Dispatches from the Creation Wars

I had a revealing email exchange with David Buckna, our recent young earth creationist commenter from the great white north, on Saturday evening. He was upset that some of his posts weren’t going through and I explained to him that comments with multiple links always get moderated, I wasn’t doing anything to prevent them from going through. But then I took him to task for his use of the Gish Gallop:

I find it fascinating, however, how you’ve mastered the Gish Gallop. You post a bunch of links on one subject — say, Baumgardner’s ridiculous claims about runaway subduction — and then several people explain why those links are nonsense, and then you just go on to the next set of links without ever bothering to stick to a subject and defend a
position. I suspect there is a compelling reason for this behavior.

His answer reveals much:

I don’t expect to change people’s minds when I post something, at least not in the short term. But when a Darwinist asks a question (eg. about Noah’s Ark) and I know of an article that gives an answer, then I’m satisfied with just posting it. So at least the Darwinst, and the others who are reading it, can no longer continue to say creationists haven’t addressed that question. The Darwinists will usually just dismiss the answer, even mock it, but that doesn’t concern me.

Notice that he shows no concern whatsoever about whether the articles he links to are true or valid or defensible. It is enough for him that a creationist claims to have answered question X — whether it’s a good answer or not is completely irrelevant to him. Thus, my reply to him:

All this really means is that as long as some creationist has claimed to have an explanation, that’s good enough for you. But if that claim can’t be supported, it isn’t credible. And Baumgardner’s runaway subduction argument is absolute nonsense. It requires absolutely ridiculous inputs to fit the model to reality — and even after all of that, it STILL requires the invocation of miracles to explain away the problems (heat so high that the planet would still be molten, in this case). Two of us explained that in some detail, yet you didn’t even attempt to answer it. if it doesn’t concern you that the claims made in your links simply don’t make sense, I think that speaks volumes about the validity of your position.

And his reply back:

Not necessarily. Depending on the subject, creationists even among
themselves have different interpretations of data, as do evolutionists have different interpretations among themselves…

The main reason I had for posting the info about Baumgarner (US News & World Report)
http://www.usnews.com/usnews/culture/articles/970616/archive_007221.htm is to make some aware of who Baumgarder is, and that he was described as “the world’s pre-eminent expert in the design of computer models for geophysical convection”.

Again, not the slightest concern for whether Baumgardner’s claims are true or not or can be defended logically — it is enough that Baumgardner is a legitimate scientist who makes a claim that supports Buckna’s religious position, validity be damned.

As I said, I think this exchange is really quite revealing on several levels. First, the lack of concern about truth or logic. Second, the weak use of a classic appeal to authority. One of the most fascinating things about creationists is how much they love appeals to authority; this is why so many creationists have claimed fake degrees (Kent Hovind, Carl Baugh), because the Christian rank and file get terribly excited if they can find someone with letters after their name who will tell them that their mythology is literally true.

But it’s telling that they will cling to these appeals to authority if they can anyone with a degree, genuine or fake, that will endorse their beliefs…while dismissing the authority of the thousands and thousands of real scientists who take the opposite view. One creationist with a degree trumps every other legitimate scientist in the entire world, even those who are Christian but can’t pretend that the evidence supports a literally biblical flood.

Appeals to authority are simply irrelevant. Even a Nobel prize winner still has to support their arguments with facts and logic. Steve Austin has a legitimate degree in geology, but when he claims that the Mt. St. Helens eruption and the formation of Spirit Canyon shows how the Grand Canyon was formed, that claim is absolutely laughable. This is an argument that seems accurate only to the credulous and the deluded — indeed, it relies upon those things exclusively.

Henry Morris has a genuine degree in hydrological engineering, but when he claimed that the Lewis Overthrust showed no signs of thrust faulting at the site, he was lying. He wasn’t wrong, he was lying. The very paper he cited contained lots and lots of evidence of fault thrusting, including pictures of the interface itself.

What makes this all the more amusing is that these same people accuse us of being relativists for not believing in their god.

Oh, and before Buckna whines about me publishing his emails let me point out the left sidebar of my blog, which clearly states:

Any and all emails that I receive may be reprinted, in part or in full, on this blog with attribution. If this is not acceptable to you, do not send me e-mail – especially if you’re going to end up being embarrassed when it’s printed publicly for all to see.


