Pharyngula

I actually watched the entire appalling 10 minutes of this ghastly creationist video by Dr Ron Carlson, Learn How Evolution is Largely Based on the Silly Assumption of a Dead Lawyer. The whole thing is built around a completely false claim, that fossils are dated only from the geological strata, and that the strata are dated by the fossils found in them. He repeats his lie many times in this short video, and each time wanted to stand up and shout at him. Anyone with even a casual knowledge of dating techniques knows that while index fossils give you a quick and fairly reliable estimate of age, other techniques, such as radiometric dating, are used to verify ages.

That’s typical for creationists. Even worse to me is the ahistorical lie in the title. Guess who the “Dead Lawyer” is?

Charles Lyell.

That’s right, this clown has simply misrepresented the most eminent geologist of the 19th century, and derogated his life’s work to a mere “silly assumption”. Lyell initially trained as a lawyer, but began his career as a geologist in his early 20s, and by the time he was 30 he was a full-time geologist at a time when there was little institutional support for the discipline. Since Dr Ron Carlson, before he was 2, wore diapers, by the same reasoning we can now address him as “Diaper Wearer Ron Carlson”. As for the claim that Lyell was an atheist who invented uniformitarianism to prop up the theory of evolution…absolute nonsense. Lyell was not an atheist at all, came up with his ideas long before Darwin, and at first equivocated and then offered only tentative support to the idea of the modification of species.

As for Dr Ron Carlson, to whose name the title “Dr” seems surgically grafted, I haven’t been able to find out what his degree might be in, or where he got it from. Somehow, I don’t think it was in geology.

Comments

  1. #1 Kobra
    August 6, 2008

    “Lying for Jesus” again?

  2. #2 Stephen Wells
    August 6, 2008

    This guy doesn’t know that radiometric dating exists? That suffices to destroy everything he says.

  3. #4 Snitzels
    August 6, 2008

    Wow… That’s unbelievab– oh wait. It’s totally believable. Sigh…

  4. #5 Josh
    August 6, 2008

    Doctor of Divinity from Northwest Graduate School of Ministry in Redmond, Washington
    http://www.jude3.com/ron.html

  5. #6 hen3ry
    August 6, 2008

    He seems very fond of pointing at Worldbook Encyclopedia. Is that really as fas as his research has gone? Is it even a decent encyclopedia?

  6. #7 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 6, 2008

    Creationists sure love to flaunt their PhDs. Unfortunately they are often in a completely unrelated field to that which they discuss.

    Or they come from Diploma Mills

  7. #8 woody, tokin librul
    August 6, 2008

    Probly some kinda “divinity” degree, from some kinda Xian Cooking School, like “Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary (TX).”

  8. #9 firemancarl
    August 6, 2008

    So, in the new Thesaurus, Creationist is now a synonym for Liar? Excellent!

  9. #10 Luke O'Dell
    August 6, 2008

    Here’s an illuminating review of Kent Hovind’s thesis.

  10. #11 Donna
    August 6, 2008

    Oh, my brain hurts from reading crap like this. I guess geology, geography, history, anthropology and biology were not taught at the university where he matriculated through. I didn’t realize that Billy Bob Jimmy Joe’s Bait Shop and University offered doctorates. I thought they stopped at the Master’s Degree in “Nightcrawler-ology”

  11. #12 mothworm
    August 6, 2008

    If anybody’s interested ni the topic, I really enjoyed Jack Repcheck’s The Man Who Found Time: James Hutton and the Discovery of Earth’s Antiquity. A very nice little book about Hutton’s discovery of the age of the Earth, as well as an entertaining overview of the Scottish Enlightment.

  12. #13 Jeff Hebert
    August 6, 2008

    I always wondered why YECs were so fixated on biology when geology is far and away the more deadly discipline to their beliefs. Darwin wasn’t known yet when geology proved the Earth was much, much older than 10,000 years.

  13. #14 Les Lane
    August 6, 2008

    Carlson is simply mouthing George McCready Price’s argument from the 1920s. Creationists are notorious for arguments form (incompetent) authority.

  14. #15 Mike from Ottawa
    August 6, 2008

    I’m reading Donald Prothero’s ‘Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters’ and he does a very thorough job on Carlson’s argument of circularity, especially in pointing out that most of the folk who founded the science of stratigraphy were conventional Christians who had no idea of undermining their own religion and their work was done before Darwin came along to banish creationism to the dust-heap of history (where, unfortunately, folk like Carlson continue to wallow). It’s an excellent read so far. Not earthshatteringly new, but nicely laid out and organized for one’s reading pleasure and should be a helpful reference for smacking creationists.

  15. #16 Interrobang
    August 6, 2008

    Apparently he got his ideas about dating fossils from the Biblical Archaeology School of Artifact Dating. Hector Avalos talks about this in one of his lectures (which is on YouTube). He said basically what these guys do is once they think they’ve identified a stratum of archaeological finds, they date everything in that same layer, or similar layers in other places, as coming from the same time, without actually checking whether other hard evidence backs it up or not. So the Lying For Jesus way of doing archaeology is:

    1) Find something you think the Bible tells you how old it is.
    2) Claim everything around it is the same age.
    3) Claim everything similar to it in other places is the same age.
    4) Claim everything at a similar depth in other places is the same age.
    5) Triumphantly trumpet that you’ve proven some “historical” point or other from Scripture.

    I could completely see a professional Liar For Jesus with a mail-order DDiv claiming that paleontology and geology works exactly the same way. After all, it’s all just layers of buried stuff in the ground, right?

  16. #17 cwaters
    August 6, 2008

    I’m always amazed that the religionist try to defend their faith by lying. If, as they claim, god is truth, then why must he be propped up with lies? Pathetic.

  17. #18 Dave Godfrey
    August 6, 2008

    For over 150 years relative dating was all we had. Geologists couldn’t know exactly how old rocks were. However the fact that they spent thousands of hours crawling over exposures collecting millions of fossils meant they had a very good handle on what fossils were found together, and could use that to put together the geological timeline and give names and definitions to all the periods before about 1860.

    It didn’t stop people having all sorts of arguments about where the boundaries went (The Great Devonian Controversy for example)- arguments that still go on today (although on a much smaller scale).

    If I find a rock with a particular graptolite I know that the rock should come from a particular part of the Silurian (for example). I know this because of the work previously done that means we have a very good handle on the species range. It might be that I’ve found a crucial piece of evidence that changes what we thought we knew, but I’ll only know by comparing this fossil with the other index fossils in the sample.

