Dec 14, 2010

AiG on Distant Starlight--They Just Gotta Know

I began this series of posts by blogging about a faulty argument for creationism that intrigued me.  But when I wrote that, I realized that the math necessary to come up with the faulty argument was far, far more complicated than that necessary to realize to what ludicrous assertions that argument inevitably led.  This caused my Stupid-or-Evil-Meter to swing violently towards the 'E'.  In fact, another site, in linking to an AiG article, stated that: "Even if you don't agree, you'll have to at least conclude that Creationism isn't "stupid" or something for the ignorant."

You do know that "stupid" was the last thing standing between them and full moral culpability for a particularly destructive and pernicious brand of fraud, right?

The final proof--or at least the final one that I'll write about in an effort to prove dishonesty rather than simply disprove conclusions--is this, an article on the distant starlight problem.

After having read it, I really am prepared to say that they know that they are lying.  I can see someone like Behe stubbornly clinging to the belief that he really had been on to something.  Dembski's clumsy and inarticulate stumbling indicates that perhaps he really didn't understand information theory--at all.  Ben Stein is still beyond all hope, of course, but in most cases there is still a lingering doubt that maybe--just maybe--they are merely honest idiots.

Answers in Genesis?  Not so much.  They know enough about the distant starlight problem to know this:
The only problem with assuming that the light was created in-transit is that we see things happen in space. For example, we see stars change brightness and move. Sometimes we see stars explode. We see these things because their light has reached us. But if God created the light beams already on their way, then that means none of the events we see in space (beyond a distance of 6,000 light-years) actually happened. It would mean that those exploding stars never exploded or existed; God merely painted pictures of these fictional events.
They know enough to know that c-decay is bunk, too:
some people have proposed that light was much quicker in the past. ... Some creation scientists believe that this is the answer to the problem of distant starlight in a young universe. ... [but] the speed of light is not an “arbitrary” parameter. ... changing [c] would cause other things to change as well, such as the ratio of energy to mass in any system.
Yes, e=mc^2.  If c changes, then c^2 changes even more wildly.  If c is an average of 2 million times its current value (which you would need, as a minimum, to get light from the most distant galaxy to Earth in 6000 years), then c^2 would be 4 trillion times the current value: imagine, if you will, the energy output of the sun increasing by a factor of 4,000,000,000,000 and you will have touched the tip of the iceberg of the problems this would create.

So they understand the specific reasons why the two formerly most popular creationist answers to the distant starlight problem are bunk.  They are not stupid.  You cannot be stupid enough to make the mistakes that they make and have these things--and several others in the article--figured out.  The final proof is what they leave out.

The aforementioned most distant galaxy is 13.1 billion light-years away.  They don't believe God is lying, so they must say that the light reached us in less than 6000 Earth years.  What they come up with is time dilation.

Yes, they are seriously proposing that non-synchronization and/or time dilation allow the Earth to be 6000 years old while the rest of the universe is much older.  But that's demonstrably wrong.  Leave aside the bizarre notion of a divine plan which leaves just one planet or galaxy or whatever-sized chunk of space inside a slow-time envelope of 6000 years and lets the rest of the universe age to the 'millions of years' that is so reviled on the rest of their site.  Leave aside the fact that the gravitational field necessary to create such dilation would create a whole host of other phenomenon that simply are not present.  Leave aside the return to geocentrism.  There is a simpler answer.

If a beam of light could travel 13.1 billion light-years in less than 6000 years of dilated time, this means that for every observed year on Earth, the universe ages 2,000,000 years.  There are clocks in space--pulsars, spinning galaxies, orbiting binary stars (including those in other galaxies)--that bear no signs of this astonishing discrepancy, and this fact is trumpeted on nearly every single website dealing with the issue, whether in context of a gravity well or c-decay.  If AiG managed to look up the other problems with formerly common creationist answers to the distant starlight problem, then they saw this, too.  This has been out there for as long as the objections which they answered, and in the same places--they had to have seen it, yet they present their argument as if it did not exist.

When you get to the point that you're suggesting that relativistic effects allow the rest of the universe to be billions of years old and the Earth just 6000 years young despite observational evidence to the contrary in well-publicized sources that your treatment of other arguments proves you are aware of, you have gone beyond the point where honest delusion is a valid hypothesis.

So the next time you get up in front of a crowd of children, look straight in their trusting eyes, and start filling their minds with lies you know to be lies, think of this verse:
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!


  1. If they are knowingly deceiving others, what is their motive? In the case of the Creation Museum, profit seems to be a motive, but what about other creationists?

  2. AiG can't have grasped the things that they grasp without also grasping that they are telling untruths, but if i had to guess i would say that they manage to suppress the moment-to-moment consciousness of that fact. it's like with Sarah Palin: if she thought about it, she would know that the things she says aren't true, but she lies so reflexively that she is barely even conscious of it, and would certainly never admit to it.

    As for motives, yeah: they rake in the cash. Also they're famous, they are powerful in that they influence the thought of large numbers of people and control a museum with lots of visitors (never underestimate the thrill of controlling your very own tiny empire--it's like roller coaster tycoon except in real life), they get to role-play the Galileo gambit with no threat of actual persecution, they get to show up real scientists with their (admittedly) h4x debating skills, etc.

    of the other creationists, my guess would be that it's like TV evangelists. some actually believe their own pablum, some are brazenly lying, and some know on some level but suppress it. why? money, fame, power, Galileo thrill-seeking, etc. there might even be some who really did believe at some point, then lost the faith but just kept going rather than finding the courage to stop.

  3. It's also worth pointing out that there might be a Dennet-style clergy trap here--after all if you've taken out loans in order to go to some lousy creationist school, what else are you going to do with your life? The "knowledge" you have and the skills you've developed are basically worthless on the open market, you can't do real science because your name and publications are complete garbage, so you can either make decent money lying for a living, or you can start delivering pizzas.

  4. @Graham: hmm, creationism as humanities degree. i can definitely see that.