Discoveroids Complain Again About “No Respect”

Rodney Dangerfield

Rodney Dangerfield

We don’t spend much time discussing chemistry around here, but for reasons which will become apparent, we call your attention to some news that appeared two weeks ago at the PhysOrg website: Salty surprise: Ordinary table salt turns into ‘forbidden’ forms. They say, with our bold font:

High-pressure experiments with ordinary table salt have produced new chemical compounds that should not exist according to the textbook rules of chemistry. The study at DESY’s X-ray source PETRA III and at other research centres could pave the way to a more universal understanding of chemistry and to novel applications, as the international research team, led by Prof. Artem Oganov of Stony Brook University (State University of New York) and Prof. Alexander Goncharov of Carnegie Institution, report in the scientific journal Science.

Here’s a link to the published paper: Unexpected Stable Stoichiometries of Sodium Chlorides. No subscription? No problem, we’ll continue with PhysOrg:

Table salt, also known as sodium chloride or NaCl, is one of the best-known and most studied chemical compounds. It crystalises in a cubic unit cell and is very stable. Its chemical composition is simple – one sodium atom (Na) and one chlorine atom (Cl). Or at least that’s true under ambient conditions. Other compounds of the two elements are forbidden by the classical rules of chemistry. For instance, according to the octet rule all chemical elements strive to fill their outermost shell with eight electrons, which is the most stable configuration, found in noble gases. Sodium has one extra electron and chlorine is missing one, so sodium donates one electron to chlorine, leaving both atoms with an outer shell containing eight electrons and forming a strong ionic bond.

Yes, that’s how we’ve always understood it. However, we’ll have to revise our thinking. Get this:

But when the scientists put table salt under high pressure of 200,000 atmospheres and more at PETRA III and added an extra dash of either sodium or chlorine, “forbidden” compounds like Na3Cl and NaCl3 turned up. … “We found other stable compounds of Na and Cl which came as a surprise.” This is not supposed to happen, as these compounds require a completely different form of chemical bonding with higher energy, and nature always favours the lowest state of energy.

[...]

These compounds are thermodynamically stable and once made, remain so indefinitely,” says Zhang. “Classical chemistry forbids their very existence. Classical chemistry also says atoms try to fulfil the octet rule – elements gain or lose electrons to attain an electron configuration of the nearest noble gas, with complete outer electron shells that make them very stable. Well, here that rule is not satisfied.”

Fascinating stuff! One more excerpt, and then we’ll get to the fun part:

The experiments help to explore a broader view of chemistry. “I think this work is the beginning of a revolution in chemistry,” Oganov says. “We found, at low pressures achievable in the lab, perfectly stable compounds that contradict the classical rules of chemistry. If you apply rather modest pressure, 200,000 atmospheres – for comparison purposes, the pressure at the centre of the Earth is 3.6 million atmospheres – much of what we know from chemistry textbooks falls apart.”

By now you’re wondering: Okay, Curmudgeon, that’s very interesting, but what does it have to do with The Controversy between evolution and creationism? Well, nothing, really, but that doesn’t stop the Discoveroids from seizing this as an opportunity to complain that, like Rodney Dangerfield, they get no respect. It’s an old and amusing theme of theirs, which we first described here: Discovery Institute: They Get No Respect!, and then here: They Still Get No Respect.

This just popped up that their creationist blog: If Chemistry Can Be Wrong, How Much More Evolutionary Theory?.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! If real scientists make a genuinely new discovery that might shake up our understanding of an established science, then how about some respect for Oogity Boogity! As crazy as that sounds, that’s the approach the Discoveroids are taking. A few excerpts should suffice to show how they’re spinning this. Here it comes, with a bit of bold font added by us:

Along with astronomy, chemistry is one of the ancient sciences. Progressing from alchemy to rational chemistry, physical chemistry and quantum mechanics of our day, its status as “hard science” seems secure. Its theories have been refined for centuries. Moreover, its experiments (unlike macroevolution) [Aaaargh!!] are observable and repeatable. How, then, could researchers at Stony Brook University (academic home, by the way, of ENV contributor Dr. Michael Egnor, Vice-Chairman, Department of Neurological Surgery) say that a discovery has challenged the foundation of chemistry?

