Monthly Archives: September 2011

Latest, Most Accurate Simulation of the Universe

The University of California, Santa Cruz, has this news item: Scientists release most accurate simulation of the universe to date. It says, with bold font added by us:

The Bolshoi supercomputer simulation, the most accurate and detailed large cosmological simulation run to date, gives physicists and astronomers a powerful new tool for understanding such cosmic mysteries as galaxy formation, dark matter, and dark energy. [“Bolshoi” is the Russian word for “great” or “grand.”].

The simulation traces the evolution of the large-scale structure of the universe, including the evolution and distribution of the dark matter halos in which galaxies coalesced and grew. Initial studies show good agreement between the simulation’s predictions and astronomers’ observations.

That video is less than two minutes long. We can’t make any judgment about it, but it sure is pretty. The news article continues:

The standard explanation for how the universe evolved after the Big Bang is known as the Lambda Cold Dark Matter model, and it is the theoretical basis for the Bolshoi simulation. According to this model, gravity acted initially on slight density fluctuations present shortly after the Big Bang to pull together the first clumps of dark matter. These grew into larger and larger clumps through the hierarchical merging of smaller progenitors. Although the nature of dark matter remains a mystery, it accounts for about 82 percent of the matter in the universe. As a result, the evolution of structure in the universe has been driven by the gravitational interactions of dark matter. The ordinary matter that forms stars and planets has fallen into the “gravitational wells” created by clumps of dark matter, giving rise to galaxies in the centers of dark matter halos.

We are made of debris that fell into the cracks. Ah, this describes what the video shows:

The Bolshoi simulation focused on a representative section of the universe, computing the evolution of a cubic volume measuring about one billion light-years on a side and following the interactions of 8.6 billion particles of dark matter. It took 6 million CPU-hours to run the full computation on the Pleiades supercomputer, recently ranked as the seventh fastest supercomputer in the world.

There’s more information and an endlessly-looping video here: The Bolshoi Simulation.

Our last post on a topic this grand was five months ago: Most Complete 3-D Map of the Local Universe. Predictably, the creationists said it proves creationism. A month before that we posted Hubble Ultra Deep Field in 3D.

We await the creationists’ reaction to the Bolshoi simulation.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Institute for Creation Research: Rocks for Brains

The granddaddy of all creationist outfits is the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom. They have an amazing new post at their website: From Rocks…to Brains. Yes, you’re right — our title is a juvenile inversion of ICR’s title. But as you’ll see, it’s appropriate.

The ICR article discusses — but doesn’t link to — this book, Astronomy Today, by Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan. Its listing at Amazon describes it as “the number-one, best-selling astronomy text.” It has a respected publisher. We doubt that ICR has read it; they’re probably working off some review they found somewhere.

ICR’s article begins in the customary way. They say, with bold font added by us:

The secular mantra is ongoing: “Creationism is religion and evolution is science.” When evidence is offered for The Non-Darwinian Alternative [capitalization in the ICR original], evolutionists seem to respond by becoming even more dogmatic in their commitment to metaphysical naturalism.

You’ve seen that kind of thing before, of course, but this one will be a bit of a novelty because instead of biology, the creation scientists at ICR are babbling about astronomy. Here it comes:

For example, Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan display an “Arrow of Time” in their text Astronomy Today. Their description of time’s arrow of “progress” is as amusing as it is unscientific:

We haven’t verified their quote from Chaisson & McMillan, but here’s what ICR claims is “unscientific” (the brackets are in ICR’s excerpt):

The major phases of cosmic evolution [are]: evolution of primal energy into elementary particles; of atoms into galaxies and stars; of stars into heavy elements; of elements into solid, rocky planets; of those same elements into the molecular building blocks of life; of those molecules into life itself; and of advanced life forms into intelligence, culture, and technological civilization.

ICR has a footnote to the book by Chaisson & McMillan, but (after considerable searching) we found a more likely source. It’s an article Eric Chaisson wrote that appears in Tufts Magazine: The Rhythm of the Cosmos. It has a nice illustration of the “arrow of time” which is sold as a poster. Let’s read on from the ICR article as they criticize the astronomers’ description of cosmic evolution:

This is an overtly religious description. For instance, just what is “primal energy”?