    Similarly you can make a pretty good guess about which continent you are by the animals and plants you can see. If you are familiar enough you might be able to identify the country.

  18. #19 Christopher Waldrop
    August 6, 2008

    Why does it matter to Carlson that Lyell is dead? Honestly, aren’t the authors of the Bible dead? If Carlson has a problem with evolution being the idea of a lawyer, well, he still needs to get his facts straight, but why add that Lyell is a dead lawyer? Is Carlson implying that the ideas of anybody who’s died are invalid? If we were talking about someone who’d claimed to be able to make himself immortal then, yeah, I think being dead would undermine his claim, but facts don’t have an expiration date even if their discoverers do.

  19. #20 Christopher
    August 6, 2008

    From a lecture promotion starring Dr. Ron Carlson:

    Carlson is recognized worldwide as one of the foremost authorities and lecturers in the areas of cults, world religions, evolution vs. creation and Christian biblical apologetics. He has traveled and lectured in 79 countries on six continents. Carlson is a graduate of Bethel University and Theological Seminary with additional studies at Jerusalem University College, Israel; University of California; and California State University, Hayward. He received his Doctor of Divinity from Northwest Graduate School of Ministry in Redmond, Washington. He is the author of two books: Fast Facts on False Teachings and Transcendental Meditation: Relaxation or Religion? Carlson has appeared on CBN’s 700 Club and Straight Talk, Trinity Broadcasting Network, and Coast to Coast. He is also a frequent guest on radio programs including, “Truths that Transform” with Dr. D. James Kennedy and “Point of View” with Marlin Maddox.

  20. #21 eyerock
    August 6, 2008

    A christan lecturing a group of christians about circular reasoning…that is funny!

  21. #22 DH
    August 6, 2008

    @#17:

    As long as you accept their bullshit premise that their god must exist, and every thing must be made to conform to that, as well as their personal prejudices, they start to make a LITTLE bit of demented sense.

  22. #23 Sastra
    August 6, 2008

    Creationists import their religious model of authority into science. Once someone has “the truth,” nobody ever checks up on it again. Does he really think a serious, significant scientific mistake made in the early 1800’s wouldn’t be caught at some point later on, because it would start to throw everything off?

    No. No, they would not. That’s because religious “fact disputes” like whether Mary was or wasn’t a virgin or whether Jesus is part of God or God complete make zero difference in how anything in the world works. It’s a form of “knowledge” completely divorced from everything else. And they think science can be like this, too. Disciplines don’t all have to fit together. Oh, no. “Evolutionists” could have their own ways of dating rocks and none of the other branches of science would notice or care.

    This, by the way, is how New Agers/The Spiritual also see science, as self-contained units. They will explain that acupuncture works using “chi” energy. When it’s pointed out that physicists don’t detect or include any “chi energy” in their equations, and such a discovery would rock the science world and merit Nobel prizes, that doesn’t phase them a bit. That’s physics. This is the special physics that applies to life.

    Despite the constant harping on “holism” and “harmony,” there’s no more sense of continuity and consistency in some of the more “liberal” forms of religion than in some of the more “conservative” forms. They’re both equally hostile to how science really works, while trying to claim scientific status.

  23. #24 amphiox
    August 6, 2008

    “surgically grafted,” eh?

    Well, it seems to me that he has been non-compliant with his immune suppressor meds. The signs of incipient organ rejection are all there.

  24. #25 Richard Harris
    August 6, 2008

    This sounds like the guy I saw on video – he was Dr something or other – talking to an audience of middle-class looking folks about evolution & how silly the evolutionist’s ideas are, in what looked to be a church hall. Of course, his arguments were of the “cats don’t give birth to dogs” type of crap, but they lapped it up, & laughed along with him.

    Q. How can ordinary people be so feckin’ stupid?

    A. Religion!

  25. #26 Bryn
    August 6, 2008

    @ #20 And, well, if you can’t trust a university whose website states: “Bethel University is a leader in Christian higher education….” and “….Programs are taught by renowned faculty within a distinctly evangelical Christian framework, equipping women and men for culturally sensitive leadership, scholarship, and service around the world”, who can you trust?

    Also, geology is not offered as a major, but, frighteningly, biology and chemistry are, though I don’t see any of the sciences listed as available for a master’s degree.

  26. #27 Erp
    August 6, 2008

    I think his PhD school is now called Bakke Graduate University of Ministry (changed 2005) and appears to be on the conservative side. I found their bit about values odd in its emphasis on the rich and powerful and working with them in a section title ‘we value the vulnerable’.

    3. We Value the Vulnerable
    The Gospel is for all people. This includes the rich, the successful and the powerful in our cities, although we especially notice in the Bible God’s awesome and unrelenting concern for the poor, widows, migrants, unemployed (and underemployed), sick persons, prisoners, aliens, victims and refugees. BGU commits itself to working with the leadership of the city but always in partnership with the vulnerable who are “equally sinful but most often sinned against.”

    http://www.bgu.edu/about

    It doesn’t appear to offer a Doctor of Divinity degree now though might have in the past. It does offer a Doctor of Ministry.

  27. #28 Ian
    August 6, 2008

    “outrageous creationist lying” is a triple tautology, PZ! If it’s creationist, it’s axiomatical that it’s both outrageous and a lie….

  28. #29 Jared
    August 6, 2008

    Dr. Ron Carlson is founder and president of Christian Ministries International, a ministry devoted to evangelism and equipping Christians to have “Answers to their Faith,” I Peter 3:15. Dr, Carlson is recognized worldwide as one of the foremost authorities and lecturers in the areas of cults, world religions, evolution vs. creation, and Christian apologetics. Dr. Carlson has traveled and spoken in 79 countries on six continents. His lectures in churches, universities, missions and pastor’s conferences present powerful Biblical response to world religions, cults, new age spirituality, the occult and evolution. His captivating style of speaking presents truth in a loving and graceful way that reaches both the mind and heart of believers, as well as skeptics. Ron is a graduate of both Bethel University with a degree in philosophy and Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota with a master’s degree in theological study. He received his doctor of divinity from Northwest Graduate School of Ministry in Redmond, Washington.
    Source: http://www.acsi.org/web2003/default.aspx?ID=6270&#9545

  29. #30 Divalent
    August 6, 2008

    If Lyell was a lawyer, then Darwin was a theologian. (Take that, creationists!)

  30. #31 BMcP
    August 6, 2008

    PZ Meyers asks: As for Dr Ron Carlson, to whose name the title “Dr” seems surgically grafted, I haven’t been able to find out what his degree might be in, or where he got it from. Somehow, I don’t think it was in geology.

