Category Archives: Science

New Opinion Poll on Evolution, Big Bang, etc.

At the website of the Associated Press-GfK poll we read: Big Bang a big question for most Americans. Because it’s the Associated Press, we probably shouldn’t give you much in the way of excerpts, so we’ll try to summarize what they say.

The poll asked people to rate their confidence in several statements about science and medicine. You can see the findings in this pdf file: THE AP – GfK POLL, March, 2014. The responses went from “”Extremely/Very Confident,” all the way down to “Not at all confident.” The results, ranked in order based on the percentage who said “Extremely/Very Confident,” are as follows:

• Smoking causes cancer: 82%

• A mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain: 71%

• Inside our cells, there is a complex genetic code that helps determine who we are: 69%

• Overusing antibiotics causes the development of drug-resistant bacteria: 65%

• The universe is so complex, there must be a supreme being guiding its creation: 54%

• Childhood vaccines are safe and effective: 53%

• The average temperature of the world is rising, mostly because of man-made heat-trapping greenhouse gases: 33%

• Life on Earth, including human beings, evolved through a process of natural selection: 31%

• The Earth is 4.5 billion years old: 27%

• The universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang: 21%

They asked a lot of other questions, about race, religion, and political views. They say:

Political values were closely tied to views on science in the poll, with Democrats more apt than Republicans to express confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change.

Religious values are similarly important. Confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change decline sharply as faith in a supreme being rises, according to the poll. Likewise, those who regularly attend religious services or are evangelical Christians express much greater doubts about scientific concepts they may see as contradictory to their faith.

We only gave you the highlights. There’s a lot more information at the two links we provided. Go ahead, check it out. Your Curmudgeon’s conclusion: We’re all messed up.

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

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“Cosmos” Episode 7 Tonight

Tonight’s episode of Cosmos: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, is titled “The Clean Room.”

Among other topics, it includes a look at the work of Clair Cameron Patterson (1922 – 1995) at the California Institute of Technology. According to Wikipedia:

In collaboration with George Tilton, Patterson developed the uranium-lead dating method into lead-lead dating, and by using lead isotopic data from the Canyon Diablo meteorite, he calculated an age for the Earth of 4.55 billion years; a figure far more accurate than those that existed at the time and one that has remained unchanged for over 50 years.

That should elicit an amusing response from ol’ Hambo’s website. They’ll be denying that anyone could know anything about the past without the testimony of an eyewitness, and they’re sure to ask: Were you there? Of course they’ll claim that they know the past because they rely on scripture, which is God’s own account of things.

But Hambo wasn’t there when Genesis was written, so he has no clue as to whether it was dictated by Yahweh. We can be certain that it was transcribed by men, who undoubtedly used the then prevailing Babylonian view of the world. It wasn’t very accurate, but it was the best they could do at the time, and their limited knowledge about the physical world is irrelevant to their moral insights.

Considering how the creationists continue to cling to the 3,000 year-old “science” in Genesis, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary that has been reliably accumulated since then, one might reasonably ask them: Why are you there instead of here?

The closet-creationists of the Discovery Institute probably won’t complain about the age of the Earth, but they’re certain to find something they consider to be an insult. Much of what we know insults them because of their rejection of science (which they dismiss as “materialism”), in favor of their mystical designer. Their ceaseless attempts to be taken seriously are an irresistible invitation to insults — as if they were all wearing “kick me” signs.

If you watch the show tonight, let us know what you think of it. We’ll have later posts about the reactions from the science deniers. As always, that will be the most entertaining aspect of tonight’s Cosmos episode.

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

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First Earth-like Extra-Solar Planet Found

The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream by Edvard Munch

The creationists are horrified, which explains the pic above this post. They’ve been claiming that the Earth is unique, and although they somehow accept the contra-scriptural fact that it’s not the center of the universe, or even the solar system, they nevertheless insist that it’s the center of divine attention, created just for us, and there’s nothing else like it. As has long been predicted, yet another dream of theirs is being shattered.

At EurekAlert, the online news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we read: First potentially habitable Earth-sized planet confirmed by Gemini and Keck observatories. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

“What makes this finding particularly compelling is that this Earth-sized planet, one of five orbiting this star, which is cooler than the Sun, resides in a temperate region where water could exist in liquid form,” says Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center who led the paper published in the current issue of the journal Science. The region in which this planet orbits its star is called the habitable zone, as it is thought that life would most likely form on planets with liquid water.