Overtly religious? We didn’t notice that. And if the creation scientists at ICR want to know what those authors meant by “primal energy,” perhaps they should have read their book. Ah, now ICR tells us what really got them upset:

Ironically, the two authors said in their opening chapter:

[ICR purports to quote the astronomers:] We describe the slow progress of scientific knowledge, from chariots and gods to today’s well-tested theories and physical laws, and explain why we now rely on science rather than on myth to help us explain the universe.

How horrible! Here’s ICR’s response to that:

Apart from the fact that this is a not-so-subtle dig at those who hold to biblical authority, the reader should understand that intelligence and culture evolving from “solid, rocky planets” is not science — rather, it is a strange philosophical conviction. Indeed, a 1964 Nobel Prize winner in physics stated, “Somehow intelligence must have been involved in the laws of the universe.”

Did a Nobel Prize winner really say that? ICR’s authority for their quote is given in a footnote, but without a link. We’ve learned not to trust creationists, so we searched for it to verify their quote. Their source is this article in Newsweek which mentions Charles Townes, “who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the principles of the laser.”

Aha — ICR misquoted him! In the Newsweek article, Townes is quoted as saying something a bit different than what ICR’s article claims. We’ll put the omitted part of Townes’ statement in red:

Many have a feeling that somehow intelligence must have been involved in the laws of the universe.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! We love creation science — it’s so honorable!

Now that we’ve caught them cheating, knee-deep in slime, we won’t go on with the ICR article. If you click over there, you’ll see that they attempt to cite additional sources to refute other discoveries in astronomy and cosmology. Go ahead, read it if you like that sort of thing. We’ll skip it all and give you their predictable conclusion:

If people really want to know their origin, as well as the origin of the universe, they would do well to consult the written record of the One who was there “in the beginning.”

Yeah, okay. Great job, ICR! Thanks for the reminder about what a fine enterprise you guys are running.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Discovery Institute Has Another Documentary

We’ve lately been ignoring the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

That’s because most of their recent blog offerings have been self-praise for their butterfly film (see Butterflies Prove Creationism). But today they’ve posted about a new creationist documentary: Darwin’s Heretic Screens at University of Alabama Birmingham. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Students and faculty at University of Alabama Birmingham were lucky to be the second audience to screen a short documentary about the intelligent design leanings of one of the most renowned biologists of the nineteenth century,

Right, they were lucky to see this documentary about a 19th century biologist. Can you guess who the “renowned biologist” was? We won’t keep you waiting:

Alfred Russel Wallace shares credit with Charles Darwin for developing the theory of evolution by natural selection. One part of Wallace’s remarkable life and career has been completely ignored: His embrace of intelligent design.

Yes, that part of his life is ignored, because Wallace squandered his reputation and his final decades by uselessly wallowing in mysticism. That is why, as we’ve written before, Discoveroids Adopt Alfred Wallace as Godfather. Poor ol’ guy — he’s credited as being Darwin’s co-discoverer of the theory of evolution, but he wasted his declining years attending seances, drifting off into supernatural speculations, and (we assume) communing with the spirit world using his Ouija board. The Discoveroids love Wallace — not for discovering evolution, but for his late-life dementia. Let’s read on:

Darwin’s Heretic is a 21-minute documentary that explores Wallace’s fascinating intellectual journey and how it sheds light on current debates.

The Discoveroids have a website for the film: Darwin’s Heretic. The program apparently also featured Michael Flannery, who enjoys the honor of being designated a Discoveroid “fellow.” As we reported here, he wrote a biography of Alfred Wallace, which was published by — brace yourself! — the Discovery Institute Press.

Then the Discoveroids describe their version of the audience reaction to the film:

More than 180 were in attendance, and the students in the crowd seemed very interested and engaged. There were a number of good, mostly honest questions from curious students who didn’t know this aspect of Wallace at all.

It’s not surprising that Wallace’s embarrassing behavior in his dotage isn’t well-known. It should have remained so, and it’s rather ghoulish of the Discoveroids to publicize it. Here’s more:

One student wanted to know how ID was science or what evidence did Wallace present in its behalf.

Smart kid. Good question: Where’s your evidence?

Flannery responded that it was in the video — certain features of life give clear evidence of purposeful design such as the cell, the human intellect, even the bird’s wing and feather might be considered in Wallace’s example irreducibly complex.