    He has a Doctorate of Divinity from Northwest Graduate School of Ministry in Redmond. Just a FYI for the curious, thanks to the power of Google!

  31. #32 DaveH
    August 6, 2008

    Hang on a gosh-darned minute! According to #20, he’s lectured on all 6 continents? What? Antarctica? Or was it Atlantis?

  32. #33 Michael
    August 6, 2008

    Isn’t Christianity largely based on the silly assumption of a dead carpenter?

  33. #34 BMcP
    August 6, 2008

    PZ Meyers asks: As for Dr Ron Carlson, to whose name the title “Dr” seems surgically grafted, I haven’t been able to find out what his degree might be in, or where he got it from. Somehow, I don’t think it was in geology.

    He has a Doctorate of Divinity from Northwest Graduate School of Ministry in Redmond. Just a FYI for the curious, thanks to the power of Google!

  34. #35 DH
    August 6, 2008

    @#32:

    Probably Atlantis…

  35. #36 decrepitoldfool
    August 6, 2008

    It sounds like they’re trying to hit back on the charge that Philip Johnson, a lawyer, has no business holding forth on biology.

  36. #37 C Barr
    August 6, 2008

    What a load of crap. Can’t these guys get anything right? The most important strata dating technique is superposition … Old layers are underneath, just like the oldest trash lies in the bottom of the waste basket. Lyell didn’t come up with “Uniformitarianism”, Hutton did. And Hutton thought up the idea because of his belief in a loving god, who created an Earth that continues producing good farming soil constantly throughout time. Lyell just took the uniformitarianism concept to an illogical extreme. Gould had a fascinating essay on Lyell’s lawyerly manipulation of “Uniformity”.

  37. #38 ice9
    August 6, 2008

    I went to the website (www.worldviewweekend.com) and found a test. I can’t devote the time right now, but I’ll bet it’s hilarious.

    http://www.worldviewweekend.com/test/register.php

    Ice

  38. #39 Flo
    August 6, 2008

    Aaargh! Holy crap! Thank you PZ! I thought I had already read, heard and seen the worst pieces of creationist propaganda out there (and I have really studied the topic over the last months), but this one tops the list. Left me absolutely speechless. It’s really outrageous.
    To call this man a liar would not be an ad hominem attack but rather the opposite – the duty of every human being with a working brain and some education in biology and/or geology. Of course one can’t expect the audience to have had the kind of education necessary to realise that the speaker is wrong, but it’s by no means forgiveable for a speaker to do this, especially for someone who otherwise worships (at least, certainly CLAIMS to worship, right?) anything that his holy book teaches. “Thou shalt not lie” – does the Bible state any exceptions to that rule? While everyone of us surely has had some situations in his/her life when special circumstances seemed to make it necessary to “not tell the whole truth” or to tell some “white lie”, there is no conceivable “good reason” for the thing this guy does. He doesn’t tell half the truth or a half-lie, he’s not just unspecific so that the audience’s understanding on some point is incomplete; and it’s not the usual misunderstanding or simply ignorance, it’s not that the poor speaker himself hasn’t yet grasped how natural selection works; no, he talks about what geologists do and totally leaves out crucial dating methods – he’s directly, overtly, with words that can’t be misunderstood, telling LIES. It can’t be called anything else. I couldn’t believe my ears: “There is no scientific evidence anywhere in the world that the earth is older than 6000 years.”
    I’m a convinced humanist, a pacifist, an opponent of the death penalty and of violence in general etc. but I really can’t help it: this kind of people bring out the worst in me, this video left me with nothing but the deep urge to BEAT THIS GUY UP.
    Well well… trying to calm down again now so I don’t beat up my computer screen instead… ;-)

  39. #40 ice9
    August 6, 2008

    It’s noble and valuable to compare such mountebanks to an abstraction like Truth or Precision, but I’m always struck by a more selfish and specific objection: it’s a lie, sure, but it’s also theft.

    The power and value of understanding derived from years of meticulous, ethical research, begun with intensive study, risked in tests against other findings, risked in peer review, and often generating actual human value–that’s effort and energy expended, and is a kind of property. We can credit religion for creating property too–for example, music or art–science has high dues and stringent requirements. These gasbags hijack that property, attempt to neuter it, to steal its value, to render it worthless. I’m all for selfless defense of Knowledge, but dear Doctor Carlson is not just bearing false witness; he’s coveting and stealing, too.

    ice

  40. #41 PeteK
    August 6, 2008

    Most strata isn’t dated from fossils. Strata is dated mainly by which strata are above others, but usually via other means, such as radiometric dating.

    The geological column, which was discussed BEFORE Darwin’s book popularised evolution, isn’t found as an entire column at one spot. Its parts exist in many places; all the overlap allows you to reconstruct the whole thing.

    Even if all of evolutionary biology and logy were wrong, it wouldn’t make Genesis true..But we knew that already…

  41. #42 Benjamin Franklin
    August 6, 2008

    After reading about Lyell, and having some knowledge of paleontology, biology, geology and physics, I see much more, and much better evidence to support most of the teachings of a geologist who at first studied to be a lawyer, than to support virtually any of the preaching of a preacher, who turned his preaching against evolution into a family business.

    Ron’s two sons, Jason and Jared, both attended the same podunk preacher school as Ron did, Bethel Theological seminary in St Paul, MN. and both do the same preaching as Dad, along with selling books, DVDs, and gratiously accepting donations for their wonderful “ministry”

    This will give you a clue as to how scientifically oriented this “school” is-

    Doctor of Ministry Programs

    Traditional (Self-Directed):
    In this program students are free to choose between two tracks

    Church Leadership
    Congregation and Family Care

    So much for “Dr” Carlson. I doubt if he ever took a college level science class in his life, yet here he is, lecturing “believers” as to how he feels that evolution, paleontology, geology and all science in general is completely wrong.

    One thing I found missing in his little young earth bullshit-fest was any mention whatsoever of any experimentation, testing, verification or falsification of results, or review and further analysis of such work.

    Grade: Science-Pass, Young Earth Biblical creation – Fail!

    Oh, and its WESTMINSTER, not westmin-i-ster!

  42. #43 Glen Davidson
    August 6, 2008

    He obviously hasn’t seen Expelled, for it identifies all evil coming from Darwin himself.

    And yes, it’s the old inconvenient fact for creationists, that relative dating doesn’t rely on evolution (though evolution gives the only meaningful explanation for it), but it supports it very well.