How could such a thing happen? the Discoveroids wonder. What they seem incapable of grasping is that science is always open to new evidence. If creationists ever have any to offer, they’ll find that the door will be open. It has always been open.

Then they describe the new discoveries we mentioned at the start of this post, published in a high-profile, peer-reviewed journal (which makes the Discoveroids boil with envy), and they say, with an incomplete sentence:

If an unexpected foundation-shaking paradigm shift can occur in a “hard” science like chemistry, where findings can be checked by observation and experiment, how confident can evolutionists be that their theories about the unobservable past?

Ah yes, the “unobservable past.” That sounds like ol’ Hambo’s “Were you there?” attack on our understanding of the past. Well, how confident can we be? Very confident, as long as no evidence is produced that challenges our understanding.

There’s only one paragraph left, but it’s a winner. We’ll break it down into a few parts so you can appreciate it fully. Here it comes:

In recent years, major problems have surfaced in evolutionary theory: the overthrow of “junk DNA,” the discovery of codes within codes, the intransigence of the Cambrian enigma to name a few.

Major problems! BWAHAHAHAHAHA! They continue:

Yet its advocates continue to bully anyone who doesn’t toe the line. Darwinism acts like a religion, not science.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Here’s the rest of it:

If Darwinists were proper scientists, they would embrace the new discoveries that break their rules. They would gladly follow the mounting evidence that points in a new direction for the biology of the 21st century — intelligent design.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The part that really hurts the Discoveroids is that the chemistry team, led by Oganov and Goncharov, somehow avoided all the agony that the Discoveroids are going through — no bullying, no martyrdom, no revival meetings at churches, no grass roots organizing, no “academic freedom” legislation to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of chemistry, etc. The Discoveroids are amazed. How was that possible?

Here’s the secret: They behaved like scientists. They did the work and produced the results. And then — Bada Bing! — they got published in Science.

That’s how it’s done, Discoveroids. It’s not about your incredulity, or your spiritual dissatisfaction with “materialism.” It’s all about the data. Provide some, and people will pay attention. Keep going the way you’re going, and your “theory” will have no more success than The Time Cube.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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25 responses to “Discoveroids Complain Again About “No Respect”

  1. PhysOrg article states

    “These compounds are thermodynamically stable and once made, remain so indefinitely,” says Zhang. “Classical chemistry forbids their very existence.”

    I am writing to Dr. Zhang to challenge him to publicly debate me on the topic of The Fallacy of Low Sodium Diets, but I expect he will be too frightened to do so–just like Stephen Hawking is too scared to face me in an arm-wrestling contest to prove that ‘black holes’ are in fact blackheads on the ineffable face of the Intelligent Designer (Blessed be He/She/It!).

    Scientists, humph! What wusses!

  2. The big problem with this result is that they introduced it in the wrong place, subject to peer review in a research journal. What they’re supposed to do with major scientific results is to go to the school board in some small county an convince them that this should be taught in K-12 classes. This sounds like just the topic that should be mentioned in junior high chemistry, doesn’t it?

  3. I’m sure, Mega, regarding Dr. Zhang that SHE will be more than happy to arm-wrestle you to “Uncle” at STP or any condition you specify!

    Ha, ha, the Tooters, what a bunch of imps. Their article came from the Stoney Brook University newsroom, not the original source.

    Of course, the Tooters omitted that exotic compounds were expected at high pressures but you know the Tooters, they’re all about Laws and Rools and stuff like that.

    Laws of Chemistry. Has a nice ring to it.

    As a grad student in chemistry we studied exotic compounds for an entire semester in Advanced Inorganic Chemistry, including noble gas compounds – OMG, teh noble gaz not so noble??? Hair on fire!! And helium as a metal under pressure? If Mickey Mouse was in a forest by himself and swallowed a lump of metallic helium would his screaming agony death make a high pitched noise?

  4. So, what would you get if you could create an anti-Tooter?

    Maybe something as totally delightful as this young person. Subscribe to her channel for your New Year’s Resolution. The perfect antidote for Tute poison.

  5. The Tooters really cannot distinguish their cargo cult “science” from genuine science. Some of the Tooters are simply deluded fools, and some are mendacious hacks. The same can be said of Hambo’s posse of poseurs.

