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Thursday, 19 April 2012

How Creationists Lie To Us - 9

Chapter 8 - The Speed Of Light.

Chapter 8 of Dr Paul D. Ackerman's creationist book, It's A Young World After All is a mercifully short and simple chapter. It's also easy to dismiss. In fact, it's so easily dismissed that even a psychologist with no science training could have done so had he wished.

It does illustrate quite nicely though a couple of the techniques creationist 'scientists', that is creationists who write books about science, use on their customers. It's probably worth recalling here how creationists who wish to have their work published by the Institute For Creation Research (ICR), which is the source of much of the 'science' behind such creationist websites as Answersingenesis.org and Creationministries International, are required to take an annual oath which means in effect that they will only ever reach a conclusion which supports a literal interpretation of the Christian Bible and especially the account of Creation in Genesis.



Ackerman describes this as the "most amazing clock of all". Apparently, he believes the speed of light (c) is changing. Supposedly, when his god created the universe in just six days, the value of c was almost infinite. This explains why object in the universe look like they are billions of light years away and yet their light, which would take billions of years to reach us, can be seen. Clearly, the light we see must have started out billions of years ago and not the 6000 or so years creationism requires us to believe the universe has existed for.

Now, the velocity of light in a vacuum is a universal constant. It does not matter how fast you are travelling relative to the source of light it will always be the same. The reason for that is that the faster you travel the slower time gets (and also the more massive you become). At the sort of speeds we are used to this effect is too small to be noticed but it can make a difference when it comes to things like space travel and satellites. A geostationary satellite like those used for communications and in particular GeoPositioning Systems (GPS) on which satellite navigations depends, are travelling considerably faster through space-time than is the surface of Earth over which they are 'stationary' so a small but important time correction needs to be applied to allow for relativity.

So, where on Earth does Dr Paul D. Ackerman, PhD, get this idea that c is getting slower from?

You might have guessed it. He gets it from another creationist 'scientist' of course. He gets it from Barry Setterfield, an Australian creationist. Setterfield based his notion on historical measurements for the speed of light starting in 1667 (sic) and working up to the 1960s. Of course, we are expected not to question the validity of measurements of light travelling at 186,000 miles per second in 1667 with the limited technology at their disposal.

So, plotting some of these data points on a graph and drawing a line through them extrapolated back until it curved up to infinity, Setterfield concluded that this proved that the Bible was true after all. The curve became infinite at about 4300 BCE.

There was a slight flaw in the science, though. As exposed in Talkorigins.org, had Setterfield plotted the rest of the data points he had available, he would have produced a plot whose best fit would have shown the speed of light increasing not slowing down, though allowing for a margin or error, a straight line, with increasing variability about the mean as they went back in time could have been plotted through them. So, his maths should have told him the startling fact that we weren't very good at measuring the speed of light in those days. Instead, by starting out with the answer he wanted, then selecting the data which best fitted it, he dutifully produced the conclusion required by the ICR.

Later, Setterfield was to claim that recent measurements had shown the value of c had reached it's minimum in the 1960s and was now stable, so handily making it impossible to validate his claim, since any future measurement would produce a flat line. I wonder what the chances of that happening at just the right time were. Just the ticket, eh? A nice claim which is impossible to falsify. How absolutely er... creationist!

And what an amazing coincidence too that the 'speed of light' happened to stabilize just at the time when our technology became sensitive enough to measure it accurately!

The site, Dealing With Creationism In Astronomy also looks at this piece of creative creation 'science'.

Now isn't that an interesting example of how creation 'science' works? One 'scientist' comes up with the required answer and another 'scientist' presents that as authoritative. It's then left to the unfortunate customer who is probably singularly ill-equipped to question it, to check it's validity and satisfy him or herself that it's good science. But then most customers for this stuff are just looking for something to confirm what they think they already know anyway and just want the reassurance than 'scientists' agree with them. Nice work if you can get it.

As for Dr Paul D. Ackerman, PhD., he seems to have merely accepted this bad science with no attempt to check it or to question it's validity. It shows what he wants it to show, or, more likely, it shows what he knows his customers want it to show, so in the book it goes.

Earth during 'Creation Week'?
Had Ackerman, or Setterfield for that matter, been real physicist, or had they checked with any of them or had their work peer-reviewed by some, they would have been told that had c been infinite at day one, Earth would have melted during 'creation week' as a result of the very rapid rate of radioactive decay, and there would have been 417 days in a year when Jesus was born. I'm sure someone would have noticed that the calendar was 52 days too short then and that years have been getting noticeably shorter during recent historic times.

Ackerman posed an interesting question in Chapter 3:
Now the tables have turned, and the believer can throw the challenge back by saying, "If the universe was created as long ago as the evolutionists claim, why does it look so young? God is surely not a deceiver."
And if it doesn't look so young, just who is the deceiver?


1 comment:

  1. The other glaring problem for inflating the speed-of-light is you run into a teensy cosmological problem. The speed-of-light determines the rate at which the energy of a big-bang singularity becomes matter.

    Doesn't take a genius to work out a near-infinite speed of light, you'll draw down the amount of available energy in the universe at its origin- and produce its destruction shortly after.

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