    This is why the big tent strategy of the IDiots can never hold together long, let alone be free of deep divisions. The creationists can’t stand Lyell, Hutton, Cuvier, or anyone else who contradicts the “true source of science,” the Bible. The IDiots at the DI, by contrast, consider Lyell and other geologists to have done good reliable science, and instead hate Darwin almost exclusively.

    The bozos can’t even agree with each other what “legitimate science” is, or who the various “Satans” are (the only uniter being their hatred of Darwin, and the fact that he brought biology into compatibility with physics). They certainly can’t maintain a coherent, let alone evidence-based, attack on “taboo science.”

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  43. #44 Nick Gardner
    August 6, 2008

    Hm, I must have missed something. It looks like ScienceBlogs has a new format for its comments. It’ll take some getting used to, I’m too accustomed to the old look. :-)

  44. #45 Nick Gotts
    August 6, 2008

    Jared@29,
    Your Dad’s a shameless liar. I’m sure you take after him.

  45. #46 Snitzels
    August 6, 2008

    @#32

    Hang on a gosh-darned minute! According to #20, he’s lectured on all 6 continents? What? Antarctica? Or was it Atlantis?

    Eh… aren’t there 7 continents? North America, South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and Antarctica?

  46. #47 BobbyEarle
    August 6, 2008

    Jared @29…

    So?

  47. #48 Snitzels
    August 6, 2008

    @#32

    Hang on a gosh-darned minute! According to #20, he’s lectured on all 6 continents? What? Antarctica? Or was it Atlantis?

    Eh… aren’t there 7 continents? North America, South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and Antarctica? ;)

  48. #49 Glen Davidson
    August 6, 2008

    All #20 says is that he lectured in 79 countries on six continents. It wasn’t “all six”.

    Presumably it was all but Antarctica, penguins not being interested.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  49. #50 Snitzels
    August 6, 2008

    sorry for double post… kept getting submission error…

  50. #51 Nerdette
    August 6, 2008

    Hmm.. I was forced to go to a creationist nature museum my first year of college (go go UChicago Scav Hunt!) and came across a big poster of this guy explaining the museum. I asked the lady at the front desk what he got his PhD in, and she got all flustered and angry (I think she had an idea that we weren’t here to take the museum seriously), and started to spout about how he was a “preacher, a scientist, and a saint!” I remained calm, and asked again, “That’s nice, but what did he get his degree in?” The reply again, with a little more venom: “He is a preacher, a scientist, and a saint!”
    At this point I was just staring at her in confusion, and then another woman came up and told us he received the degree in religious studies. I told her thank you, then we proceeded to get our money’s worth of entertainment out of the museum. Did you know that kangaroos got to Australia through underwater land bridges??

  51. #52 Dave Puskala
    August 6, 2008

    Dr. Ron Carlson is the guy that got the creationist ball rolling in Grantsburg, WI a few years back. Interest in creationism among school board members was piqued by an appearance he made at the local Baptist church. As ridiculous as he is, his work has real world consequences. Of course it helps the creationist cause to have even bigger idiots than Carlson on the school board.

  52. #53 Qwerty
    August 6, 2008

    Hey, this video is only a sample. One can only wonder what the remainder of this two hour presentation contains. It’s only $14.99, but who’d want to spend this amount of money to refute what is YEC garbage.

  53. #54 Folk Face
    August 6, 2008

    PZ you missed another creo-claim.

  54. #55 Somerville
    August 6, 2008

    While searching for “Dr Ron Carlson+education” I found the following

    Dr. Jeff Myers
    Dr. Myers’ mission is to equip culture-shaping leaders to understand the times, unleash their God-given gifts, and communicate the truth with confidence. To accomplish this mission, Dr. Myers has a vision of training one million leadership coaches by the year 2015…. Dr. Myers is Associate Professor of Communication Arts at Bryan College. He is also President of the Myers Institute for Communication and Leadership, the organization through which the leadership-training mission is being launched. Dr. Myers speaks to more than 50,000 people each year in corporations, schools, home school conferences, parent groups and youth-serving organizations. Over the last decade Dr. Myers has worked with Colorado-based Summit Ministries to develop cutting-edge leadership experiences in Colorado, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Alberta, Canada.

    I knew it! PZ is a Manchurian Candidate, once he has gained control of the world’s atheists, he will turn us all into Christobots! Quick, take him down before he alters world history and makes us believe what those ‘others’ have been saying.

  55. #56 Dave Godfrey
    August 6, 2008

    Nick Gotts & BobbyEarle:

    Judging by the blog link I really don’t think Jared (#29) is related to Ron Carlson, I think he was C&P’ing biographical information like Christopher at #20.

  56. #57 Joe V.
    August 6, 2008

    Wow, World Book and Encarta get mentioned…. How old is this video? And dammit, stop calling it “West Minister Abbey”!

  57. #58 SteveM
    August 6, 2008

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | August 6, 2008 11:41 AM

    Jared@29,
    Your Dad’s a shameless liar. I’m sure you take after him.

    What? I looked at Jared’s blog, seems pretty rationalist to me. And Jared’s name seems to be Cormier, not Carlson. It seems to me Jared was just trying to answer PZ’s question about where the PhD comes from and copy-pasted a blurb from the link he cited.

  58. #59 freelunch
    August 6, 2008

    It sounds like they’re trying to hit back on the charge that Philip Johnson, a lawyer, has no business holding forth on biology.

    My problem isn’t with lawyers who actually know something about biology, it’s just with lawyers like Johnson or Casey Luskin who think they can spout off about biology without knowing a thing about it. A JD does not make you the master of all knowledge, nor does it justify you making claims that are actually contrary to fact.

    Meanwhile, here we have someone with another professional degree who thinks that people will believe what he says just because he puts a Dr. in front of his name. At least his degree is in religion, so we know exactly where he’s coming from, unlike the DI lawyers.

  59. #60 Tom G(eologist)
    August 6, 2008

    Perspective from the outcrop:

    In re: Comment No. 13
    “I always wondered why YECs were so fixated on biology when geology is far and away the more deadly discipline to their beliefs. Darwin wasn’t known yet when geology proved the Earth was much, much older than 10,000 years.”

    Darwin began his career in science as a geologist and considered himself always to BE a geologist.

    I like to tell my students:

    Dobjanski said that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” but nothing in evolution makes sense except in the light of geology.

    In Re: No. 41:

    “Most strata isn’t dated from fossils. Strata is dated mainly by which strata are above others, but usually via other means, such as radiometric dating.”