  6. Unfortunately, physorg (see, I can’t even get your name right), you do not have the public prominence of Ken Ham (however undeserved that prominence is). So, although another unknown like Zhang, might debate you, don’t be surprised if Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris refuse. (;

  7. I’m sure that the dishonesty institute played no part in the actual research conducted to reveal this information, but simply grabbed whatever tidbit of new information they could put their slimy hands on and turned it into just another anti-science/anti-darwin screed.

  8. Alex Shuffell

    Thank you docbill1351 for the link to Sally Le Page. I hadn’t heard of her before.

    Why are Discoveroids comparing the stuff they do with Oganov’s work. Are they not aware he actually did some experiments and found something, or is Oganov explaining his team’s discovery with magic?
    What is the ‘Cambrian enigma’ and why is it so intransigent?

  9. Hey, the Discorrhoids have added a new type kind to the list of recognised fallacies. A good name for this new variety is “false banalogy.”

  10. It appears to me, the discoveroids missed this very important piece of information. The compounds are said to form when

    [..] under high pressure of 200,000 atmospheres and more at PETRA III and added an extra dash of either sodium or chlorine, “forbidden” compounds like Na3Cl and NaCl3 turned up.

    Had it been at room temperature, they would surely have every right to smile all the way to the church, or wherever it is they go.

  11. This highlights in a nutshell the difference between the creationist and non creationist worldview. We read this and think: Wow! Through experiment and observation very smart people learned something new and exciting about the universe. Creationist read this and think: Science bad, therefore godditit!

    Of course creationist think the exact same thing about everything from doorknobs to tornados to New Coke. For all their faults, creationists do not suffer from inconsistency.

  12. Chemical intuition was violated (up to a point – if KI3 in aqueous solution, why not NaCl3 at high chlorine pressure?), but the quantum mechanical laws that underpin it were not broken; on the contrary, they were used in the design and interpretation of the research.

    I would fault the chemists for falling into the trap of hyping their discovery. But the DI reaction is a prize example of unscientific binary thinking; chemists have made a discovery, therefore chemists were, before this discovery, wrong, therefore those silly evolutionists ought to realise that they’re probably wrong too.

    I hear and tremble. And I’m a chemist.

  13. gnome de net

    Discoveroids are the Monday Morning Quarterbacks of science.

  14. I admire their creativity. To shoehorn ID in there like that must have taken some work.

  15. “Yet its advocates continue to bully anyone who doesn’t toe the line. Darwinism acts like a religion, not science.”

    Well, at least they admit that, as a religious enterprise, they bully those that don’t toe the line.

  16. The other chemists who’ve posted here are quite right: this is no violation of the laws of chemistry. As they’ve pointed out, other violations of the octet rule are well known, are even common, so the chemists are hyping. So are the Discoveroids, surprise surprise.

    I am an inorganic chemist, and what I teach is that there is a large amount of energy required to break the octet rule in elements like sodium and chlorine, but it’s not unobtainable. It’s usually just not obtainable in a room-temperature, atmospheric-pressure reaction.

    As the authors say, at high pressure and elevated temperature, it is obtainable, so the compounds form. And since they are crystalline solids, at room temperature and atmospheric pressure there is not a kinetic pathway available for them to transform back to NaCl.

    Same thing with diamond: it is formed under high pressure, but doesn’t transform to the more stable graphite at atmospheric because there is no kinetically-fast way to do so. In other words, it’s too slow to observe. No surprise that other other compounds are too.

    You heat those up at atmospheric pressure, which will speed things up, and they will convert. Just like diamond converts to graphite at atmospheric pressure and high temperature (warning: don’t put your family gems in the oven).

    But it’s very useful, as they suggest, to know that these compounds that are unknown on the earth’s surface probably play a large part in the geochemisty of the earth’s mantle.

    When the Discoveroids break such new ground in the science of evolution, give me a call.

  17. Garnetstar advises: “don’t put your family gems in the oven”

    Words to live by.

  18. “how confident can evolutionists be that their theories about the unobservable past?”
    Exactly as confident as the chemists before the Salty Surprise (I thought it a gas to reas, SC). All we Evilutionists are asking is a cat fossil of 80 million years old. How about going out and do some digging, IDiots from Seattle?