  1. #1 Cubist
    August 16, 2011

    Mr. Brayton, I hope you don’t mind my re-posting this demolition of the Ark story. Since your infestation of YECs is present here, too, I figured it would be worthwhile to demolish their line of crap here, too.

    We are told that Noah’s Ark was 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits (Gen. 6:15), which means the mathematical absolute maximum volume the Ark could have had was 450,000 cubit^3 — and that, only if the Ark was a rectangular solid. If the Ark’s hull was curved, its volume would obviously have been less than 450K cubit^3. Now, it’s not clear how long a ‘cubit’ is, because there have been a number of length-units which go by that name; Answers in Genesis [ http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n2/original-cubit ] says that a ‘cubit’ could be anywhere from 17.5 inches up to 20.6 inches, depending on which ‘cubit’ you’re talking about. AiG also says that the cubit Noah used was “most likely one of the long cubits (about 19.8–20.6 in)”. Taking 20 inches for ease of calculation, (1 cubit^3) = (8,000 inch^3), and the mathematical absolute maximum value for the Ark’s volume works out to (450,000 * 8,000 =) 3,600,000 cubic inches.
    We know that the maximum load a ship can carry is determined by the mass of water which is displaced by that ship. In this case, we’re talking about a ship that displaces, at the mathematical absolute maximum, 3,600,000 cubic inches of volume. Therefore, we can tell how much mass the Ark could carry by figuring out the mass of 3,600,000 cubic inches of seawater.
    If Wikipedia’s page on seawater can be trusted, the density of seawater at the surface ranges from 1.020 to 1.029 grams per milliliter, and the maximum density of seawater, under the pressures at the bottom of the ocean, can be 1.050 g/ml. The density of fresh water is only 1.0 g/ml, which is less than the density of seawater; the reason seawater is denser than fresh water is because of all the stuff dissolved in seawater (salt and so forth). Since one source of Flood-water is supposed to have been rain (i.e., fresh water), it’s clear that the water at the surface of the Flood would have been less dense than the normal value for water at the surface of the ocean, but let’s be generous and say that the density of water at the surface of the Flood was 1.03 g/ml.
    1 inch = 2.54 centimeters, so 1 inch^3 = (2.54^3) cm^3, or a touch under 16.39 cm^3. 3,600,000 cubic inches, therefore, equals 58,993,430,400 cm^3 — call it 1 Ark-unit for convenience. Since one cm^3 of volume equals one milliliter, 1 Ark-unit of a substance whose density is 1.03 g/ml weighs 60,763,233,312 grams. Divide by 1,000 to get kilograms; multiply by 2.204 to get pounds; divide by 2,000 to get tons, and the mathematical absolute maximum value for the Ark’s displacement turns out to be about 66,961,083 tons — call it 67 million tons, just for grins. Again: If the Ark’s hull is not a rectangular solid of the given dimensions, the mathematical absolute maximum value for the Ark’s total displacement will be less than this 67-million-ton figure.
    According to John Woodmorappe’s book Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study, published by the Institute for Creation Research, the Ark carried a total of 5,500 tons of living animals who, collectively, consumed 1/30 of their body mass worth of food every day. Very well; by Woodmorappe’s scenario, the Ark’s passengers ate (1/30 of 5,500 tons) a bit over 183 tons of food per day. Multiply that figure by 365 days in a year, and you get a bit over 66,910 tons of food for the year-long duration of the Flood. Thus, by Woodmorappe’s own figures, the total mass of food carried on the Ark must necessarily have been damn near exactly as much as the mathematical absolute maximum figure for the Ark’s total displacement. This is, of course, before you add in the 5,500-ton mass of the Ark’s living cargo… not to mention before you add in the mass of the Ark itself. After all, we may not know what sort of material ‘gopher wood’ actually was, but we can be confident that the stuff did weigh some greater-than-zero amount, right?
    The bottom line is this: Even if you go out of your way to give the Noah story every benefit of the doubt — choosing a very high value for the length of Noah’s cubit, and going with an implausibly high value for the density of the waters at the surface of the Flood, and accepting at face value Creationist Woodmorappe’s figures for both the mass of the Ark’s living cargo and the mass of the food that said living cargo would eat during the Ark’s journey — even with all those Flood-friendly presumptions going into the calculations, the Ark still ends up sufficiently overloaded to sink under its own weight. So… why, again, should anybody believe this Ark story to be true? And why should anybody not believe that YECs are habitual, unrepentant bearers of false witness?

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