    An absolute age can not be determined directly for most sedimentary rocks (the strata); i.e. they can not be dated radiometrically. The very nature of their formation precludes the use of their constituent minerals to determine the age of their original deposition. Rather, their dates are determined by the principles of stratigraphy using adjacent/included/cross-cut igneous and/or metamorphic rocks as brackets of minimum/maximum ages. And as a matter of syntax, “strata” is the plural of “stratum”, so strata ARE…

    In re: Lyell:

    I think this reference is a real hoot! It is the epitome of hypocracy and irony that any creationist should try to exclude a “dead lawyer’s” contribution to our knowledge of the Earth as irrelevant by positing (incorrectly) that he had no credentials as a geologist, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME, the very foundations of the creationists’ modern movement is based on the premises of a LIVING LAWYER.

    Tom

  60. #61 Nick Gotts
    August 6, 2008

    Apologies to Jared. His comment looked to me like a boost for Carlson, but I should have checked.

  61. #62 Evolving Squid
    August 6, 2008

    The best proof that there is no God and no Jeebus is that the people who spout the kind of bollocks that Dr. Carlson has spouted are not smitten by the hand of God.

  62. #63 Qwerty
    August 6, 2008

    A comment below the video clip:

    “Dr. Calrson Appears to be misinformed
    Posted On: 08/04/08 03:49:15 AM Age 42, FM
    While I am a young earth proponent and a conservative Pastor it did not take much effort to find information that refutes what Dr. Calrosn said about Charles Lyell. It appears he was in fact a geologist. http://www.gennet.org/facts/lyell.html I tend to believe much fo what Dr. Calrson said, but this error leans toward discrediting him.”

    Even his fellow creobots don’t believe him.

  63. #64 Jared
    August 6, 2008

    No problem, Nick, it may be a simple mistake.
    I was not trying to say he was educated, I was saying his doctorate is in theology. I would personally consider doctorate in theology as much of an education as a B.A. Basket Weaving from Laura’s College of Art.
    Note: If there is a Laura’s College of Art, chances are it’s a diploma mill, but I just made up the name.

    Also, I think the guy is less educated in the sciences than most of the 10th grade students I guest lecture to on occasion.

  64. #65 Martin
    August 6, 2008

    While I appreciate Charles Lyell, I think you have to consider William Smith before deciding the preeminent geologist of the 19th century.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Smith_(geologist)

    If you are ever in London, go to the Geological Society to see his geological map of Great Britain, “The Map That Changed the World”. Or check out Simon Winchester’s book of the same title.

  65. #66 IasonOuabache
    August 6, 2008

    Ya know what else was largely based on the silly assumption of a lawyer? The Discovery Institute.

  66. #67 Joe Meert
    August 6, 2008

    My letter to Dr. Carlson, I doubt he will respond:

    Dr. Carlson,

    I watched the video on Worldview and was surprised at how poorly you spoke about paleontology and geology. Your video contained many factual errors. I’d be surprised if you’ll correct these, but I don’t believe that it should be the duty of a Christian to misrepresent science in order to further a worldview. So here are some of the errors I noticed:

    (1) The circular reasoning argument- False. You said fossils are dated by the layers they are found in and the layers by the fossils they contained. If true, it would indeed be circular reasoning. It’s not true. The geologic column was assembled without knowledge of absolute (years) ages. It was based on the observation that the layers of rock seemed to be the same worldwide. For example, trilobite fossils are found in layers beneath dinosaurs and dinosaurs beneath fossils of humans. At the time, geologists like Lyell and Hutton made the assumption that the layers were in a correct relative order with the oldest rocks on the bottom. Rock layers are dated using radiometric methods. That’s how the years were put into the geologic column, by actually using radiometric methods to determine their ages. What was so cool is that those age determinations confirmed the logic of Lyell and Hutton and the lower layers were found to be older than the upper layers. The correct argument is “Fossils are dated by radiometric dating of the rocks they are found in”. Nothing circular.

    (2) Lyell did not know how old the earth was and is not credited with the currently held age of 4.5 billion years. The age of 4.5 billion is based on work in the 20th century long after Lyell died. At the time of Lyell (or shortly thereafter), the earth was thought to be 20-70 million years or less (based on work of Kelvin, de Buffon and Joly).

    (3) The Jurassic is not 65 million years ago. That date is the end of the Cretaceous. The Jurassic began around 199 million years ago and ended 145 million years ago.

    (4) Lyell was trained in geology by William Buckland. He chose law as a first career and later decided to work in geology. He was, by all measures, a good scientist. It seems strange that you would criticize him for being a lawyer doing geology when you are a theologian speaking about paleontology. Do you criticize Einstein for being a ‘dead patent clerk’?

    (5) The Grand Canyon strata are in the correct order of the geologic column. There are some time periods missing, but the ordering of the strata is correct. Furthermore, the top layer in the Grand Canyon can be traced laterally to the bottom of the younger Zion Canyon and the top layer in Zion Canyon can be traced laterally into Bryce Canyon. The so-called “Grand Staircase” spans over 1 billion years of earth history.

    (6) The geologic column has been found nearly complete in several places on earth. I suggest you google Glenn Morton and take a look at what this former young earth creationist and geologist has to say about this issue.

    (7) Evolutionary events are not presented on every geologic column, but even if they are, so what? The layers were directly dated and thus have absolute ages. What such a picture shows is the history of life on earth. One can even deny that those organisms ‘evolved’, but their history on earth is accurately depicted. It’s similar to creating a family tree based on date of birth.

    I know that most creationists don’t bother to correct facts. I corrected Kent Hovind and lo and behold, he never changed his spiel. However, at least I can remind you of this e-mail if I ever do hear your speech again.

  67. #68 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
    August 6, 2008

    @Martin #65

    While Smith was undoubtedly important–as were Murchinson and Sedgwick and many others in 19th Century Geology–Lyell’s influence is well about the others. His
    Principles of Geology
    really is a foundational document for the future development of the field. More broadly, Darwin was reading Principles while on the voyage of the Beagle, and much of his thinking on biological evolution stems from applying Lyellian methods to biological change.

    Not that Lyell didn’t have some crazy ideas, though. Most infamously, he did not accept descent with modification as such, and thought that changing global conditions would see the ebb and flow of groups in time. Particularly, he speculated that in future times of global warmth the large mammals including humans would disappear, and that dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and Mesozoic plants would return to the planet. This idea was famously
    parodied
    by paleontologist de la Beche.

  68. #69 Ubi Dubius
    August 6, 2008

    Freelunch #59 said:
    “A JD does not make you the master of all knowledge, nor does it justify you making claims that are actually contrary to fact.”

