Category Archives: Science

The Great Debate Even Before Creationism

In the absence of news about The Controversy between evolution and creationism, we’ll zoom out a couple of clicks and look at an astronomy item we found at PhysOrg — The Great Debate over whether the universe is small or large.

It’s a fascinating look at some science history, and it demonstrates how science works when there’s a controversy between competing theories. We’ve added some bold font to the following excerpts:

The visible universe is vast. It is 93 billion light years across, and contains more than 100 billion galaxies. The average galaxy contains about 100 billion stars, and untold numbers of planets. Yet a century ago there was serious doubt among many astronomers that the universe was much more than 100,000 light years across. Arguments about whether the universe was small or large became known as the Great Debate.

A lot of controversies have been referred to by the opposing sides as the “Great Debate.” We have no doubt that the showdown between Bill Nye and ol’ Hambo is being called that. But the dispute about the size of the universe was worthy of the name. We’re told:

It is often known as the Shapley-Curtis debate, so named after Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, and a public debate they had in 1920.

Wikipedia has a brief article about it — see Great Debate. Back to PhysOrg:

The debate centered on the distance to certain nebulae. At the time, “nebula” referred to anything (excluding comets) that appeared “fuzzy” rather than distinct like a star or planet. So things like the Orion nebula (a stellar nursery), the Crab nebula (a supernova remnant) were considered nebulae just as they are today, but what we now call galaxies were also known as nebulae. The Andromeda galaxy, for example, was known as the Great Andromeda Nebula.

Curtis argued that Andromeda and other spiral nebulae were in fact “island universes”, similar in size to our own Milky Way “universe”. This would mean that not only were these nebulae 100,000 light years across or more, they must be millions of light years away.

This was in 1920. Did Curtis have any evidence? Let’s read on:

He based this argument on the fact that more novae were observed in Andromeda alone than were observed in the entire Milky Way. Why would that be the case if Andromeda were small and close. He also noted that some spiral nebulae had rather large redshifts, meaning that they were moving much faster than other objects in the universe.

Obviously a crazy man. Here’s the other side of the Great Debate:

Shapley argued that what we now call the Milky Way galaxy was the bulk of the universe. Spiral galaxies such as Andromeda must be relatively close and small. He based this view on several points. In 1917 Shapley and others observed a nova in the Andromeda nebula. For a brief time the nova outshined the central region of Andromeda. If Andromeda were a million light years away, as Curtis contended, then this nova (we now know it was a supernova) would need to be far brighter than any known mechanism could produce.

Shapley had other evidence too, which the article mentions. We notice, however, that no one was arguing for a bible based view of things. So how did the debate work out? PhysOrg informs us:

After the debate the general opinion was that Shapley had won. His own observations of the shape of the Milky Way and the 1917 supernova, and [other evidence we skipped] gave the small universe model solid footing. Besides, the idea that objects could be millions of light years away seemed patently absurd.

So there you are. The Milky Way, our galaxy, is the whole universe. Oh wait — there’s more:

In 1912 Henrietta Leavitt discovered that Cepheid variable stars vary at a rate proportional to their brightness. … In 1925 Edwin Hubble used Leavitt’s period-luminosity relation to precisely determine the distance to the Andromeda galaxy. He demonstrated conclusively that Andromeda was about 2 million light years away.

Aha! Curtis was right after all. You can read about the significance of Hubble’s work in Wikipedia — Hubble’s law. Here’s the end of the PhysOrg article:

Thus we came to know that our Milky Way is an island galaxy in a much larger universe.

Curtis had the unpopular idea. Prevailing opinion and most of the evidence seemed to be against him. His model of a gigantic universe was regarded as absurd. Yet his theory prevailed. Surely there’s a lesson the creationists can learn from this.

Well … no, there isn’t. But that shouldn’t stop them from using Curtis as an example of how a fringe idea can become mainstream. They’ll never explain how the big universe became mainstream, but don’t be surprised if they adopt Curtis as an encouraging example of an underdog who eventually achieved success over a dogmatic consensus.