Here’s a link to the paper in Science: An Earth-Sized Planet in the Habitable Zone of a Cool Star. The cover of the journal is an artist’s concept of the planet. The paper’s abstract says:

The quest for Earth-like planets is a major focus of current exoplanet research. Although planets that are Earth-sized and smaller have been detected, these planets reside in orbits that are too close to their host star to allow liquid water on their surfaces. We present the detection of Kepler-186f, a 1.11 ± 0.14 Earth-radius planet that is the outermost of five planets, all roughly Earth-sized, that transit a 0.47 ± 0.05 solar-radius star. The intensity and spectrum of the star’s radiation place Kepler-186f in the stellar habitable zone, implying that if Kepler-186f has an Earth-like atmosphere and water at its surface, then some of this water is likely to be in liquid form.

But let’s stay with EurekAlert. They devote a few paragraphs to the astronomical technique used to detect such planets, and then they say:

The host star, Kepler-186, is an M1-type dwarf star relatively close to our solar system, at about 500 light years and is in the constellation of Cygnus. The star is very dim, being over half a million times fainter than the faintest stars we can see with the naked eye. Five small planets have been found orbiting this star, four of which are in very short-period orbits and are very hot. The planet designated Kepler-186f, however, is earth-sized and orbits within the star’s habitable zone. The Kepler evidence for this planetary system comes from the detection of planetary transits. These transits can be thought of as tiny eclipses of the host star by a planet (or planets) as seen from the Earth. When such planets block part of the star’s light, its total brightness diminishes. Kepler detects that as a variation in the star’s total light output and evidence for planets. So far more than 3,800 possible planets have been detected by this technique with Kepler.

There’s a more accessible account of this discovery in the UK’s Guardian: Nasa Kepler telescope discovers planet believed to be most Earth-like yet found. Here are two excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Kepler-186f was found to be just 10% bigger than the Earth. While habitable zone planets have been identified around other stars, none of them so closely match the Earth in size. US astronomer Dr Stephen Kane, a member of the Kepler team, said: “Some people call these habitable planets, which of course we have no idea if they are. We simply know that they are in the habitable zone, and that is the best place to start looking for habitable planets.”

One more excerpt:

Small stars such as Kepler-186 live a lot longer than larger stars, providing more time for biological evolution to take place. This makes them promising places to look for life, according to Kane. On the other hand, small stars tend to be more active than the sun and liable to produce more solar flares and potentially harmful radiation.

Okay, you have a lot of reading to do. And the creationists … well, they’ve got some double-talking to do. They know how.

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

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Casey Reacts to “Cosmos” Episode 6

Today we have the reaction of Casey Luskin — our favorite creationist — to the latest episode of Cosmos: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY which aired last weekend, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. It was titled “Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still,” in which Tyson explored the atomic and sub-atomic structure of the universe.

We already posted Klinghoffer Awaits “Cosmos” Episode 6 Tonight. That was where Klinghoffer slipped up and admitted that the Discoveroids’ intelligent designer — blessed be he! — is “transcendent.” That means it exists beyond the space and time of the universe it designed. A claim like that, at least in our experience, has heretofore been made only in reference to Yahweh. There’s little doubt now (there never really was any) that the “scientific theory” of the Discoveroids is all about mysticism and supernatural phenomena.

Anyway, today it’s Casey’s turn. His post is: Cosmos Episode 6: Science as the New Sacred, and Failed Darwinian Predictions About Insects and Flowers. Let’s see what he thinks. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Cosmos episode 6 is ostensibly about the miniature reality of the atom. Once again, there are some spectacular animations explaining the nature of the atom, and how they interact to form chemical bonds. We are also treated to animations of steampunk-style molecular machines, supposedly mimicking molecular machines in biology. Host Neil deGrasse Tyson has yet to dare tackle the question of how molecular machines might have evolved, but in this episode he did throw in a little tidbit supposedly highlighting a successful prediction of Darwinian evolution.

Lots of derogatory language there. Episode 6 is “ostensibly” about the miniature reality of the atom. Tyson doesn’t “dare to tackle the question of of how molecular machines might have evolved.” BWAHAHAHAHAHA! He’s afraid! And Tyson tossed in “a little tidbit supposedly highlighting a successful prediction” of Darwin’s theory. Casey’s going to rip that tidbit to shreds. Here it comes:

He [Tyson] observes, “plants covered the surface of the earth for hundreds of millions of years, before they put out their first flower,” and then states that this led Darwin to make a prediction:

[Casey quotes Tyson on Darwin's prediction:] On this basis of his theory of evolution through natural selection, Darwin speculated that somewhere on the Island of Madagascar there must live flying insects with extraordinarily lengthy tongues — ones long enough to reach the pollen. No one had ever seen such a beast there. But Darwin insisted that an animal fitting this description must exist. It wasn’t until more than 50 years later that Darwin was proven right.

Casey isn’t impressed. He tells us:

First of all, you wouldn’t need to know anything about evolution to make the prediction Darwin supposedly made. Given the shape of the flower, if there weren’t some insect capable of sipping its nectar, the flower could not attract insects capable of pollinating that species, and the plant would die out. There isn’t some profound evolutionary principle at work here — a middle school level knowledge of angiosperm reproduction could probably lead you to expect some insect exists that enjoys this species’ flowers and fosters its pollination.