    I beg to differ. I am completely justified in making claims contrary to fact. In fact, it’s most of what I do.

    Ubi Dubius, JD

  69. #70 Martin
    August 6, 2008

    @Thomas #68

    I just said to consider Smith. Remember that Lyell came from money while Smith spent time in debtor’s prison. Smith is recognized as the “Father of English Geology” – I know that Lyell was a Scot. Lyell explained much of what Smith observed. No matter who made the greater contribution, Smith’s map is something to behold.

  70. #71 Flo
    August 6, 2008

    Evolving Squid (#62):
    You’re so right! This is what He should be doing if he existed… But then again, surely Christians would see non-smiting as proof of His mercy, right? Or as proof of His almightiness that allows him to refuse doing what human sense of justice would require him to do… or as proof of… whatever…
    Anyway, me, I like your argument.

  71. #72 Zeno
    August 6, 2008

    Even in this short excerpt, two things stood out. Quite apart from the mindless repetition of discredited creationist talking points, a man with degrees in divinity and theology does not know it’s “Westminster” Abbey, not “Westminister” Abbey. (He said it incorrectly at least three times.) Second, his audience did not react when he first made his alleged point about circular reasoning. Carlson paused for his listeners to react, but they sat silent. No chuckles, no gasps, no nothing. They didn’t get it. He had to rub their noses in it and state explicitly what the problem was with his imaginary scenario. And then he kept repeating it.

    Dumb as posts.

  72. #73 Flo
    August 6, 2008

    Joe Meert (# 67):
    I immediately felt the wish to comment on that website, but writing directly to Carlson is of course best. And it’s a superb answer you have written. Thanks!

  73. #74 ChuckS
    August 6, 2008

    What did you expect? Creationism itself is a lie.

  74. #75 Qwerty
    August 6, 2008

    # 60. Your letter to Ron Carlson

    If you want to know where to mail it, click on the link below which is the website for his ministry. He speaks against evolution as well as all the evangelical bugaboos like Mormonism, new ageism, budda, etc. In fact he has about 10 DVDs with his lectures refuting the beliefs of others at ONLY $15 a pop.

    There is also another clip of one of his videos on the website in which he talks about a trip to New Zealand. On the trip home he sits next to a new age biologist who believes in evolution. The story sounds make-up to me, but who knows.

    http://www.christianministriesintl.org/seminars.html

    His ministry is located in Minnetonka, Minnesota which is a suburb of Minneapolis. Perhaps PZ could drive down and talk some sense to him, but it would probably be a waste of gas and time as Ron believes in “Biblical truth.”

    Good luck with your letter. I am sure he’ll file it. He’ll file it in his “circular reasoning” file or in his circular file? I’d bet on the latter.

  75. #76 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
    August 6, 2008

    @Martin #70,

    Don’t get me wrong. I agree 100%: Smith was very important, and his life story was, let’s say, more Dickensian that Austenian…

    For people interested in the subject, I heartily agree with picking up a copy of Winchester’s book: a good read in which a working class guy develops wonderful scientific work, suffers many hardships, but wins recognition in the end.

  76. #77 Lee Picton
    August 6, 2008

    Pete K # 41
    One of the posts above mentions as a point in passing the geologic column. If you google “geologic column North Dakota”, you will find a fascinating article about one of the (three, I think) COMPLETE columns tracing the entire geologic history of the earth. Creationists never, ever mention this, and they should be hit over the head with it at every opportunity. BTW, I tried, I really tried to watch the video, but I could only do a minute. The mendacity involved in lying like this is something I just can’t stomach.

  77. #78 Ivan
    August 6, 2008

    Here are his credentials… No wonder.

    Dr. Ron Carlson

    Dr. Ron Carlson is founder and president of Christian Ministries International, a ministry devoted to evangelism and equipping Christians to have “Answers to their Faith,” I Peter 3:15. Dr, Carlson is recognized worldwide as one of the foremost authorities and lecturers in the areas of cults, world religions, evolution vs. creation, and Christian apologetics. His captivating style of speaking presents truth in a loving and graceful way that reaches both the mind and heart of believers, as well as skeptics. Ron is a graduate of both Bethel University with a degree in philosophy and Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota with a master’s degree in theological study. He received his doctor of divinity from Northwest Graduate School of Ministry in Redmond, Washington.

  78. #79 DaveG
    August 6, 2008

    I wonder how a Creobot would answer these questions?

    If Earth is so precious, and humanity the pinnacle of creation, in God’s image, yada yada, then why didn’t He replicate terran life on all the other planets in our system? or why do those planets even exist? why fill the universe with stars? etc.

    I’m amazed that any sentient being can spew such nonsense to an audience in such a calm, authoritative manner. What if even ONE of those audience members had some working neurons and rose to challenge him with facts and logic? Is there some unique property of the brain that allows such selectivity of thought?

  79. #80 Owlmirror
    August 6, 2008

    Speaking of radiometric dating, I just thought I’d link to this elegant posting, “Calling the Earth to Witness”:

    http://www.daylightatheism.org/2007/11/calling-the-earth-to-witness.html

  80. #81 RickD
    August 6, 2008

    One nice thing about this blog is that when I think about making a smart-ass remark about how Einstein was just a “dead patent clerk”, I can see somebody beat me to the punch.

    Kudos, Joe Meert.

  81. #82 SASnSA
    August 6, 2008

    “There is no scientific evidence that the Earth is older than 6,000 years old”

    This is why theologians make terrible scientists. His research seems to be severely lacking, yet he states it as FACT. One of the reasons I turned away from religion was the realization that so much that I was taught as “fact” in church and Sunday school as a kid turned out to be nothing more factual than the Greek, Roman or Norse myths.

  82. #83 Qwerty
    August 6, 2008

    From an article on Ron Carlson’s website called “The Real Cultural Divide” he posits that Darwinian Evolution vs. a Biblical worldview (creationism) is real cultural divide in the world today.

    Two brief passages from it gives you his thinking:

    “They [secular humanists] believed that a “frog turning into a prince” was a nursery fairytale.”

    I guess this refers to evilution?

    “The real cultural divide in America comes down to this: is man an animal evolved from “pond scum” or is man a unique Creation of God? ”

    He’s right. He isn’t pond scum; he’s lying scum.

  83. #84 Ichthyic
    August 6, 2008

    Here’s an illuminating review of Kent Hovind’s thesis.

    …and here’s an illuminating review of Hovind himself:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ge3bDSqKno

  84. #85 MAJeff, OM
    August 6, 2008

    psammers suck.