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

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Bobby Jindal: “Obama Is a Science Denier”

Buffoon Award

We haven’t had much to say lately about Louisiana’s creationist governor Bobby Jindal, also known as Bobby Jindal, the Exorcist. As you may recall, Jindal’s gyrations made him our sixth Buffoon Award Winner.

The last time we wrote about him was after he flat-out admitted that the Louisiana Science Education Act permits teaching creationism, and the Discovery Institute totally abandoned him (see Discoveroids: “Bobby Jindal? Who’s He?”).

Jindal has now earned his way back into our humble blog. In the Daily Reporter of Greenfield, Indiana, we found this: Louisiana governor says Obama administration hasn’t done enough to harness energy potential.

It’s not the headline that drew us to this story. It’s understandable that Jindal is a spokesman for the energy industry, because that’s a major factor in Louisiana, and of course the Obama administration is in bed with the environmentalists. We won’t bother with those issues. But take a look at the story’s opening paragraph. The bold font was added by us:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Tuesday that President Barack Obama’s administration has become “science deniers,” failing to do enough to harness the nation’s energy potential.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Can anything else in the article even come close to that? Well, somewhat. Jindal is quoted as saying this:

The reality is right now we’ve got an administration, the Obama administration, that are science deniers when it comes to harnessing America’s energy resources and potential to create good paying jobs.”

Not surprising. Jindal is a politician, so he’s as much a pawn of the energy industry as he is of the creationists. The amazing thing is that he seems unaware of the inconsistencies. Here’s one more excerpt, to give you something else to think about:

The 43-year-old governor and former congressman has sought to carve out a role as a leading policy mind as he considers a presidential campaign in 2016. Jindal told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor that there was “no reason to be coy” and he would make a decision on whether to seek the White House after the November midterm elections.

By the way, there are crazed science deniers in the leadership of both parties, but they deny different aspects of science in order to advance their political goals. See Is Your Political Party Really Pro-Science? It’s easy for your Curmudgeon to say that, because our viewpoint is cosmic. But from a provincial, partisan viewpoint (which, alas, is not uncommon among scientists), each party insults the other with the label of science-denier. In truth, both parties are run and supported by fools.

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Vomit Opportunity from Answers in Genesis


We keep getting letters saying: “Hey, Curmy, you haven’t given us a good vomit opportunity lately. How about it?” That’s unfair criticism. We had one a few months ago — see Massive Morning Vomit Opportunity.

But if you’re looking for a really good, let ‘er rip, heavy-duty, all-at-once, mighty heave from way down deep, then you’re right. We haven’t had one of those since Vomit Opportunity: Bryan Fischer & Georgia Purdom.

All right, Vomiteers, we’ve found what you’re looking for. It’s from Georgia Purdom, who received a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Ohio State University. She’s a creation scientist on the staff of Answers in Genesis (AIG), ol’ Hambo’s online ministry. Here’s her bio page at AIG’s website — Dr. Georgia Purdom.

Georgia’s new essay, which begins with a great photo of her, is “Professionally Unethical” to Confuse Observational and Historical Science. Whoa — professionally unethical? This is serious stuff! Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

A few weeks ago one of our staff members sent me an email reply she received from a scientist she had contacted. She had asked him for permission to use a photo he had taken for one of our publications. Here was his reply:

[The alleged reply:] Although I do license my images to some organizations, I will have to politely decline your request. As a scientist and in particular as a biologist, it would be professionally unethical to have my name associated with an organization that is so vehemently anti-science. The stance against evolution is particularly appalling: for me to support this stand would be like asking a physicist to deny gravity, for a chemist to not believe in atoms, or for a mathematician to disavow integers. Needless to say, these are all absurd. And as a further note, if I could in fact provide strong evidence to counter our understanding of evolution, this would make my career as a scientist. But as with searching for evidence that atoms don’t exist, this would be a profound waste of time.

Nice reply! But Georgia found it not only offensive, it was also “professionally unethical.” Here’s what she says:

As one of several scientists working for AiG, I always chuckle when people claim we are “anti-science.” Their accusation stems from the fact that they fail to define science properly. There are two categories of science: observational/experimental and historical/origins.

We’ve seen that claim dozens of times from AIG. They don’t like science that discovers things in the past because such discoveries always make Genesis look ridiculous. We’ve discussed their bizarre dichotomy in Common Creationist Claims Confuted, so we won’t waste any time on it.

