Hey, Creationists: Laws of Nature Don’t Change

Creationists are always telling us that our scientific knowledge of the past, from astronomy, physics, geology, biology, etc. — which clearly contradicts the Genesis creation account — is unreliable. Why? Because it depends on an unverifiable assumption. What assumption? That the regularities we observe in nature have always been constant. The creationists derisively sneer: Were you there?

We’ve responded to that a number of times. One of our favorites is to cite The Lessons of Tiktaalik, where we discussed the incomparable merit of a scientific explanation of the past — cross-confirmation by independent lines of evidence.

But that doesn’t impress the creationists. As we explained in The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Creation Science, they claim:

[All the] laws of nature and physical processes we see today — in geology, physics, and biology — everything could have been different in the past. You don’t know, because you weren’t there. The past can’t be reproduced in the lab, so it’s unknowable by the tools of science. How different was everything back then? As different as necessary, whenever necessary, for as long as necessary, in order to have a universe in which Genesis is absolutely true in every detail.

That’s obviously balderdash, but their only “evidence” for their wild claim is their insistence that Genesis tells the history of the universe as it really was. This is in spite of the fact that scientists are always finding ways to show that natural laws did function in the past as they do today. Another favorite example of this is our observation of supernova SN1987A, which undeniably indicates that lightspeed hasn’t changed for more than 168,000 years. There’s no way the universe we observe could be only 6,000 years old. We posted about that here: How Old Is The Creationists’ Universe?

Now we have another example of the constancy of natural laws. This is from PhysOrg: Cosmic alcohol once again confirms the constancy of a natural constant. The title seems a bit arcane, but we’ll give you a few excerpts to show the relevance to what we’re talking about — with some bold font added for emphasis:

A research team led by FOM [Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter] workgroup leader Prof. Dr. Wim Ubachs and Dr. Rick Bethlem has once again demonstrated that the mass ratio between electrons and protons has remained the same over the past 7.5 billion years. The group, which published this conclusion last January in Science, has recently performed a wide range of measurements that confirm their earlier finding. The new results are published on 4 December in Physical Review Letters.

Here’s a link to the published paper: Robust Constraint on a Drifting Proton-to-Electron Mass Ratio at z=0.89 from Methanol Observation at Three Radio Telescopes. All you can see is the abstract, unless you have a subscription. No problem, we’ll stay with PhysOrg. They say:

The mass of a proton is 1836.152672 times as big as the mass of an electron. That ratio, and with it the structure of all molecular material, has remained precisely the same for 7.5 billion years – at least within a margin of 100,000th of a percent. Ubachs and his colleagues concluded that when they observed methanol molecules outside the Milky Way last year, using the Effelsberg radio telescope.

This is intolerable for the creationists. Not only do these observations go back billions of years, but there seems to have been no blip at all as a result of the fall of man, when creationists say all the laws of the universe were changed. How was this blasphemous scientific conclusion reached? It’s a bit technical, but let’s read on:

Methanol (CH3OH, the simplest form of alcohol) is sensitive to changes in the proton-electron mass ratio. A small deviation would affect the structure of the molecule and the associated absorption spectrum. An absorption spectrum reveals precisely which radiation frequencies are absorbed by a particle. Each molecule has its own characteristic spectrum. The spectrum of methanol was found to be ideally suited for analysing the natural constant: if the proton-electron mass ratio changes, some lines in the methanol spectrum will strongly shift while others will remain the same (the so-called anchor lines).

Last year the researchers analysed the spectrum of methanol molecules in a different galaxy. As the molecules are so far away, it takes a long time before their radiation reaches the Earth. In effect, the researchers were therefore looking back in time at how methanol looked 7.5 billion years ago. They saw that the ‘old methanol’ has a comparable spectrum to the modern methanol.

There’s more, but we’ll quit here. You can click over there to read it all. So what’s the conclusion? For the creationists, this is an outrage! What will Hambo and his gang at Answers in Genesis say? What about the creation scientists at the Institute for Creation Research? The Discoveroids are mostly old-Earthers, so they could claim that they’re not surprised — this is more proof of their magical designer’s fine-tuning activities. But that might upset a lot of their young-Earth fan base. They’ll all probably say nothing, but we’ll be watching.