  85. #86 Ichthyic
    August 6, 2008

    @lee picton #77:

    Creationists never, ever mention this, and they should be hit over the head with it at every opportunity.

    unfortunately, there’s always at least one dishonest charlatan that will attempt to spin any particular piece of presented evidence:

    http://www.trueorigin.org/geocolumn.asp

    note the “new” way they try to play off the “we don’t need your pathetic level of detail” argument:

    To the diluviologist this means, of course, that only the local succession has to be explained by Flood-related processes. Very seldom do all ten geologic systems have to be accounted for in terms of Flood deposition.

    translation:

    “we only need to account for the apparent information that fits our pre-conceived notion; we don’t have to explain anything else and you can’t make us NYAHHH!”

    this kind of presentation, because it uses much obtuse jargon, will be cited over and over again by the horribly ignorant as definitive argumentation against accepted geology.

    lying pond scum, indeed.

  86. #87 LORD
    August 6, 2008

    How long, LORD? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me?

    Just as long as you’re a whining little prick, Psalm Pilot

  87. #88 Ichthyic
    August 6, 2008

    Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,” lest my foes rejoice at my downfall.

    I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: “O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.” And God granted it.

    -Voltaire

  88. #89 Ray Mills
    August 6, 2008

    Okay lets see he has spent the first five minutes repeating the same thing over and over again. Then he has lied about not having a complete geological column anywhere. This is wrong. This list of sites where the complete geological column exists comes from Glenn Mortons website, himself a former YEC
    The Ghadames Basin in Libya
    The Beni Mellal Basin in Morocco
    The Essaouira Basin in Morocco(Broughton and Trepanier, 1993)
    The Tunisian Basin in Tunisia
    The Oman Interior Basin in Oman
    The Western Desert Basin in Egypt
    The Adana Basin in Turkey
    The Iskenderun Basin in Turkey
    The Moesian Platform in Bulgaria
    The Carpathian Basin in Poland
    The Baltic Basin in the USSR
    The Yeniseiy-Khatanga Basin in the USSR
    The Farah Basin in Afghanistan
    The Helmand Basin in Afghanistan
    The Yazd-Kerman-Tabas Basin in Iran
    The Manhai-Subei Basin in China
    The Jiuxi Basin China
    The Tung t’in – Yuan Shui Basin China
    The Tarim Basin China
    The Szechwan Basin China
    The Yukon-Porcupine Province Alaska
    The Williston Basin in North Dakota (Haimla et al, 1990, p. 517)
    The Tampico Embayment Mexico
    The Bogata Basin Colombia
    The Bonaparte Basin, Australia (above this basin sources are Roberston Group, 1989)
    The Beaufort Sea Basin/McKenzie River Delta(Trendall 1990)
    The Parana Basin North, Paraguay and Brazil( (Wiens, 1995, p. 192)
    The Cape Karroo Basin (Tankard, 1995, p. 21)
    The Argentina Precordillera Basin (Franca et al, 1995, p. 136)
    The Chilean Antofagosta Basin (Franca et al, 1995, p. 134)
    The Pricaspian Basin (Volozh et al, 2003)

  89. #90 bybelknap, FCD
    August 6, 2008

    I get the worldviewweekend email newsletter every time it comes out. Sometimes I manage to look at the dreck they spew, and sometimes I even bother to leave a comment about how undeniably vapid and incredibly wrong they are – about everything. But mostly I just look at the headlines in the newsletter and quietly despair over the impending doom of the US should these demented fuckwits get the chance to do any more damage.

  90. #91 PeteK
    August 6, 2008

    Thanks, Lee, I thought it might have been found in its entirety. Fascinating. You didn’t miss much with the clip, he sounds like “Dr” Hovind “debunking” geology in his “seminars”…

  91. #92 Jared
    August 6, 2008

    @85
    Seriously, your proselytizing is annoying and accomplishing nothing…

  92. #93 Robert
    August 6, 2008

    @32 – there are six continents with large population centers: North America, South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia.

    The seventh continent, Antarctica, doesn’t really have much call for evangelical lecturers, on the grounds that the only people who stay there for any length of time are scientists.

  93. #94 Nick Gotts
    August 6, 2008

    The seventh continent, Antarctica, doesn’t really have much call for evangelical lecturers, on the grounds that the only people who stay there for any length of time are scientists. – Robert

    But surely these godless scientists are precisely those most in need of evangelising? Do your sacred duty, “Dr” Carlson!

  94. #95 Patricia
    August 6, 2008

    #10 – Luke O’Dell – Thanks for the link about Kent Hovinds thesis. At first it was funny, but the more I read the more it became horrifying that he got a Ph. D. His work is worse than an 8th grader.
    BTW – There is a little town about 30 miles from my place named O’Dell, Oregon.

  95. #96 SteveM
    August 6, 2008

    PZ, since you were able to seemingly effortlessly flip the posters names to the top, I have another little trick I’d like to see. Is there a way for you to delete posts without disrupting the numbering of the remaining posts? Thanks.

  96. #97 laura
    August 6, 2008

    For your information, asswipes, my College of Art is self-accredited and doing quite well. We’ve added a Masters in Paint-by-Numbers this year as well as our Doctoral Progam in Keeping within the Lines.

  97. #98 DLC
    August 6, 2008

    I suppose YEC fans can get around geographic strata by just claiming it was all magically put there during the creation.
    Argument from authority (in this case Deity) does seem to be their preferred method of argumentation.

  98. #99 Robert Byers
    August 7, 2008

    Myers is wrong like many complaining evolutionists. Its a fair point to make that fossils date the strata and elsewhere the strata dates the fossils. They do this all the time and not just quick estimating. In fact in the past it must of been the only way. They were unchallenged on presumptions.
    Dating strata by fossils/fossils by strata is a sign of having too much confidence in coming to truth in these matters by actual careful observation and testing.
    Of coarse the great error in geology is seeing rocks from long time actions and not sudden events.

  99. #100 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    August 7, 2008

    Myers is wrong like many complaining evolutionists. Its a fair point to make that fossils date the strata and elsewhere the strata dates the fossils. They do this all the time and not just quick estimating. In fact in the past it must of been the only way. They were unchallenged on presumptions.
    Dating strata by fossils/fossils by strata is a sign of having too much confidence in coming to truth in these matters by actual careful observation and testing.
    Of coarse the great error in geology is seeing rocks from long time actions and not sudden events.

    Are you not paying attention Robert?

  100. #101 Kseniya
    August 7, 2008

    Are we still responding to Byers?

    Uh… why?

