Pharyngula

Such blithe liars

I’m not getting a good opinion of people in New Jersey. They’ve got the awful George Berkin, a cretin who rants on NJ Online, and has a reputation as one of the dumbest jerks in the state. And he has commenters. I want to talk about one of them, Terry Hurlbut, who is a marvelous example of creationist pseudoscience and dishonesty. He’s commenting on a Berkin article that is characteristically crazy (it’s a defense of Christianity against atheism that cites CS Lewis’s trilemma), but Hurlbut goes beyond mere inanity to lie about science.

Take a look at this. Creationists only rarely get this arrogant in writing; usually they reserve this kind of total pseudoscientific BS for when they’ve got you one-on-one.

“Did people really live for hundreds of years?” Yes. Pre-Flood, carbon-14 was not present in the vast quantities that pervade our atmosphere today, and cosmogenic C-14 was very rare. During the Flood, the earth’s crust, wracked with magnitude-10-to-12 earthquakes and rich in quartz (which generates electricity when deformed), acted as a gigantic fast-breeding nuclear reactor and produced all of the radionuclides (up to uranium and arguably plutonium) known to man today. That included C-14, produced in tremendous quantities through cluster decay. And when C-14 gets into your system, and then decays, it can wreck whatever molecule (including DNA) of which it became a part. So the reason we *don’t* live hundreds of years today is that we are all suffering from radiation poisoning (or isotopic substitutional poisoning) and have forgotten what it was like not to be subject to such poisoning.

Wow. Breathtaking. So breaking quartz generates electricity (true so far), which with a little prestidigitation is equivalent to turning into a nuclear reactor, which produced all the radioactive elements present on earth in less than a year, and also distributed and mixed them throughout the earth’s crust and mantle. And somehow eight people in a wooden boat survived this remarkable upheaval. (I know, that part was a miracle. The rest was science. Right.)

And the reason we get old is that C-14 decomposes and breaks our DNA. This is a contributing factor, I’m sure, but this fantasy world where all carbon is C-12 never existed: most of the C-14 we’re breathing in is produced in the atmosphere, not some magical giant nuclear reactor beneath our feet, and the only way it wouldn’t happen is if the sun didn’t exist.

Then someone points out that tree ring data contradicts his claims, and Hurlbut ups the ante.

Tree rings are not necessarily annual. And the point is that the Flood, and the associated nuclear reactions in the earth’s crust, released virtually all of the C-14 present in the atmosphere today. Do you know of any experiment in an atmosphere totally free of C-14? I thought not. Isn’t it amazing, how we get used to something as “the new normal” and never consider that it’s the result of a serious health hazard introduced 4400 years ago?

See? His story must be true, because look — the atmosphere contains C14 today! Let’s all ignore the fact that we know how C14 is produced, and that it’s being constantly replenished.

And then he rants some more about the ferocity of his god’s wrath.

And hel-lo-ooooo! The Flood knocked down all the trees that were growing at the time! All the trees that grow today, sprouted after the Flood, not before. You have no concept of how violent an event the Flood was. Magnitude-10-to-12 earthquakes; a water jet powerful enough to throw 1 percent of the earth’s mass, as water, mud, and rock, into outer space; killer hailstorms that froze the mammoths (many of them standing up); and the formation of a protuberance (the Himalaya Range and the Tibetan Plateau) heavy enough to pull the earth off-balance and move the poles. (Which is what the mammoths were doing in the Arctic region in the first place; that used to be a lush tropical jungle.) Not to mention the big rocks that slammed into the Moon, mostly on one side of it, forming the “seas” and causing the Moon to turn one face toward earth and lock in place.

And all that is right there, in the Bible! I repeat: Eight people. Wooden boat. There’s kind of a low limit on how catastrophic the flood event could have been.

I do rather like the argument about the heavy Himalayas making the earth topple over and shift the poles. So why aren’t the Himalayas at the South Pole then, smart guy? Huh? (I know, that argument makes no sense, either.) I’m also struggling to imagine what his pre-flood geography was like…so where was Palestine before this big shift? And what was the orientation of the Earth’s axis of rotation prior to the big wobble?

I’m not seriously asking those questions, because I know how Hurlbut would respond: with more pseudoscience shouted very loudly and with complete and absolutely incompetent confidence. That’s the knack these creationists have; they don’t know anything, but they’re really, really good at making nonsense up, and expressing it with sublime certainty. That must be the training the Bible gives them.