I’m not going to be replying to this on his own blog, since he happily and constantly edits comments left there.
Let’s get to it!
Knott’s post gets underway properly when he criticises me for pointing out that flood geology was rejected before Darwin published On the Origin of Species and, in his opinion, committing the fallacy of Argumentum ad Antquitam, or asserting that becuase something is old or outmoded, it must be wrong. (Actually, it seems to go more often in the other direction, claiming that something is old and therefore right, but I guess it makes sense both ways.) In fact, I was replying to this:
These geological strata don’t always play ball with the claims of the Church of Darwin. Quite often the early strata are flip-flopped with later ages, so that allegedly younger fossils are found below older fossils. Evolutionists do explain these anomolies away when they can and chalk up the rest to “We don’t know yet, but we KNOW it WASN’T the result of a catastrophic global flood!” But you should be aware that their neatly laid out strata-age chart exists in full form nowhere in nature! It’s not observable. It’s inferred from their evolutionary presuppositions.
I was pointing out that modern geology could not have been based on ‘evolutionary presuppositions’, because evolution at the time of modern geology’s acceptance did not exist. However, this was actually kind of sloppy of me, and I should have gone into more detail. The debate over a ‘young Earth and associated Flood’ and ‘old Earth with no flood’ raged for quite some time, and was going on at least as early as the 17th century. (There were also those who believed in an old Earth with Flood, just to complicate things further.) Charles Lyell, foremost geologist of the 19th century and advocate of uniformitarianism, wrote a highly respected book called Principles of Geology. Charles Darwin apparently read this book during his historical voyage, and realised that it backed up his theory of evolution (unpublished at the time). In other words, geology influenced early evolutionary theory, not the other way around.
Knott moves on to my apparent confusion over the terms ‘Catastrophism’ and ‘neo-Catastrophism’. Apparently I’ve unfairly equated the two, but I don’t think so; I have been told (angrily) by other YECs that they are not catastrophists (how silly!), but neo-Catastrophists, which is much more respectable. For the record, there is a difference between the current meld of uniformitarianism (or gradualism) and catastrophism, which accepts that some local catastrophic events contributed to the formation of geological features, and the Creationist idea of catastrophism, which accepts that tectonic activity released mind-boggling amounts of water from undr the Earth’s crust and that the Bible is 100% true. (Okay, that might actually be an unfair generalisation…there are Islamic Creationists too, after all.)
I’m told to read The Genesis Flood, which I don’t intend on doing, and then we move on to the fossil record (which I still plan on doing a full post on). Like most Creationists, Knott ignores scientific consensus out of hand, pointing out that widely accepted ideas often turn out to be false. However, this does not justify ignoring completely the collective opinions of experts in whatever field you’re talking about; science may not be a popularity contest, but it is a collective undertaking.
Before I move on, I should point out that I cannot find anything suggesting that Henry Morris (one of the authors of The Genesis Flood) was an actual geologist, as Knott claims. He was a highly qualified engineer, with a PhD in hydraulics, but that’s not quite the same thing…
Next up is this:
His next point is that the flood geologist’s explanatiuon of the fossil record is “nonsensical.” I suppose he thinks it silly because flood geology adheres to the Biblical history of the Noachin Flood.
Well, yes, although this illustrates Knott’s obsession with the Bible quite nicely. Scientists do not just reject your supernatural explanation for natural phenomenom, they reject all supernatural explanations, for reasons that I’ll explain in more detail in a moment.
Knott then criticises me for misrepresenting him when it comes to rapid burial:
His point about rapid burial is completely erroneous. He claims that we do not account for peat bogs, specimens being covered with vucanic ash or anything except rapid burial. He has apparently not read our literature. We do account for these things. You see, we believe that the majority of the fossil strata were laid down in rapid succession during the year-long global flood as the waters receded. But we also claim that there were smaller catastrophes such as those forknowledge mentions which occured after the Flood. We believe that when the “fountains of the deep” were opened that the resulting fissures in the Earths crust caused a lot of geological disruption, vulcanism and the like over the next several hundred years. These fossil strata formed during post-Flood aftershocks account for the most recent [per the evolutionist’s geological age charts] strata. Having said this, I do not think his straw man was thatched with intent to misrepresent the catastrophist position; I just think he needs to research what his opponent actually professes to belief before he writes this Mickey Mouse screed.
‘Fountains of the deep’ is a phrase that needs some consideration, but I’ll leave it for now. None of this really helps Knott’s case, since he’s suggesting a (relatively) short period of massive geological upheavel; not just a global flood (which alone should leave some clear evidence on the geological record), but runaway volcanism and earthquakes, too! I would very much like to see the geological evidence for any of this.
I’m criticised for not going into detail over fossil sorting, so I’ll happily expand here and say that it’s something of a stretch to imagine that ‘receding waters’ (regardless of how much of it there was) could sort corpses with such spectacular accuracy that we never once find a human fossil mixed with a dinosaur or Cambrian one. What kind of sorting mechanisms exactly are we talking about here? Why are the creatures most different from those that exist today (Cambrian or pre-Cambrian) always in older/deeper strata than those more similar to what exists today? Why are all modern mammalian fossils in younger strata than dinosaurs? Why, in short, do the fossils appear in exactly the order that evolution predicts?