We don’t disagree. The existence of that insect is a relatively trivial prediction. Let’s read on:

Second, it actually turns out that Darwinian evolution has had great difficulties making good predictions when it comes to flowering plants (angiosperms) and insects — not the least of which is the abrupt appearance of many angiosperm groups in the fossil record — without clear evolutionary precursors — in early Cretaceous. Darwin himself called the “rapid development” of “higher plants” an “abominable mystery” for his theory.

Oh dear — “abrupt appearance.” Such discontinuities in the currently discovered fossil record are — in the Discoveroids’ view of things — uncontrovertible evidence that their magical Designer did the deed. This is a pure God of the gaps claim, and it’s worthless. Casey continues:

Somehow this abrupt appearance of plants was never mentioned by Cosmos as failed prediction of Darwinian theory in this area.

Maybe that’s because it’s a prediction that hasn’t failed — not in the way that, say, the now discredited Steady State theory was discredited by the discovery of the cosmic microwave background. The fossil record will always have gaps. The actual prediction of Darwin’s theory is that any fossils that are found will always be in the expected sequence. No one will ever find a Precambrian rabbit.

Casey devotes several paragraphs to a few other equally pathetic examples of what he claims are failed Darwinian predictions about insects and flowering plants. More gaps. Hey Casey: You want some successful scientific predictions from evolution theory? Okay, here’s a couple:

• Every fossil ever unearthed will fit into the evolutionary pattern. If you find something that doesn’t fit, let us know. Until then, we’ll keep asking Where Are The Anachronistic Fossils?

• Even discoveries unexpected by Darwin– like DNA — will support the theory of evolution.

And since Casey brought up the subject of predictions, what about ID predictions? Like “there’s no junk DNA.” What about all the organisms with genomes far larger than ours — like onions, amoebae, the Norway spruce, and even moss. We discussed all that in We Welcome Our Moss Overlords. How’s that “no junk DNA” prediction working out, Casey? No answer? Okay. Then he tells us:

No episode of Cosmos would be complete without the customary bashing of religious belief in the supernatural. Here’s how Tyson puts it in this episode:

[Casey quotes Tyson:] The most revolutionary innovation of all to come to us from this ancient world, was the idea that natural events were neither punishment nor reward from capricious gods. The workings of nature could be explained without invoking the supernatural.

You know how stuff like that upsets the Discoveroids. Casey lashes out:

Tyson tells us that the idea that the universe could be explained by the workings of natural laws came from Thales of Miletus. According to Tyson, the very idea of a “cosmos out of chaos, a universe governed by the order of natural laws, that we could actually figure out” was the “epic adventure” that Thales initiated. And like we’ve seen over and over again, Cosmos‘s early heroes of science weren’t materialists who rejected belief in God, but were theists who believe in a supreme God who created everything.

Casey insists that Thales actually believed in Zeus, which doesn’t help his theory about a transcendent designer who can’t be distinguished from Yahweh. He does admit that Democritus, whom Tyson also mentioned, was indeed an atheist. He says:

So what is Cosmos now — maybe 1 for 10 early scientific thinkers cited by Cosmos to bash religion actually were atheists? In any case, we must give credit where credit is due: Democritus was an atheist who rejected the pantheon of Greek gods. But science would not really get started until hundreds of years later when Christian scholars — who also rejected the capricious Greek gods in favor of a single God with a supreme mind — created an intelligible universe.

Ah yes, Christianity and science go hand in hand. But only if one ignores the long, dreary, utterly wretched centuries of the Dark Ages when Christianity ruled the West and there was no science at all — except in the Islamic world which, for a time, appreciated the work of the Greeks. And as we’ve said before, regardless of the religious beliefs of individual scientists, there is no scientific discovery or theory in astronomy, physics, chemistry, or biology that depends upon anything in scripture. The bible is either irrelevant to or contradicted by science — which is why the Discoveroids oppose it. Here’s more:

At one point in episode 6, Tyson enters a cathedral, and for what feels like many seconds, an atom with orbiting electrons is portrayed overlapping with the stained glass windows of a cathedral. Why the strange emphasis on this imagery? If you follow new atheist thinking and literature, the answer is simple. An important component of new atheist thinking is their realization that science lacks the spiritual inspiration that religion provides for people. They are desperate to find ways to make science into a new form of human spirituality to replace religion.

[...]

And that’s exactly what we see in Cosmos episode 6: today’s sacred cathedrals become monuments not to God who creates atoms that build the cathedral, but to the atom. If that doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, I suppose I don’t know what will.

That’s how Casey’s essay ends. We wonder how Tyson feels, now that he’s been shown to be a fool.

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

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