    What? For the lurkers? Oh yeah. Sorry, I forgot. :-)

  101. #102 neil
    August 7, 2008

    Dude, I TOTALLY just got cited by Dr Holtz. Sniz ap!

  102. #103 chris
    August 7, 2008

    Since the overwhelming evidence doesn’t seem to be enough to convince these deluded people!
    I wonder if you could convince them that the world is flat or the sun goes around the earth! All you would need is someone with a PhD (doesn’t matter what it was in) with the ability to make stuff up tell a convincing story? Apparently that all it seems to take to overturn hundreds of years worth of hard physical scientific evidence!

  103. #104 DaveH
    August 7, 2008

    Re: #32 etc
    Ouch! Pwned! I am deeply embarrassed at my idiocy. I guess I was kinda thinking of Eurasia as one continent!
    Memo to self: Don’t try to be a smartarse in the middle of a day of mind-destroying data-entry.
    I’ll get my coat….

  104. #105 chgo_liz
    August 7, 2008

    I notice that the Northwest Graduate School of Divinity offers only one subject -Theology- and that it is 95% white (non-Hispanic).

    In that vein, I’d like to point out that to the largest national population in the world, the Chinese, there are only 6 continents. They consider Australia to be part of the Asian “continent” instead of its own continent.

    Perhaps this is “Dr.” Carlson’s way of proving he is less bigoted than he seems? Embracing a non-Caucasian worldview is more than I would have expected, for sure.

  105. #106 phantomreader42
    August 7, 2008

    chris @ #103:

    Since the overwhelming evidence doesn’t seem to be enough to convince these deluded people!
    I wonder if you could convince them that the world is flat or the sun goes around the earth! All you would need is someone with a PhD (doesn’t matter what it was in) with the ability to make stuff up tell a convincing story? Apparently that all it seems to take to overturn hundreds of years worth of hard physical scientific evidence!

    Hell, you wouldn’t even need a real PhD! They’re so eager to be lied to, you’d just need to PRETEND you have one.

    Sickening how determined some people are to hide from reality at all costs.

  106. #107 Arnosium Upinarum
    August 7, 2008

    Dr Ron suffers from a mighty queer distrust of “the silly assumption” of deposition.

    On his desk, you see, everything new is secreted somewhere under the top of the pile.

  107. #108 Nick Gotts
    August 7, 2008

    I guess I was kinda thinking of Eurasia as one continent! – DaveH

    Well it is, really. It’s only Eurocentrism that leads to Europe being considered a continent rather than a subcontinent like the Indian and SE Asian regions. Geologically, it was once separate – the Urals are the join, but rumour has it Charles de Gaulle stopped talking about Europe “From the Atlantic to the Urals” when he flew over them without noticing. India joined on much more recently.

  108. #109 Ed Darrell
    August 8, 2008

    For over 150 years relative dating was all we had. Geologists couldn’t know exactly how old rocks were. However the fact that they spent thousands of hours crawling over exposures collecting millions of fossils meant they had a very good handle on what fossils were found together, and could use that to put together the geological timeline and give names and definitions to all the periods before about 1860.

    The discussion, and sometimes bitter dispute, between William Thomson, Lord Kelvin and Charles Darwin on the issue of the age of the planet makes a fascinating study (for history nerds like me) into how science and knowledge develop.

    Darwin, relying on his geology training, held out for an ambiguous hundreds of millions of years. Thomson used his training as a physicist and chemist, and disputed Darwin based on what was known. What was known? Thomson knew the Earth was largely made up of iron. He assumed the Earth had been created by collisions of asteroids, and that those collisions heated the stuff in the planet to white hot temperatures. Therefore, all one needed to do to figure the age of the Earth was measure the temperature of the planet — which he did by descending into the deepest mines in Wales and other places in Europe — and calculate how long it would take a mass of iron as big as the Earth to cool from white hot to the present temperature. Of course Thomson refined his calculations with more data, but didn’t get it much over 200 million years by the time Darwin died, in 1872. Darwin, who had a much better sense about how life and rocks worked, understood that was too little time for all of the evolution for all of the diversity we see in life today and in fossils. It vexed Darwin that he could not put that issue to bed.

    Thomson calculated the age of the Sun similarly, assuming it to be a mass of molten iron, having cooled from its white hot state to its present yellow hot state — and he calculated the age of the Sun at around 200 million years, also.

    Now, notice, both of these ages significantly differ from creationist claims. In the late 19th century, I suspect you’d have a tough time finding a young Earth creationist — nothing in observation supported such a claim.

    Rutherford put the stake in the heart of Lord Kelvin’s claims when he discovered that the Earth is heated constantly by radioactive decay deep in the core, making all of Thomson’s equations moot. The discovery that the Sun was made of hydrogen and helium through spectroscopy, further reinforced Darwin’s position.

    In any case, unlike Darwin, Lord Kelvin lived long enough to see the dispute resolved with scientific data. Rutherford wrote of one presentation on his discovery of radioactive heating of the Earth, and as he got to the grand climax, looking out a few rows and seeing Lord Kelvin aghast in the discovery that Lord Kelvin had been wrong, or superceded. Rutherford added a line about Lord Kelvin’s calculations being correct but for the addition of new data, and noted the old man relax. Lord Kelvin, leaving the meeting, thanked Rutherford.

    While there was no good or easy way to get much beyond relative dating, there were a lot of data that could have been used, but were unwieldy — the numbers of layers of annual varves and seasonal sediments, say from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the top of the Grand Staircase layers in Bryce Canyon; the rates of growth of river deltas; erosion rates of mountain ranges, and so on. All of those data pointed to more than hundreds of millions of years of age, boggling numbers to 19th century scientists and, it appears, well beyond the understanding of 21st century creationists.

    Relative dating relies on basic principles of physics: All else being equal, gravity being quite constant, the lowest level of debris was put down first, and stuff on top came later. Relative dating is limited only by our ability to count the sediment layers and determine whether they are annual or seasonal; fossils help flag layers in differently composed sediments around the world as being roughly the same age.

    It’s a game of corroboration and verification. Relative dating relies on an assumption that the forces that created the Earth are not arbitrary, nor magically suspended over the entire planet for any significant length of time. It’s a Psalmist’s view of the planet, regarding on the steadfastness and longevity of the mountains and the forces that created them.

    Creationists, alas, appear not to even hope for a creator that is constant, steadfast, and non-arbitrary. One might be perplexed: Not knowing geology, chemistry and physics can be excused in a theologian (or dismissed); not knowing what the scriptures say about these forces is quite another issue.

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