    @Alex: “What is the ‘Cambrian enigma’”
    That’s about the sudden appearance of more complicated life forms in the fossil record during Cambria. Except it’s not an enigma – there are some promising models – and it took about 20, 30 million years, so it’s not sudden either.

    @Garnet: “at high pressure and elevated temperature, it is obtainable, so the compounds form”
    Every teenager who understands the concept of energy as taught at physics understands this. Of course it’s too much asked from the IDiots from Seattle.

  19. @Paul

    You sneaky devil! You didn’t just casually mention KI3, you’ve made the stuff!

    Heh, heh, heh – and so have I. We smeared the delightfully purple paste on the floor in front of the elevator to the Lab floor, anticipating to give one of our cohorts an Unexpected Surprise.

    Alas, when the fireworks went off it was due to the Professor making an unannounced visit to the Lab.

    “Ah, potassium tri-iodide,” he muttered, “my favorite.”

  20. @docbill: That’s an idea! Disperse hot NaCl3 on the lab floor, then when the professor walks on it…..

    Well, maybe not. Actually, you probably shouldn’t heat NaCl3 yourself. Ask the bomb demolition squad to do it for you.

    @Curmudgeon: I meant your diamonds of course, but if you don’t have any, certainly don’t put any other family jewels you may have:) in the oven either. What they’ll convert to won’t be pretty.

  21. TomS: “The big problem with this result is that they introduced it in the wrong place…”

    Good one! Anyone who has ever collected data points and calculated a best fit line will recognize the game that anti-evolution activists, especially Discoveroids, play. Countless data points from multiple lines of independent evidence converge on evolution.Though not all points “fit” as well, so they are always trolling for any that, taken out of context, seem to weaken it, at least in the eyes of those who simply don’t know how scientists find and support explanations.

    Maybe this has already been mentioned above, but in this case, in or out of out of context this finding actually undermines the DI’s own pretense that some things “just can’t happen naturally.” To divert attention from that they invoke the nonsense that historical sciences are not “observable and repeatable” pretending (again to gullible nonscientists) that they aren’t at all testable, and thus implying that Last Thursdayism is just as good an explanation as evolution, OEC or YEC. But even nonscientists who pay attention can spot that “logic” as no better than the demand to empty the jails since “we weren’t there” to observe the crime.

    BTW, I think they mean NI3, not KI3. Also, this rubs NaCl in my wounds for reminding me that in grad school I tried to run a reaction on chlorocarbon compound based on a paper that described it for similar iodocarbon compounds. Alas, it didn’t work, at least under ambient pressure and only mild heating.

  22. Well, duh, of course NI3!

    Wasn’t paying attention! However, the stuff was purple and VERY unstable when it dried out.

    The rest of the story. As you can already tell my nickname in the lab was “Carlos Danger” and I tossed the filter paper we used to make nitrogen triiodide in the trash can. Overnight it dried out, of course. The next day I casually tossed a paper wad into the can and it erupted in a loud, amplified (by the can) “explosion” that scared the careless out of me. Professor couldn’t stop laughing.

  23. NI3 — that must have been the purple stuff my college roommate, a chem major, dabbed on the window sill atop some dried Pepsi. We were amused watching flies blow themselves up. Yes — that stuff is definitely unstable when it dries. I had forgotten what the name of the chemical was.

  24. I had heard about it exploding when a fly landed on it, but never got to observe it. Though one batch I had prepared (back in 71-72) had exploded already when I checked it after allowing it to dry overnight. Maybe the unnamed, unembodied intelligent designer intervened again. ;-) I mentioned on the other thread about how tempting it is to think that “someone” makes the Philadelphia Eagles do better when I don’t watch the game. Similarly, during my lab years I often entertained the thought that “someone” was intervening to give me such poor yields. If this kind of fallacious thinking can distract a scientist, imagine how it fools the 90+% that aren’t scientists. Discoveroids may be “not even wrong.” but they’re not stupid.

  25. Yes, the fun stuff was NI3. KI3 is commonplace and stable enough to be used in school titration experiments; so-called “solutions of iodine” in water are generally KI3. So NaCl3 did not surprise me at all.

    Na3Cl is a bit more surprising, although charged metal clusters are known. However, all of this is beside the point. the point is, scientists can be WRONG, even n chemistry (true), so how dare we assert that we’re ever right? Sincere, boneheaded but not brainless, binary belief.