Then comes something that I actually haven’t heard before, namely that massive tidal waves carried thousands or millions of dead animals to one spot before burying them and creating so-called ‘fossil graveyards’. The last YEC I talked to believed that this was caused by a smaller-scale ‘funnelling’ effect, but psuedoscience has apparently marched on. Once again, I have to wonder at the incredible sorting capablities of enormous tidal waves.
He suggests that A is not necessary because we could possibly explain it with B or C. In itself, that statement would be true. But he implies that A need not be considered because we can explain it with B or C. The presence of alternative explanations B or C do not invalidate the possibility that A explains the situation better than either B or C. The true issue is not whether differing explanations exist, but which one explains the data best. As science is supposed to be a quest for answers, no matter where the evidence leads, I’m appalled at this faulty sort of reasoning, evidenced by a sad host of Darbots since this blogsite first began.
One word: parsimony. There is no need to invoke a global flood or massive catastrophy to explain fossil gaveyards, so why should we, particularly when there is little to no evidence to back up the existence of such a flood and, in fact, significant amounts of evidence that contradict it? Unless you start off believing that the Genesis story actually happened, there is no reason to post a global flood.
Next we move on, yet again, to radiometric dating (he’s finally stopped calling it ‘radiocarbon dating’). The ‘assumption’ canard gets rolled out again briefly (I’ve covered it before and don’t intend on doing it again here), along with the idea that radioactive decay rates have been accelerated by factors of a billion in the laboratory. (Link is Knott’s source.) I’m not a physicist and cannot really comment on a lot of the information in the article, but I’ve never read anything to suggest that decay rates have been increased so drammatically in a laboratory. They’ve been increased, certainly, but not by such a huge factor. However, this becomes completely irrelevant when Knott goes on to say that
Radiometric methods that consistently corroborate an old Earth do so because old-Earth scientists do not accept data that doesn’t meet their expectations. If the rocks show a lower age than expected, they postulate a reason why they can re-calibrate the results due to one of several standard contingencies. The old-Earth dating is based on assumptions about the initial make-up of the rocks and a further assumption that the rate of decay has remained constant, even though creationist geologists have demonstrated that there are several lines of evidence which suggest that those rates were accelerated in the recent past, at Creation and possibly to a lesser extent during the Flood. Granted, the laboratory experiment required special conditions, but no alterations to any known physical constraints. The Creation model does suggest special conditions, that a Creator God established the observable universe in six days. This experiment shows that the radiometric long-age standard is not invincible and that what we’ve suggested, that the Bible is accurate, is possible.
If you assume that an omnipotent (or even very powerful) God exists, it doesn’t matter whether decay rates have been increased. By positing a supernatural explanation, you’ve thrown science out the window, and despite Creationist whining, this is not unfair or closed-minded – it’s necessary. Consider the following questions:
1: Have nuclear decay rates stayed constant throughout the Universe’s history?
2: Why is the area of space directly around the sun much hotter than its surface?
3: Where did the first life come from?
Any of these questions can be answeres by appealing to the supernatural:
1: No, God changed them at some point (or: no, God has always made sure they stay constant).
2: God does it.
3: God made it.
The problem with these ‘explanations’ is that they’re completely unfalsifiable and unverifiable; we can suggest that God may have done anything at all, but how do you actually verify that you’re right? If an entirely naturalistic explanation is found, does that mean that God didn’t do it? Well, no, because God could have caused the naturalistic cause. Does not finding a naturalistic cause mean that God did it? Again, no, unless you can come up with some way of testing the God hypothesis.
There is also no reason to assume any particular god. Any sufficiently powerful supernatural entity could be used to claim that nuclear decay rates have changed, including ones that do not belong to any organised religion or belief system; how can we know which one actually did it?
This kind of speculation is far outside of the bounds of science, and makes a mockery of the scientific process. People like Knott don’t make these claims because they honestly think that scientific study bears them out, but because they’re chained to mythology and are stupid enough to believe that it all really happaned.
Knott mentions flood legends briefly, in reply to which I’d like to ask him how cultures that were supposedly wiped out by the flood managed to make stories about it afterwards.
I pointed out before that flood geology does not provide a comprehensive model for explaining the Earth’s geological features, which Knott claims is unfair of me. So I’ll be more clear: flood geology is woefully incomplete, because it gets wrong everything it does try to explain. It’s explanations for the fossil record are nonsensical, it ignored wholesale the data gained from every known dating method (invoking the supernatural does not bail it out), it relies on completely speculative and almost certainly impossible tectonic activity and it is very obviously the product of religion, not genuine scientific research.
Nowheres is thie religious preoccupation more obvious than in Knott’s posts:
Too, his assessment of the process Creationists allegely go through to support our claims and his pessimistic assertion that we get further and further from the Bible as we go along, is arguably hubris. It is true that some have compromised into contradictory positions like progressive creationism, old-earth creationism or theistic evolutionism, but a good many of us have never strayed from the truth of God’s Word, despite forknowledge’s unfounded claims to the contrary. To put it another way: Dream on, Alice; Wonderland’s around the corner.
You’ve never strayed from ‘the truth of God’s Word’? That explains it.