That’s the expected answer. It’s nothing more than poor old William Paley’s 1802 theological argument, the watchmaker analogy. That’s all the Discoveroids have ever had. Here’s the end:

Flannery went on to point out that this is a perfectly legitimate form of reasoning used in everyday life as well as science. The forensic sciences and anthropology, for example, utilize it extensively. It is, as Steve Meyer points out citing Peter Lipton, an “inference to the best explanation” given the available observable evidence at hand.

Ah yes, that great creation science technique — the “inference to the best explanation.” Well, what else can they do? All the evidence supports evolution, and they don’t have any evidence to refute it, so they sling the supernatural inference and claim it’s the “best.” Hey, Wallace found it persuasive — but he was stark raving mad at the time.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Kansas Genius Solves Evolution Controversy

We know it’s not fair, but whenever we find an article about evolution and creationism from Kansas, it brings back memories of The Kansas Crazy Days in 2005, when that state’s school board actually decided to re-define the meaning of science so that it would include supernatural phenomena — thus allowing creationism to be taught in science class.

Well, Kansas has come through again. We present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Evolution Implies Intelligent Design. Great title! This thing appears in the Lawrence Journal-World published in Lawrence, Kansas. The bold font was added by us:

If evolutionists are correct that biological life developed through a process of gradual changes, then it is far more likely that some type of Intelligence Designed life rather than that life developed without any intelligent controls.

Toto, we’re definitely back in Kansas! All we need now is to see Kathy Martin flying by on a broomstick. Don’t leave us, dear reader. It gets better:

Development through gradual change is the process humans use to produce things from automobiles to literary works to computer programs. The original automakers developed a simple vehicle with some type of motor, wheels, chassis, etc. Subsequent engineers modified these various components to produce faster, more efficient and safer vehicles.

Ooooooooh! That’s brilliant! We design automobiles, therefore … yes, there must be some celestial intelligence that designs toads! Of course! Hey — we have a contest for you, dear reader. How many howlers can you spot in this next paragraph? We find one about every three words:

Two groups of True Believers control the debate over the origin of life. The Evolutionists believe that life could only have developed from one original cell through a slow process of gradual changes that was not controlled by any type of Intelligent Being. Creationists believe that God created life and the only way God could have created life was to zap each individual species into existence fully developed.

Admit it — that was really great! Let’s read on:

Creationists don’t explain why God would go to the trouble of designing life that can develop from a microscopic sized cell to something the size of an elephant or whale and then initially make each one fully developed instead of creating the cells and letting them develop in some nutrient rich medium. A being capable of creating a universe would be capable of creating an environment in which individual cells could develop into fully sized forms.

This guy seems to be independently re-inventing the concept of theistic evolution. How wonderful that he’s offering his original insight to the world. We continue:

Both groups misunderstand the concept of Intelligent Design. The Intelligence wouldn’t necessarily be the God of Abraham.

The Discoveroids take that position, officially. They have to, for litigation purposes; but they don’t believe it and neither does anyone else. There has never been any misunderstanding about the nature of Intelligent Design, except maybe in Kansas. Here’s more:

The Designer might be inhabitants of a distant planet who put the necessarily biological products in comets and sent them throughout the galaxy. A Designer might have controlled the initial development of biological life and then allowed it to change without control. The Designer probably would not have made the first member of each species fully developed as Creationists believe.

Wow! Now this guy is proposing panspermia. The fertility of his mind seems to have no limit. Moving along:

The biggest argument for Intelligent Design is the extremely sophisticated characteristics of biological life, especially animal life.

[...]

An Intelligent Designer could have developed subsystems like eyes, hearts, etc. by making specific genetic changes, but development of such subsystems through random genetic changes would be mathematically improbable at best.

Evolution is improbable. What a powerful argument! We’re skipping a lot, of course, but here’s the final paragraph, in which both sides of the debate are given advice:

Creationists and Evolutionists would have more believable theories if they would switch one of the components of their theories. Creationists should be claiming that God started with a single cell and developed different species from it. Evolutionists should claim that different species developed from separate cells with the necessary DNA to produce animals with hearts, skeletons, etc. as the animal developed.

We’re impressed. What new ideas will Kansas come up with next? Perhaps some original thinker in that state will suggest that the earth isn’t perfectly flat. Don’t laugh. After seeing today’s article, nothing is too improbable for Kansas.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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