See also: The Laws of Nature Don’t Change, #2.

See also: The Laws of Nature Don’t Change, #3.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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21 responses to “Hey, Creationists: Laws of Nature Don’t Change

  1. If, as creationists/ID’ers claim, the univeral natural laws were fine-tuned for human life, then any argument that these universal natural laws have changed over time would be negated. So I suppose it would depend on the day you ask them as to what the natural laws of the universe are for that day.

  2. Christine Janis

    I think it demonstrates fine-tuning.

    Hey, God — it’s your round.

  3. SC: “What will Hambo and his gang at Answers in Genesis say? What about the creation scientists at the Institute for Creation Research? … They’ll all probably say nothing, but we’ll be watching.”

    No one at AiG or ICR will understand the concept, so if they say anything at all, it will most likely be along the lines of “Who are you going to believe? The word of God, or the scientists, who are notorious for always changing their story?”

  4. Richard Olson

    If these foolish scientists had just a scintilla of faith, Satan would not find it so easy to fool them with fake methanol radiation waves. This is all just part of God’s plan. Secularist’s will never understand this plan because they choose not to believe there is one, so why should competent scientist’s at AiG or ICR waste their time trying to explain what’s going on here to them, anyway? Besides, an explanation is unnecessary when faith is the answer.

  5. Ceteris Paribus

    For Christians, the Laws of Nature most certainly do not change when alcohol molecules are mixed into the discussion:

    Lips That Touch Liquor
    by George W. Young
    You are coming to woo me, but not as of yore,
    When I hastened to welcome your ring at the door;
    For I trusted that he who stood waiting me then,
    Was the brightest, the truest, the noblest of men,
    Your lips, on my own, when they printed “Farewell,”
    Had never been soiled by the “beverage of hell;”
    But they come to me now with the bacchanal sign,
    And the lips that touch liquor must never touch mine.”

    Which of course the rowdy boys would counter with:

    by Ogden Nash
    Is dandy,
    But liquor
    Is quicker

  6. Stephen Kennedy

    For creationists, huge, transient, arbitrary and inexplicable without invoking the supernatural changes in the values of physical constants are a necessity for constructing their hare brained “theories” of the natural history of the Universe. Unchanging physical constants such as the speed of light and decay rates for radioactive isotopes would make their claims impossible.

    What they are often much slower to realize is that the changes in physical constants proposed by creationists would have real consequences that require yet another miracle to prevent. However, with an omnipotent deity running things there is no limit to the number of miracles that can be invoked. Creationists are angry and frustrated that mainstream science does not accept miracles as a legitimate explanation of natural phenomenon and complain about what they see as scientists’ unreasonable embrace of methodological naturalism.

  7. From my experience with creationists, they are simply scientifically illiterate. They don’t know a law of nature from a law forbidding jaywalking. They don’t care. Jesus done it, and that’s that.
    Creationists in their bib overalls and hayseeds tucked safely between their tongues and lower lips are essentially a coinage source for bible thumping con men, and a source of giggles to those of us who function in the real world.

  8. Good one David, the ID’ers change their position so fast depending on which way the wind is blowing and how fast

  9. What you are describing is what the creationists call “circular reasoning”. The scientists assume that they are looking at things billions of years old.

    There is no way that you can perform an experiment to refute Omphalism.

  10. Our Curmudgeon and part-time Imperator predicts (my bolding):

    The Discoveroids are mostly old-Earthers, so they could claim that they’re not surprised — this is more proof of their magical designer’s fine-tuning activities. But that might upset a lot of their young-Earth fan base. They’ll all probably say nothing, but we’ll be watching.

    Strictly speaking, no matter how much they blog or pop up on radio, the Discoveroids never do really say anything…

  11. Given the supposed tendency of natural law to stumble and thrash about, I must conclude that God agrees with Ogden Nash.

  12. This is not directly related to the constancy of the proton — electron mass ratio, but rather the constancy of the decay rate of various radioisotopes used for dating rocks. It was pointed out earlier in these blog pages that if radioactive decay rates were not constant, nuclear plants would not function.