However, we’re inspired to invent a dichotomy of our own. Did you realize that there is more than one human species living on this planet? You know about Homo sapiens, which means “wise (or reasoning) man.” Those wretched, hell-bound evolutionists claim that H. sapiens is the only human species now alive, but they’re wrong. There’s another human species, dear reader — Homo insipiens, or foolish man. Virtually all creationists are of this other species, and your Curmudgeon now declares that it is professionally unethical to deny it. Okay, back to Georgia’s essay:

This scientist [whose reply Georgia quoted] is clearly mixing the two types of science and what he is actually opposed to is using the truth of God’s Word as a starting point for knowing about the past instead of his own ideas.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Let’s read on:

Although he claims that finding “evidence” to counter evolution would make his career as a scientist, it would actually end it, at least as far as the secular world is concerned. Over and over and over again the evidence has been clearly shown to be absolutely consistent with and to confirm the historical science based on God’s Word.

Throwing up yet? Of course you are. And we’re not finished. Ignoring Georgia’s link to an AIG article about “correct scientific predictions” made with creation science, she says:

Yet when scientists such as myself attempt to publish such information in secular scientific journals, speak at secular scientific conferences, or get jobs at secular universities, we are typically prohibited not because of the observational science we have accomplished but because it supports and confirms the historical science based on God’s Word. (Fortunately, creation scientists do have places to publish peer-reviewed scientific research like the Answers Research Journal and others.)

It must be deeply satisfying to be published in Hambo’s own “peer-reviewed” journal. At the end, Georgia refers us to a video of the debate between ol’ Hambo and Bill Nye, and that’s all she has to say. But it was enough for our purposes. You wanted a vomit opportunity, and we gave you one. We are pleased to have provided this service.

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

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Creationist Wisdom #474: Mere Literature

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Journal Gazette & Times-Courier (the JG-TC) of Mattoon, Illinois — famed for the Mad Gasser of Mattoon. The letter is titled Scientists should look for reason.

We don’t embarrass letter-writers by using their full names, unless they’re politicians, preachers, or other public figures. Today’s writer isn’t known for anything except today’s letter, so we’ll use only his first name, which is Leonidas. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

From recent comments about education some readers seem to have an absolute faith in claims which fly under the banner of “science.”

Yeah, we’ve noticed that too. It’s very disturbing. Here’s what Leonidas says:

Why shouldn’t claims of science be reviewed, even rebuked? Science is literature written by scientists who are human. In any field of effort humans can be sloppy in their workmanship or pursue it without the rigor it should receive.

Wow — that is a great idea! It’s one of the best ideas we’ve ever heard. Why didn’t anyone think of it before? This is exciting! Let’s read on:

Debates among scientists are today especially to be noticed about global warming.

Your Curmudgeon doesn’t pretend to know anything about climatology, but we’re like those people Leonidas is talking about — we assume the scientists in that field know what they’re talking about. But we’ve been accepting their literature on blind faith, and we didn’t realize it until now! Leonidas continues:

What disturbs about “global warming” is the claim that cattle contribute to it. This claim was recently published in the JG-TC, announcing that we should sharply reduce our cattle herds, because cattle release both CO2 and methane.

Yes, we’ve heard about the cattle flatulence problem. Here’s what Leonidas thinks:

Two messages from the record of natural history would refute this claim, declaring cattle to be not guilty.

Leonidas is going to use facts to review the literary claims of climate scientists — something that has never been done before. This is so exciting! Hey, get this:

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries our earth was having noticeably cooler weather, a period known as “the little ice age.” At this same time buffaloes by the millions roamed our western plains along with deer and antelope. These great beasts release the same gases as do “many cattle.”

Amazing! What’s even more amazing is that it has never previously occurred to any climate scientist to factually review his ideas. And now we come to the end:

Scientists should apply some reason to this set of circumstances and deliberate with rigor on their meanings.

Great letter! If this new idea of checking facts ever catches on, science will never be the same again. Oh dear, we just had a frightening thought: What if the theory of evolution were subjected to the kind of review Leonidas is proposing?

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

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