    Also, we can directly observe today that decay rates were constant, and the same as they are today, billions of years ago. When we observe the rate of decay of magnitude of a supernova in a galaxy billions of light years distant, we are actually observing the radioactive decay of radioisotopes formed in the stellar collapse that gave rise to the supernova. It’s that initial burst of radioactivity that generates a supernova’s brightness, and it fades at a very predictable rate, regardless of the supernova’s distance — and thus, it’s distance in time.

  13. To follow up on retiredsciguy’s comment, the next time someone asks “were you there?” in response to a discussion about the constancy of radioactive decay, we can answer “yes”.

    Observing something a billion light years away is, in effect, being there, a billion years ago. We might not have been there at the genesis creation, because it didn’t happen, but we can certainly claim direct eyewitness knowledge of many events over past billions of years.

  14. Richard Olson

    sciguy — A year ago I was halfway through a library copy of How It Began by Chris Impey when I stuck the book in that pocket thing on the back of the seat in front of me on an airline flight. I paid the library for the book and only recently bought a copy of my own that I haven’t had time to crack open yet. Your comment inspires a question that may be addressed by Impey in the part of the book I haven’t read yet (and I won’t be able to return to it any time soon).

    My question: If I look at a star today that is 13+ billion light years away, am I correct if I claim that while the light I see 6Dec13 is, yes, precisely that thirteen billion plus light years distant, the star it once was is now a cold ball of iron some calculable distance away from where I currently apprehend the light? How many of the spots of light in the sky I call stars are presently active nuclear reactors in the way our sun is, and how many are long since ‘retired’? Does a component of radioactivity in solar waves indicate whether a star is currently or, instead, formerly active? I am a solar novice, and don’t know if these questions even make sense, but I often learn faster from answers to wrong questions than right ones. Besides, nobody can see my face turn red from here, so what the hell.

    I can look this stuff up, although it would save me a lot of time and effort to get an answer from somebody who already knows. And you’re probably sitting around looking for something to do anyhow, being retired and all, right?

  15. Doctor Stochastic

    Bode’s Law

    Dulong-Petit Law

    Second Law of Thermal Documents

  16. Doctor Stochastic cites the Second Law of Thermal Documents.

    I have proven that to be only a special case of the Law of Oogity Boogity!

  17. The website of the Dysovary Institute has a short article on The Laws of Thermal Documents.

  18. @Richard Olson: You’re correct — that star is no more. Any star bright enough to be observed as an individual star in a galaxy more than, say, 10 or 20 million light years away is either a supernova or a short-lived supergiant, and thus is no longer putting out light.

  19. Thanks for the response resciguy. It raises another question in my gray matter glob, though. Given 13.8 plus/minus Billion years since the Big Bang (BB), is there a center point, a null point, through which any diameter line situated at any leading edge of expanding universe material passes en route to a similar leading edge location opposite it, resulting in a line that measures an equal linear distance on either side of the null point (0) on that diameter line?

    I ask because it seems to me that if light is visible from greater than 13.8B light years the viewpoint (where the light arrives) must be somewhere on the opposite side of matter that sped away from the BB and became a star. I’m having trouble stating my question. To clarify (I hope), I previously reasoned that any visible light point (star) was a maximum of 13.8 B light years distant. Now I would revise how I apprehend maximum light year distance, because I reason that if I am at one leading edge of a diameter line I describe above and there is light from a long gone supernova that flamed out at the opposite end, the source of that light has to be 27.6 B light years distant. Y/N? Wait. This can’t be right, because the supernova had to occur some minimal time after the BB, yes? First the BB, then time for mass to coalesce into star, then time for star to exist before reactor implode. So my question maybe ought to be: given the distance from initial BB singularity expansion event, to formation of star/death of star, is the maximum light year source calculable? IOW, is there a (ballpark) ceiling number for starlight light years, and if so what is it?

    From what I think is the consensus of recent findings, the universe is disc shaped similar to galaxy disc shape, meaning that diameter lines through the center measure longer through the length of the disc than perpindicular to it. T/F? Too simplistic to qualify as an answer?

    I promise to stop bugging you with space qestions after this, sci.

    Maybe. I have fingers crossed behind my back.

  20. Shoot. That is me, Richard, with the questions for sciguy asked with crossed fingers. Something seems funny about getting a signature in the comment process the last couple of days.